The 2014 Senior Bowl week has begun and players get their first big chance of the offseason to impress NFL scouts with their skills. The strong safety class is well represented in Mobile, with four players who all have a chance of being selected by the end of day two of the draft. They’re big, strong, fast, and have plenty of hitting power. NFL teams are going to have secondaries that are just a little bit better once these guys hit the league. Here are the four strong safeties present at the Senior Bowl in the order that they could be selected in.
1. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Casual football fans might not be familiar with him, but Bucannon could be a household name soon enough. Huge at 6’1” and 215 lbs, he’s built to be a punishing NFL safety. However, he does need to work on his technique, as he doesn’t always wrap up properly, instead going for the knockout blow. When he connects, though, it’s often a highlight shot. These lapses in tackling can hurt him in the run game, but it’s something that a good coach can quickly remedy. In coverage, he displays great range and hands, and can make plays for a defense. He is also a solid blitzer. Overall, he’s a fantastic prospect who should go early in the draft.
2. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
Dixon has everything a coach could want in a safety. He has great size at 6’0” and 205 lbs, and he combines that with good speed, willingness to make tackles, and an ability to hit. His physicality helps him succeed in the run game, and though he struggles sometimes in coverage, he will intimidate receivers coming across the field. His issues in coverage stem from inconsistent footwork, but it’s something that is correctable. He can make plays on the ball, although it’s usually based on a gamble on the route. He might make a big play, but he could get burned deep as well. He’ll be very good as an in-the-box safety at the next level.
3. Craig Loston, LSU
Loston is another huge safety, at 6’1, 214 lbs. Also like a good in-the-box safety, he moves quickly to the ball when in a straight line, and once he gets to the ball carrier, he can deliver a massive hit. Like Bucannon, he sometimes forgets his form and can miss tackles trying to make a highlight reel instead of just bringing the guy down. In the NFL, this will be especially worrisome, where the players are even faster and shiftier than the SEC. However, his biggest problem is in coverage. He’s not fluid when dropping back and is a liability if asked to cover a receiver on his own. He’ll need to improve quite a bit in order to be a starter in the NFL.
4. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
Though his size isn’t as imposing as the others at 5’10” and 205 lbs, Lewis is no less impressive a player when he’s on his game. His biggest problem, like Loston, is that he lacks fluidity in coverage and is a magnet for flags and target for quarterbacks if he’s left one-on-one. In the run game, he’s a classic strong safety, able to meet the ball carrier head on and make big hits. He needs a big week of practice at the Senior Bowl and has to prove that he’s well rounded enough to warrant a day two pick.