Draft's top safeties

Top safeties in 2008 draft:

1. Kenny Phillips, Miami

Height: 6-2   Weight: 212
College stats: 33 starts, 241 tackles, 15 passes defended, 7 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles.
Vital numbers: 4.48 40-yard dash, 4.27 short shuttle, 34 vertical

Phillips is the top safety on most draft boards, if not all, but Tyrell Johnson is making a late run for the top spot. One GM described Phillips as a great tackler but without the range of some of the other great Miami safeties. Has better strong safety (in the box) skills than he has free safety skills but he can play in the deep hole or half field. Draft projection: Round 1.

2. Tyrell Johnson, Arkansas State

Height: 6-0   Weight: 207
College stats: 45 starts, 353 tackles, 28 passes defended, 13 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.41 40-yard dash, 4.42 short shuttle, 39 vertical

Johnson is a fast riser on draft boards and is now capable of being a first-round pick. He is a fine tackler, can line up and cover a wide receiver or tight end. One defensive coordinator likes his mechanics over all the other safeties. The Arkansas State competition seemed to be a concern earlier in the process but the workouts puts those concerns to rest. Some might feel he could play corner. Draft projection: Round 1-2.

3. DaJuan Morgan, North Carolina State

Height: 6-0   Weight: 205
College stats: 12 starts, 225 tackles, 15 passes defended, 6 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.56 40-yard dash, 4.41 short shuttle, 37 ½ vertical

Morgan is listed as a one-year starter but after talking to him he pointed out how much he played the previous year. He's not a great tackler but is smooth in transition in the open field. He has better range in zone coverage than his 40 time would suggest. He can get trapped making mistakes on the field and a good quarterback can bait him into mental errors. Draft projection: Round 2.

4. Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame

Height: 5-11   Weight: 211
College stats: 47 starts, 300 tackles, 15 passes defended, 8 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.44 40-yard dash, 4.04 short shuttle, 32 ½ vertical

Zbikowski really intrigued me at the Senior Bowl practices. He plays faster than advertised; he really understands offenses and how to play formations and routes. He may not be great at the next level but he will be a reliable pro who could be a starter down the road. In the meantime, he will be ready to come off the bench quickly. Draft projection: Round 3.

5. Quintin Demps, Texas-El Paso

Height: 5-11   Weight: 206
College stats: 46 starts, 275 tackles, 41 passes defended, 17 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.39 40-yard dash, 4.14 short shuttle, 34 ½ vertical

Demps did not jump out at me during Senior Bowl practices. He has great measurables and production. His open-field tackling leaves something to be desired but he does make plays on the ball. He can return punts, play on kick coverage units and be a third safety in his rookie season. Draft projection: Round 4.

6. Craig Steltz, LSU

Height: 6-1   Weight: 213
College stats: 20 starts, 184 tackles, 18 passes defended, 11 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.60 40-yard dash, 4.19 short shuttle, 35 vertical

Steltz is a very good college safety who some feel will fail in the NFL. I've talked with Steltz and watched a number of his game tapes and I see him playing in the NFL for a number of years. He may be a special teams guy and a reserve safety but he knows the game and plays it with passion. There is still room for men like that in the NFL. He didn't start at LSU right away, but when he got his chance he proved he belonged. He will do the same thing in the NFL. Draft projection: Rounds 5.

7. Simeon Castille, Alabama

Height: 6-0   Weight: 195
College stats: 29 starts, 176 tackles, 31 passes defended, 12 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.56 40-yard dash, 4.36 short shuttle, 31 ½ vertical

Castille only had eight reps on the bench and doesn't have exceptional speed but he does make plays on the field. Some grading systems will place him in the seventh round because of measurables. His 43 plays on the ball in 29 starts will intrigue a few teams that look for football players. He defies the numbers with football instincts. He will get hurt in the NFL if he doesn't improve his strength. Draft projection: Rounds 5.

8. Jamar Adams, Michigan

Height: 6-2   Weight: 212
College stats: 34 starts, 172 tackles, 18 passes defended, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Vital numbers: 4.62 40-yard dash, 4.59 short shuttle, 34 vertical

His forty time is a concern and his short shuttle says he will struggle in space but his height may help him overcome some of the problems. He made 15 big plays in 13 games this past season and may be coming into his own. Draft projection: Rounds 5.

9. Josh Barrett, Arizona State

Height: 6-1   Weight: 223
College stats: 27 starts, 174 tackles, 19 passes defended, 6 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Vital numbers: 4.35 40-yard dash, 4.27 short shuttle, 31 ½ vertical

Barrett was benched last season. When I asked him about the experience, he gave me a mature answer. He said the coaches felt he needed to get off the field and think about what an opportunity he had in front of him. When he returned, he was a better player. He is really an old-fashioned strong safety candidate and that is a dying breed. He may become a weak inside backer in some schemes much like Thomas Davis did for the Panthers. His drop off in production from his junior year to his senior campaign has raised some questions. He came away with 44 less tackles, and 4 less tackles for a loss are an issue. Draft projection: Round 5.

10. Thomas DeCoud, California

Height: 6-1   Weight: 207
College stats: 16 starts, 203 tackles, 8 passes defended, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles
Vital numbers: 4.50 40-yard dash, 4.27 short shuttle, 35 ½ vertical

The more tape I watch of DeCoud, the more I like him. He is capable of playing quarters coverage, back peddling on the snap of the ball, reading run and making a play near the line of scrimmage. DeCoud has corner experience, as well as the size and movement skills to play at the next level. A cover 2 team may like him at corner and he has a history of blocking kicks as a special teams player. If the injury bugs bites him like it did in college, he will fall back in the pack and his career will be short. Draft projection: Rounds 6.

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