6’1” – 204 lbs. – 4.60e
2010: 5 – 0.0 – 0.0, 1 PD
2011: 75 – 1.0 – 0.0, 6 PD, 2 INT
2012: 56 – 2.5 – 0.0, 6 PD, 1 INT
Redshirted in 2009, then started the first two games of the following season, but tore his ACL and was lost for the season. Started all thirteen games in 2011, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Missed three games in 2012 due to an ankle injury, but was healthy through 2013.
• Will be entering the draft with three seasons of starting experience for a major program.
• Overcome past injuries to remain effective; had his most productive year as senior.
• Has prototypical height and bulk for a safety prospect, with an impressive physique.
• Lines up all over the field for the Buckeyes: in the box, in the slot, and as a deep safety.
• Assumed more deep coverage responsibilities than most other strong safety prospects.
• Doesn’t shy away from contact but also avoids overcommitting early in run defense.
• Physical tackler, brings opponents to the ground forcefully; can also make the big hit.
• Takes pretty good angles in run defense, doesn’t get caught out of position very often.
• Big and strong enough to line him up against opposing tight ends in man coverage.
• Intelligent, well-spoken player who has previously earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.
• Overall speed is adequate but not ideal, will need to rely on his recognition skills.
• Susceptible to double-moves in coverage, tends to sit on the underneath route.
• Has done a little bit of work against slot receivers but isn’t fast enough to continue.
• Angles in pursuit of receivers may require some revision against faster pro targets.
• Could do a better job of taking on blocks, doesn’t anchor as well as his size suggests.
• Injury history requires evaluation; style of play may also increase risk of further issues.
Barnett is a tall, muscular safety who has started for the Buckeyes over the past three seasons, handling various different responsibilities with the team. His most significant assets as a prospect are his intelligence, his patience and angles in run support, and his reliable, physical tackling. With the Buckeyes, he has done some work in the slot and in deep coverage, but his athletic limitations, coupled with his susceptibility to double moves, may very well restrict him to box responsibilities and coverage on tight ends at the next level. His injury history will also concern some teams. Responsibilities will be reined in as a pro, but does a few things well.
6’0” – 200 lbs. – 4.65e
2011: 81 – 2.0 – 2.0, 1 FF, 2 PD, 2 INT (SLB)
2012: 80 – 8.0 – 1.0, 1 FF, 5 PD, 4 INT (SLB)
2013: 62 – 6.5 – 0.5, 1 FF, 6 PD, 5 INT (SS)
Was recruited as a safety, but transitioned to linebacker during spring practice in 2011 after spending his true freshman season as a redshirt, starting at strongside linebacker in eleven games, earning All-Pac-12 Second Team recognition. Reprised his role in 2012, starting all thirteen games. Underwent offseason shoulder surgery, then transitioned to safety in 2013.
• Will be leaving school with three seasons of starting experience for a major program.
• Overall combination of size and bulk is solid for a safety prospect, free or strong.
• Versatile, having spent time at strongside linebacker before transitioning to safety.
• The type of player who will benefit from the league’s emphasis on sub packages.
• Has been asked to line up in the slot, chipping receivers or covering in man or zone.
• Capable of chipping a slot receiver and subsequently making a spot drop in zone.
• Patient in run support, avoids being sucked in by misdirection/fakes by overcommitting.
• Forceful hitter who can help set the tone defensively when he squares up opponents.
• Soft hands, managed to come away with eleven interceptions over three seasons.
• Having spent only one season at safety, likely has further developmental potential.
• Didn’t take many snaps as a traditional deep safety, almost always in the box or slot.
• Consequently, teams looking for conventional high safeties need to use imagination.
• Not particularly fast or explosive, average to below-average athleticism for safety.
• Probably not someone teams will feel confident employing in man coverage in slot.
• Takes some poor angles in deep coverage owing to his inexperience in that regard.
• Backpedal looks sloppy, weight distribution is awkward, lacks controlled footwork.
• Would need to add a significant amount of bulk in order to move back to linebacker.
• Offseason shoulder surgery prior to this season will require further medical inspection.
A few years ago, Bailey may not have been considered a particularly high draft pick, but with the league now prioritizing finding “Star” personnel for their sub packages, a player who has played both Sam linebacker and safety is valuable. At this point, Bailey needs a lot of work on his backpedal and deep coverage instincts, the latter of which haven’t been on display at USC, but already possesses solid ball skills, contributing as a fairly effective run defender as well. Not a freak, but can do a few different things fairly well, with further upside.
