NFL Prospect Rankings: Defensive Backs
Safeties look to make draft history
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April 16, 2007
By Rob Rang
Special to CSTV.com from The SportsXchange
The 2007 draft features a potentially historic class of defensive backs.
But it's not courtesy of the crop of cornerbacks, as this draft lacks the classic shutdown corner prospects. The real intrigue lies with the safeties.
Some believe free safeties LaRon Landry (LSU), Reggie Nelson (
An in-depth look at the top cornerbacks, free safeties and strong safeties:
A 37-game starter for the Wolverines, Hall was recognized with All-Big Ten accolades all four years of his career. He combines good size and speed, with excellent technique and work ethic. While he is occasionally beaten -- including in highly anticipated matchups against Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio State) and Dwayne Jarrett (Southern California) in 2006 -- Hall's consistency over his entire body of work is his most impressive feat. He looked a bit tentative during the all-important week of practice at the Senior Bowl, but bounced back with Defensive Player of the Game honors in the game itself and followed that up with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Hall may never make the Pro Bowl, but he is a surefire starter capable of playing at a high level immediately.
2. Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh, 6-0, 197, JR:
Despite starting only 15 games in his collegiate career, Ross is considered by many to be a first-round prospect. Blessed with rare size and speed, Ross took advantage of his first season as the undisputed starter to win the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back. It is easy to see why Ross earned the acclaim. He finished third on the team with 80 tackles and contributed to an eye-popping 11 turnovers (six interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries). Further investigation shows that Ross was in position to make so many plays because he was often targeted by opposing passers. He has exceptional quickness to go along with his size and speed, and can make teams sorry for targeting him. But Ross also gave up five touchdown receptions in 2006, an alarming number for such a highly regarded prospect. He also adds value with the ability to contribute as a return specialist (11.8-yard average per punt return, including three touchdowns).
Like Carroll, who has fizzled in the NFL after going to
Wade is a former track star who made huge strides as a senior, ultimately being recognized as one of the most improved players at the position. A part-time starter in 2005, Wade earned Second Team All-SEC honors after starting all 13 games as a senior. The concern with Wade, as with all former track stars who become football players, is physicality. Wade improved his willingness to come up in run support, as evidenced by his career-high 52 tackles and six tackles for loss in 2006. He remains very much a project in this area and will be drafted in the first two rounds based on his upside, not his consistency.
6. Marcus McCauley, Fresno State, 6-1, 200, SR:
McCauley entered the 2006 season among the highest-rated defensive players in the draft. McCauley's former teammate, Richard Marshall, was selected by
If you ask anyone close to the
Other Potential Impact Cornerbacks:
-- Eric Wright, UNLV, 5-11, 190, JR: A cover corner who stood out athletically on a talented
-- David Irons, Auburn, 5-10, 188, SR: Like his brother, Auburn running back Kenny Irons, David is a productive football player when healthy.
-- A.J. Davis,
1. LaRon Landry, LSU, 6-2, 205, SR:
Considered by some veteran scouts to be the surest thing of all defensive prospects in the 2007 draft, Landry has Pro Bowl ability. Gaining individual accolades would be nothing new to Landry. A 48-game starter and first- or second-team all-conference selection each of his seasons with LSU, Landry has been a standout since first stepping on the field, an uncommon occurrence in the SEC.
Landry isn't a classic striker who consistently intimidates opponents over the middle (only two career forced fumbles). That's where the list of negatives ends. Outside of that, he's the complete package who is a force against the run, leading the team in tackles in 2003, 2004 and 2006, and is among the smoothest pass defenders in the country. His career numbers prove his standing among the greatest defensive backs in LSU history: 315 tackles, 22 pass breakups, 16 tackles for loss, 12 interceptions, eight sacks and two blocked kicks.
Redskins free safety Sean Taylor was the last player at that position drafted in the top 10, when he was picked by
Nelson entered his senior season in
Arguably the most valuable player on a
3. Brandon Meriweather,
For many, the lasting memory of Meriweather's career at
In most years, Meriweather would rank as the elite free safety available. In fact, some teams are thought to rank Meriweather first at the position due to his versatility this year. His ability to make big plays, provide seamless coverage and even be used at cornerback, and provide big hits over the middle, make him a first-round caliber talent. Of his 31 career starts, Meriweather started 21 games at strong safety, six at free safety, two at right cornerback, one at left cornerback and one at nickel back for the Hurricanes. He left
Other Potential Impact Free Safeties:
-- Josh Gattis, Wake Forest, 6-1, 213, SR: Gattis started 2006 like gangbusters, but his play tailed off as the season went on.
-- Tanard Jackson,
Capable of playing both safety positions well,
A versatile athlete, Weddle's collegiate success and underrated overall athleticism imply a long, successful NFL career could be ahead. In 48 games at
Blessed with a spectacular combination of size and speed, Rouse is attractive to teams looking for a classic in-the-box presence. At his size, some teams are even looking at him as a candidate to move to outside linebacker. Rouse was a standout for much of his career with the Hokies playing the rover position. His explosive hitting ability and aggressiveness in run support made him a perfect fit for this role. The 24-game starter recorded 217 tackles, intercepted five passes and forced four fumbles.
Rouse struggles a bit when his back is turned to the action. While fast for a player his size, Rouse's 4.55 speed doesn't necessarily translate well into deep coverage. That belief was confirmed with an inconsistent performance during Senior Bowl practices.
Other Potential Impact Strong Safeties: