2014 NFL Draft: Identifying the Top Strong Safety Prospects
While some of the best strong safeties in college football will not be draft eligible until next season, there are still a few options in the first few rounds come this May.
There is not a top tier player that will likely be chosen in the first round, there are some players who may be taken in the second and definitely by the third. Here are my top three strong safety prospects eligible for the upcoming draft.
3. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Bucannon may be one of the most underrated prospects heading into the bowl games this season, but if you have seen him play, you are likely sold.
His first step is incredible, and he is able to use his long legs to propel him to and through his target. One thing that he lives and dies by is his anticipation. Once he makes his decision, there is no hesitation.
I would not be surprised to see Bucannon be one of the stars at the combine this year. His speed and explosiveness really shows on tape, and that will be confirmed by his broad jump and 40 yard dash.
Do not be surprised to see Bucannon accelerate up everyone’s draft boards. One thing I would like to see some improvement on is his ability to shed blocks.
At times during the Stanford game, he was demolished by a tight end or even a wide receiver at times in the run game.
One of my favorite plays this season by Bucannon came against Stanford. Washington State’s left cornerback bit on a double move, and as soon as he saw that, he raced to the back of the endzone and was able to intercept a slightly underthrown fade.
2. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
Dixon is one of my favorite players on the defensive side of the football in this year’s class, because when it comes to the strong safety position, there is no one better at exploding to and through his target.
What I mean by this is the ability to recognize the angle of the ball carrier, then exploding to him and either driving him back, or delivering a pulverizing hit.
Dixon is listed at just 205 pounds, but he delivers hits like a linebacker. One thing he needs to work on is the ability to loosen up his hips. In a game against Texas Tech, he allowed tight end Jace Amaro to beat him on an in-and-out route, because he exposed his hips during Amaro’s first cut, which allowed an easy touchdown on the second cut.
A brilliant route by Amaro, but as a safety, Dixon needs to stay loose and not allow that to happen so easily. Later in the game, it happened yet again, on a double move, which Dixon bit. Luckily this is a fixable issue, and with Dixon’s talent, he should be able to adjust and be a good player in the NFL.
1. Dion Bailey, Southern California
Bailey was a former linebacker at USC, and has started at both positions in his career. Bailey lines up in the box on the majority of his snaps and is always around the ball. Bailey’s ability to tackle in the open field is exactly what NFL teams want in a strong safety.
In addition to that, his ability to deliver hard hits without sacrificing a sure tackle is an innate ability. One of the things he does well to separate himself from some others, is he always keeps his eyes on the quarterback, and is still able to maintain coverage. In a game against Washington last season, he caught an interception that was thrown almost three feet behind him. But what was impressive was his ability to keep his eyes on the ball the whole time, which is the sole reason the turnover was created.
Bailey has announced he will make a decision on his future after USC’s bowl game, and NFL teams in need of a safety will be hoping he chooses to go to the next level.