6’1” – 204 lbs. – 4.55e
2010: 74 – 4.0 – 0.0, 1 FR, 3 PD, 3 INT
2011: 58 – 1.0 – 0.0, 5 PD, 2 INT
2012: 50 – 3.0 – 0.0, 2 PD, 5 INT
Started twelve games as a true freshman, earning All-Big 12 Second Team recognition. Started all thirteen games the following year, then was named to the All-Big 12 First Team following his junior campaign.
• A productive four-year starter who has been starting since his true freshman year.
• Overall size and bulk are above-average for a professional free safety prospect.
• Runs well, isn’t an elite athlete but possesses sufficient speed for most situations.
• Usually assumes more of a center-fielder role but has also worked in the slot regularly.
• Closes well on ballcarriers in a short area, also undercuts routes effectively vs. the pass.
• Has soft hands, intercepting multiple passes in each of his four seasons at Kansas St.
• Takes sound angles in pursuit rather than getting greedy and letting runners get by him.
• Generally able to tackle receivers shortly after the catch, limiting additional yardage.
• Uses technique when possible, doesn’t forget to wrap when given a chance to hit.
• May have been most productive as a freshman, never really escalated his output.
• Has benefited from some fortunate circumstances, inflating his statistical production.
• Wasn’t really asked to do too much man coverage, even when lined up in the slot.
• Occasionally a bit late to read and react in zone coverage, susceptible to quick routes.
• Sometimes runs himself out of position, then relies on low-percentage arm tackles.
• Upside is probably limited after having already spent four seasons in the starting lineup.
• Generally durable but has had some minor injuries which must be evaluated further.
A player with the size, athleticism, and experience to interest teams late on the draft’s second day or early on the third day, Zimmerman is a reliable, well-rounded free safety prospect who offers teams a relatively known quantity after having spent the past four seasons starting for the Wildcats. While he’s probably not someone ideally suited to lining up in man coverage, he can usually put himself in position to make a play and, from time to time, even ends up making tackles he probably shouldn’t. Zimmerman’s production was somewhat inflated due to some poor decisions by opposing players, as well as to some luck, but teams seeking some peace of mind may prefer him to some of the high-risk, high-reward safeties in the class. Developmental reserve who possesses the potential to develop into a decent if unspectacular starter.
5’11” – 200 lbs. – 4.50e
2010: 2 – 0.0 – 0.0, 1 PD
2011: 17 – 0.5 – 0.0, 1 QBH, 5 PD, 1 INT
2012: 51 – 1.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 4 PD, 2 INT
Played on special teams as a freshman, then appeared in eleven games as the team’s dime back as a sophomore in 2011. Stepped into the starting lineup in 2012, starting all fourteen games at free safety, the position he played as a senior.
• Will graduate having spent two seasons as a starter for a major college program.
• Production escalated in each season with the Seminoles; had best year as a senior.
• Possesses adequate height for a pro free safety prospect, with above-average bulk.
• Has also made quality special teams contributions, particularly as a freshman.
• On-field temperament is impressive, plays with swagger, physicality, and aggression.
• Explosive acceleration, gets up to top speed quickly once he’s diagnosed the play.
• Takes on blocks well, often initiates contact and can knock blockers off-balance.
• Typically a good tackler, technique can get a little bit sloppy but has burst/power.
• Has displayed an affinity for rushing the passer off of the edge during his senior year.
• Gets a little bit too aggressive at times, running himself out of position to make a play.
• Plays free safety but looks more comfortable playing downhill as a run defender.
• Surprisingly, hasn’t really been asked to line up in deep coverage with much frequency.
• Played in the dime as a sophomore, but isn’t usually assigned to cover slot receivers.
• Physicality and aggression occasionally lead to otherwise avoidable penalties.
• May seek out a bit too much contact in terms of taking on blocks he could avoid.
• Should he convert to the strong side, would be a bit undersized to cover tight ends.
At this point, Brooks must be considered a more effective run defender than coverage safety, as his most impressive contributions to the team have come as a downhill threat. His intensity, passion, and energy are all qualities which stand out immediately and persist throughout the game, with his ideal mental attributes being perhaps his greatest asset as a player. Physically, Brooks appears to have something of a squat build, with impressive acceleration and solid top-end speed. It would have been nice to see him assume more coverage responsibilities, both in high zones and in the slot, but based on his run defense and special teams play alone, he warrants early consideration, especially in a draft class which is not considered particularly strong at the position. May eventually end up converting to strong safety.
