It is no surprise that the Bengals are in the market for a safety. Other than Reggie Nelson, the cupboard is relatively bare at the position. The defense ranked 26th against the pass last year and the lack of a stability on the back end took its toll. It required three players to fill the gap opposite Nelson, and only street free agent Chris Crocker offered any kind of stability. The team did carry a handful of other safeties (George Iloka, Jeromy Miles, Robert Sands, and Tony Dye) on the roster in 2012, but because of injuries or inexperience, none of them were major contributors.
Consequently, it only makes sense for the Bengals to kick the tires of this years college safety class to see if they can upgrade the position through the draft. Some might argue that the Bengals don't value the position highly enough to draft one early, but the same could have been said for tight end or offensive guard, and look how that turned out in 2010 and 2012 respectively. Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals tend to draft based on need in the first round, and safety is definitely a need.
With the combine right around the corner, it behooves us to focus our magnifying glass on those safeties participating at Lucas Oil Stadium. Previously, we examined an article by Draftmetrics' Tony Villiotti in which he used combine results to try and extrapolate success in the NFL. This time, we will be turning our attention to what he has to say about the safety position. Here are some of his observations.
• The 40-yard splits are once again the biggest indicator of future success
-The 40-yard dash has the biggest advantage for starters
-62% of 3-year starters and 60% of 1-year starters ran the 40 in 4.55 seconds or faster versus 41% of all Combine participants
-The flying 20 is a close second
-58% of 3-year starters and 50% of 1-year starters ran the flying 20 in 1.96 seconds or faster compared to 36% of all Combine participants
• The 3-Cone drill is next after the speed splits
-68% of 3-year starters and 64% of 1-year starters ran the drill in 7.03 seconds or faster compared to 52% of all Combine participants
• A few "red flags" were noted
-Only one of the 18 Combine participants who had a vertical jump less than 31.5 inches became a starter
-Only two of the 26 Combine participants who ran the 40 in 4.71 or more seconds became 3-year starters
-None of the 30 players who ran the flying 20 in 2.02 seconds or slower became 3-year starters and only three became one-year starters
Just like the linebackers--and essentially every other position on the field--speed is the number one statistical indicator of future success. Some players either have it, or they don't. It might be stating the obvious, but when you play fifteen yards behind the line of scrimmage, speed is just something you need to be effective. Acceleration and vertical jumping are also highly prized at the safety position. Players who lack the ability to make up ground quickly or elevate themselves to contest passes will struggle in coverage at the NFL level.
The safety workouts begin on Tuesday, February 26, and it will be interesting to see how this years' top college safeties stack up against Villiotti's litmus test.