The job description of your prototypical strong safety has slowly changed over the years, from your traditional run-stopping physical presence to someone who shows equally good range in the passing game.
In fact, both safeties are being asked a majority of the same responsibilities now, throwing the term "free" and "strong" safety out the proverbial window.
In a new pass heavy league, offenses are pushing defenses' strong safeties out of the box, and forcing them to sit back in coverage with three, four, and sometimes five receivers on the field.
Although, a big-hitting physical safety would be appealing for any defense, the need for that player to also have the ability to keep his eyes up and track the ball is higher than ever.
Heading into the combine scouts will be looking for safeties who show natural coverage skills, the ability to change directions quickly, along with fundamental technique to take proper angels while wrapping up and tackling.
Again, although the big hitter will always pop off the tape, its the safeties that can show top notch range in coverage that will be boosting their draft stock in Indianapolis, as a safety that can cover is in high demand in a pass happy league.
There are 20 safeties that received invitations to the combine, here are some of the biggest names of the group and what they will be looking to prove or showcase in Indianapolis.
Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Another pivotal piece to the stingy Stanford defense, Reynolds collected 87 tackles in 2013 and had six interceptions in 2012, including four of them returned to the house. He has the intanbales you like to see from his position, such as reading and reacting to the play well, along with taking great pursuit angles. With the mental intanagables in place, Reynolds can vault himself into the early rounds with impressive drills at the combine like the 3-cone, 20 yard shuttle, and 40-yard dash.
Dion Bailey, USC
This former linebacker made the transition to safety a few years back. Although he faired well in college as a physical presence, his natural coverage skills and instincts for the position remain a big question. His 40-time will be under close watch (no pun intended) as it will be indication if he has the speed for the range required in the NFL.
Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Bucannon was a big winner at the Senior Bowl measuring in at 6'1" and a chizzled 216 pounds. More importantly was his 78-inch wingspan, the best of any safety in Mobile. With a new heavy emphasis on long defensive backs, Bucannon caught the eye of a lot of people. Bucannon was known for big plays and delivering crushing hits at Washington State, if he can show above average quickness in the speed drills a second round selection isn't out of the question.
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
The 6'2" 208 pounder has NFL acceleration and explodes to the ball, something that seperates the great safeties from the good ones. Pryor also has the ability to fire into the box and lay the wood against the run. I expect Pryor to excel in group and individual drills at the Combine showing off his impressive ability to attack the ball. Careful Ha Ha, Pryor is nipping at your heels for the number one ranking.
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
As good as Pryor is Ward sneaks ahead of him because of his versatility. He has great range, excels in man coverage, and is a punishing hitter. There are plenty of teams that want an oppertunity to chat with Ward at the combine. His personal interviews will have a big impact on who falls in love with him in Indianapolis.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
A rare combination of size and speed, Clinton-Dix has been the consensus number one safety for quite some time now. His exceptional natural instincts translate to great range and closing speed, both things that will be on display at the combine. Unfortunately, being the top prospect at his position there isn't much he can do to improve his stock in Indianapolis. Although a blazing 40-time never hurts.