6’1” – 205 lbs. – 4.65e
2010: 52 – 1.5 – 1.5, 2 QBH, 1 FF, 3 PD, 3 INT
2011: 34 – 2.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 1 PD, 4 INT
2012: 88 – 3.5 – 0.0, 1 FF, 3 INT
2013: 55 – 1.0 – 0.0, 1 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 PD, 5 INT, 1 BK
Redshirted in 2009, then started eleven of the thirteen games he appeared in in 2010. Started seven of nine games in 2011 before rupturing his Achilles’. Returned to start all thirteen games in 2012, then eleven in 2013 despite tearing his ACL in the third game of the season.
• Despite injuries, managed to accumulate nearly four years of SEC starting experience.
• Very tough; tore his ACL in the third week of 2013 and somehow finished the year.
• Possesses a prototypical combination of height and bulk for an NFL free safety.
• Overall style of play may make him better suited to working in-the-box at the next level.
• Has lined up as a deep safety, in the slot, and as essentially a linebacker in college.
• Plays with a physical, aggressive, nasty on-field demeanor coaches may appreciate.
• Capable of lining up ballcarriers and making some big hits, has forced a few fumbles.
• Showcases soft hands; has recorded three or more interceptions in every season.
• Temperament and physicality appear well-suited to a special teams role in the pros.
• Torn ACL will likely prevent him from working out, create a medical question mark.
• Also ruptured his Achilles’ in 2011, another cause for concern requiring investigation.
• Adequate range in deep coverage but doesn’t have particularly impressive athleticism.
• Aggressiveness can frequently be exploited via play fakes and misdirection plays.
• Not exactly the type of patient free safety teams want as their last line of defense.
• For every big play he makes for his own team, he enables one or two from opponents.
• Also commits a few too many penalties, seemingly has trouble maintaining composure.
Whitley’s size, physicality, and soft hands are characteristic of a quality safety, but despite having four years of starting experience under his belt, his aggressiveness and impatience can be exploited too easily to feel comfortable letting him see the field on defense without making some major strides. To compound matters, he tore his Achilles’ in 2011 and ACL in 2013, with the latter injury potentially slowing a safety whose speed was already underwhelming to begin with. At this point, he is a defensive liability with serious health concerns.
6’0” – 195 lbs. – 4.60e
2010: 18 – 0.0 – 0.0, 1 PD, 1 INT (CB)
2011: 48 – 2.5 – 0.0, 2 FR, 2 PD, 3 INT (CB)
2012: 58 – 1.5 – 0.0, 2 FF, 7 PD, 1 BK (CB)
2013: 127 – 3.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 6 PD, 2 INT, 1 BK (FS)
Played in all twelve games as a freshman, primarily at nickel back but also as a special teams contributor. Took over as a starting cornerback in 2011, appearing in all thirteen games. Huff remained on the outside as a junior in his twelve games played, then transitioned to free safety prior to his senior season.
• Played three seasons at cornerback, then successfully transitioned to safety in 2013.
• Possesses a good combination of height, bulk, and length for a pro defensive back.
• Able to avoid biting on play fakes, takes a very relaxed approach to playing free safety.
• When he ends up in position to make a tackle, generally tries to wrap up the ballcarrier.
• Capable of timing hits down the field in order to separate receivers from the ball.
• At times, pre-snap positioning resembles that of a linebacker rather than a safety.
• Has also contributed on various special teams units, blocking a kick as a junior in 2012.
• Overall level of competition in the Mountain West bears little resemblance to the NFL.
• Incredible statistical output in 2013 is somehow completely incongruous with impact.
• Despite having played there in the past, probably isn’t athletic enough to play corner.
• Doesn’t play with anything resembling urgency, generally looks lethargic and bored.
• Passivity could perhaps better be described as laziness, can become rather infuriating.
• Too deferential when it comes to pursuit; prefers to let others take care of the tackle.
Huff spent the first three years of his collegiate career at cornerback for the Cowboys before shifting to free safety as a senior. That may give the impression that he is almost athletically overqualified for the deep secondary, but his size is not quite impressive enough to overlook his mediocre speed, which will likely prevent him from receiving much consideration at cornerback. Based on Huff’s film, it’s almost inconceivable that he could have been as productive as he was, given that he often appears to be sleepwalking through the game, deferring to teammates and strolling around the field after the ball has been snapped. That he has played both cornerback and free safety may appeal to teams, and he also participates on special-teams units, but his reprehensible demeanor is impossible to overlook.
