When I look through the long list of safeties headed into this year's draft, I'm more than impressed by what NFL teams have available. In 2012, the safety class was weak. Did I say weak? I meant desolate, spare, arid... Mark Barron headed a dismal group, and it drove his stock high enough to become the #7 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Harrison Smith was taken by the Minnesota Viking at pick #29 after trading back into the first round via the Baltimore Ravens. By most accounts, this was a reach at the time. Harrison, though he had a great rookie season, was projected to go in the second or third rounds. Given the number of teams in a quest to find help at the safety position, the Vikings pulled the trigger on the Notre Dame strong safety. While 19 safeties were taken in the 2012 draft overall, only these two - Barron and Harrison - held any high round draft-ability. But 2013 is a different story...
The 2013 safety class is one of the deepest I've seen in the last decade. There are at least 10 high caliber players who teams can choose from, and they could wind up being high first or second round choices. The third round of the 2013 draft will see quite a few safeties chosen too. This draft isn't very deep at many high profile positions, but the same can't be said for safeties available. The market is ripe for them too. Quite a few NFL teams will be searching for help at the position.
Kenny Vaccaro, the University of Texas standout has garnered first round attention by virtually everyone who writes up a mock draft. He heads a free safety class that includes Eric Reid (LSU), Phillip Thomas (Fresno State), Bacarri Rambo (Georgia) and T.J. McDonald (USC). I don't see any of these players lasting past the third round.
The strong safety group has some excellent prospects, headlined by Matt Elam (Florida), Jonathan Cyprien(FIU), Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse), Shaun Williams (Georgia), and JJ Wilcox, Georgia Southern. All of these guys could have their names called by the middle of the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
There's tons of later round depth too. I think teams will be searching for safeties who fit the Seattle Seahawks/49ers mold. Big, fast players who can cover the tight end/wide receiver hybrids so in vogue in the NFL right now. Keep your eye on Josh Evans (Florida). He's shown a nose for the ball, and has great tackling skills. I mentioned Khaseem Greene (Rutgers) in an article recently, and while he's seen as a outside linebacker by some, don't be surprised is a few teams think he'll be a strong safety at the NFL level. I think Greene will go very early in this draft because of his high motor and skill set (2nd round?). Then there's Cooper Taylor (Richmond), and at 6'5", 235 lbs., he's going to get loads of attention in the 3rd or 4th round. He's seen as a project player, but think what a draft coup a guy like this could be if he realizes his potential at the next level?
The St. Louis Rams need help at both free and strong safety, and while second year players like Matt Daniels and Rodney McLeod showed promise at times in 2012, the safety position is a wide open field. With all the team's needs in other areas, and the fact that a great deal of past draft capital has already been spent on defense, I think the pressure on the Rams' scouting department to find a later round safety will be where they'll find success or failure this April.