6’2” – 195 lbs. – 4.60e
2010: 22 – 0.0 – 0.0, 1 PD, 1 BK
2011: 27 – 3.0 – 3.0, 4 PD
2012: 70 – 6.0 – 1.0, 2 QBH, 1 FF, 8 PD
Served as a backup safety in 2010, appearing in all but one game, starting one. Lined up in the nickel in 2011 (technically linebacker/safety), playing every game, with two starts. Shifted to cornerback in 2012, lining up in the slot in nickel packages. Played left cornerback in 2013.
• Was basically a two-year starter, but had an extensive role in sub packages previously.
• Most recently played cornerback, but also has experience in the slot and at safety.
• Possesses outstanding height and length for a pro defensive back, corner or safety.
• Has been asked to line up in both man and zone coverages during his time at corner.
• Confident player who has a swagger which is especially desirable in defensive backs.
• Does a nice job of looking back and locating in the football when targeted on passes.
• Exhibits good timing when it comes to getting a hand on the ball when he’s targeted.
• Height, length, and leaping ability allow him to match up vertically against tall receivers.
• Big, strong, and active enough to work through blocks vs. the run or on screens.
• Adequate wrap-up tackler who also explodes into ballcarriers with some pop at times.
• Fairly accomplished pass rusher who was effective while working from inside the slot.
• Looks like he may be able to fit at corner or safety but lacks a definitive position.
• Overall timed speed is adequate given his size but may be exploited at the next level.
• May be a little bit too big to cover some of the NFL’s smaller, quicker slot receivers.
• Probably better suited to a zone-coverage scheme should teams decide he’s a corner.
• Looks okay when he turns and runs downfield but his initial backpedal is sloppy.
• Doesn’t have great hands, drops picks at times; only intercepted passes as a senior.
Johnson has flown under the radar a bit, possibly because of his lack of outstanding statistical production, but, having earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, he has a good opportunity to work his way up draft boards. At 6’2” and 195, he has the size of a safety, but actually covers well at cornerback, where he’s capable of playing either man or zone, matching up against big receivers vertically, and getting his hands on passes from time to time. His run defense skills are above-average as well, both in terms of shedding blocks and tackling. There aren’t many 6’2” cornerbacks, but he looks like someone who could probably transition to safety. A versatile developmental defensive back with attractive size, versatility, and mental tools.
6’1” – 205 lbs. – 4.60e
2010: 57 – 5.5 – 0.0, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 PD, 1 INT
2011: 53 – 1.0 – 0.0, 3 PD, 1 INT
2012: 90 – 3.5 – 1.0, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD, 2 INT
Started nine of the twelve games he appeared in at strong safety during his true freshman season, stepping into the lineup as an injury replacement. Started five of the thirteen games he appeared in as a sophomore. Started all twelve games in 2012, then did the same in 2013, being named to the All-SEC First Team.
• Has roughly three seasons of starting experience, but has contributed all four years.
• Has a prototypical combination of height, bulk, and length for a pro defensive back.
• Versatility is a plus; has starting experience at both free safety and strong safety.
• Forceful hitter who can line up receivers; oan intimidating presence over the middle.
• Remembers his tackling technique, does have some explosion but uses arms to wrap.
• Became pretty good at stripping the ball during his senior year, forcing five fumbles.
• Refrains from committing too quickly, takes care of his own responsibilities first.
• Is capable of making interceptions when given a chance, had five as a senior.
• Has also contributed on special teams; could initially see the field in punt coverage.
• Top-end speed is below-average for a free safety; may be more of a strong safety.
• Range in coverage is limited, works in high coverage but can’t cover much ground.
• Once an opponent gets past him, typically isn’t fast enough to recover from behind.
• Conservative in zone, avoids big mistakes but can’t make many plays on the ball.
• Hasn’t been asked to line up in coverage against slot receivers or against tight ends.
• Misses a few tackles a game, usually because of positioning rather than technique.
Certainly a player who looks the part of a pro safety, Ladler will enter the draft with four seasons of quality experience in the SEC, culminating in his All-SEC First Team selection this season. His versatility, having started at both safety spots, will also appeal to pro teams. Generally, he is a fairly responsible, conservative center-fielder who also offers some pop as a tackler. However, his lack of speed and, consequently, range will only become more apparent at the pro level, especially if he plays free safety. He gets a little bit too aggressive in his angles at times, and is generally a bit late to make plays on the ball vs. the pass. A player who does a nice job of working within his limitations and avoiding major mistakes, but whose ceiling is limited by his average athleticism; projects as more of a reserve/special teams option.
5’11” – 192 lbs. – 4.55e
2010: 18 – 0.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 3 BK, 1 PR TD
2011: 100 – 2.5 – 1.0, 1 FF, 4 PD, 1 INT, 1 BK
2012: 104 – 1.0 – 0.0, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 11 PD, 3 INT
Played in all fourteen games as a true freshman, blocking three punts while contributing in a reserve/special teams capacity. Started twelve of fourteen games played in 2011, earning All-MAC Second Team recognition. Was a member of the conference’s first team as a junior, appearing in all but one game.
• Productive three-year starter who led team in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
• Possesses adequate height, weight, and speed for a professional defensive back.
• Originally established himself in 2010 through effective special teams contributions.
• Frequently lines up in the box, where he has collected the majority of his tackles.
• Physical player who doesn’t shy away from contact, can disrupt receiver routes.
• Diagnoses runs quickly then generally takes good angles in pursuit of the carrier.
• Demonstrates an impressive closing burst which allows him to explode into contact.
• Patient in backside contain, doesn’t overcommit and run himself out of position.
• Employed in both man and zone coverages as a slot defender, is capable at both.
• Ball skills are above-average; has good timing on breakups and soft hands.
• Has good tackling fundamentals, remembers to go low and wrap up when possible.
• Plays strong safety for the Huskies, but is a little bit smaller than ideal for the position.
• May offer offenses a size mismatch if assigned to defend an opposing tight end.
• More productive because of his recognition, patience, and fundamentals than speed.
• Hasn’t been tested much in deep zone coverage, obscuring his potential value there.
• Willing to take on blocks but would benefit from trying to avoid them more often.
• Can be sucked in a bit versus the run, forcing him to chase down runners from behind.
A three-year starter who doubled as a special-teams standout at Northern Illinois, Ward isn’t one of the biggest or fastest safeties in the class but is a responsible, versatile strong safety who is both instinctive and fundamentally sound in run defense while also offering teams the ability to line him up in the slot with man or zone responsibilities, a key quality for a modern safety. Because he was not often matched up against tight ends or in high zone coverage, it’s hard to evaluate those aspects of his game, but he is good at what he does and projects as a potential starter. A rare safety who exercises discipline and technique.
6’1” – 198 lbs. – 4.60e
2010: 83 – 4.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 1 FR, 5 PD, 2 INT
2011: 80 – 2.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 4 PD, 3 INT, 1 BK
2012: 106 – 2.5 – 1.0, 1 FF, 4 PD, 4 INT
Started eight of the twelve games he appeared in as a true freshman, leading the team in tackles. Started eleven of twelve games played as a sophomore, then did the same in 2012, being named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team.
• Has four increasingly-productive seasons of starting experience under his belt.
• Possesses impressive height for the position; also has added more bulk every year.
• Plays free safety, but his size/temperament may make him a better strong safety.
• Works in the slot fairly frequently, typically assigned man coverage against a receiver.
• Size/length may convince some teams that he is a candidate to cover tight ends.
• Aggressive in run support, very proactive in coming up and trying to make a tackle.
• Solid ball skills; has increased his interception total in each successive season.
• Doesn’t blitz too much in college but seems like he’d be well-suited to that role.
• Non-stop motor allows him to work his way into a few extra plays in each game.
• Has worked on special teams as well; blocked a kick in 2011, works on punt coverage.
• Speed is only adequate for the position, may need to transition to strong safety.
• Commits to the run too quickly, making him susceptible to misdirection/play-action.
• Focuses too much on shooting gaps vs. the run, taking dangerous angles for a safety.
• Impatience ultimately makes him an unreliable option as a team’s last line of defense.
• Thin; willing to take on opposing blocks but often ends up being completely wiped out.
• Has been asked to defend receivers and tight ends but doesn’t do a great job of it.
• Uses tackling technique at times, can make the big hit, but misses too many attempts.
Bucannon’s size, length, and production are intriguing, but unfortunately there are plenty of flaws in his game which consequently make him difficult to recommend. His aggressiveness in run support tends to work to his team’s detriment, as the defense loses its last line of defense; additionally, his effectiveness in that area is limited, as he takes inconsistent angles, struggles to handle blocks, and misses plenty of tackles. He has soft hands which allow him to make plays on passes, but his speed and instincts in coverage leave a lot to be desired and limit the amount of throws he can impact. At this point, it’s hard to recommend him as anything other than a developmental reserve with lots of work to do and no clear pro position.