D.J. Swearinger FS South Carolina #36
Size/Athleticism: Strong overall build with nice blend of size and athleticism. His well-rounded skill set makes him an extremely versatile safety.
Coverage: Experienced in zone and man coverage. Does a nice job playing the center field role. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback while remaining aware of the receivers in his zone. He’s very patient in zone, and doesn’t over-commit in any direction and rarely incorrectly guesses in an attempt to jump a route. Played some cornerback early in his career.
Ball skills: Impressive leaping ability. He’s physical and can battle for jump balls. Doesn’t have great hands, but he’ll come down with an occasional interception.
Run support: Does a great job stepping up and plugging holes at the line of scrimmage. Can deliver the big hit, but he’s also a very reliable wrap-up tackler. Consistently takes correct angles in pursuit. Does a really nice job corralling the receiver in open space, especially on screens or quick passes in the flat. Impressive closing speed. He isn’t exceptionally fast, but he has a quick first step and has a great burst in short distances.
Intangibles: Suspended by NCAA for one game for an illegal hit.
Durability: Slowed by a foot injury in 2011 and missed spring practices due to the injury.
Comments: Swearinger in an incredibly physical and versatile safety. He can play either safety position and will fit perfectly into a scheme that likes to use interchangeable parts in the secondary. There are some concerns about his foot injury which has lingered over the past two seasons, but he battled through the injury and has otherwise been durable throughout his career.
Johnathan Cyprien SS Florida International #7
Size/Athleticism: Built like a prototypical strong safety. Straight-line speed is very average, but he plays much quicker than his 40 time indicates.
Coverage: His speed hurts him in coverage at times. He reacts quickly, but when the offense stretches the field he sometimes simply lacks the closing speed to make a play. Shows elite awareness on the field and an ability to read the quarterback. Struggles in man coverage. He lacks the foot quickness and overall agility to stay with receivers and tight ends. In man coverage, he’s often playing catchup and rarely is able to turn and locate the ball.
Ball skills: Does a nice job reading the quarterback in zone coverage and putting himself in position to make plays. He’s a physical defender who can battle for jump balls.
Run support: Willing to step up and battle at the line of scrimmage. Occasionally used to blitz, and doesn’t back down from engaging with offensive linemen. Hard hitter who can jar the ball loose. Surprisingly inconsistent tackler, especially considering his size. He can deliver the big hit, but he’s very inconsistent in wrapping guys up and slides off a lot of tackles.
Intangibles: Four-year starter. Plays with confidence, but he’s overaggressive at times.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: Cyprien has potential as a strong safety, but there are obvious limitations to his game. He isn’t as versatile as most safeties in today’s game. More and more teams prefer interchangeable parts in the secondary, and Cyprien is a true strong safety which could limit his interest from teams. He has the skills to excel in a very specific role, but he will be a liability in coverage at times. While he should be viewed as a future starter, he isn’t a perfect fit for every scheme.
Matt Elam S Florida #22
Size/Athleticism: Nice blend of size and speed. He’s a hard hitter who can make receivers think twice about coming across the middle.
Coverage: Capable of lining up in man coverage over the tight end. He does a nice job in press coverage and can frustrated tight ends at the line of scrimmage who expect to be able to overpower a much smaller safety. In consistent in his technique in zone coverage. He turns his back on the quarterback too often, and struggles to recover. He seems to struggle with the multitasking of paying attention to the receivers in his zone while also keeping an eye on the quarterback. Lined up over the slot receiver a lot in college, but he lacks the fluid athleticism to cover most slot receivers in the NFL.
Ball skills: Hands are inconsistent but he’s a great athlete who can put himself in position to at least get a hand on the ball.
Run support: Loves playing the run. Willing to stick his nose into the middle of the action and won’t back down from battling with the big boys at the line of scrimmage. Has the ability to be a reliable wrap-up tackler, but he is far too aggressive. Goes for the big hit far too often, and has a reputation as a bit of a head hunter. He will definitely rack up the fines at the next level if he doesn’t change his style of play. He also misses too many tackles as a result of his desire to lay out the ball carrier, rather than simply bring him down.
Intangibles: Elam is a borderline dirty player who had dealt out more than his fair share of helmet-to-helmet hits which will draw flags and fines in the NFL. His future team will need to work with him on his style of play, or else he will become very familiar with Roger Goodell.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: Elam has the raw skills to play either safety position, but he’s much better playing closer to the line of scrimmage in the strong safety role. He will immediately make an impact in run support, and has the tools to develop into an adequate coverage safety. His aggressiveness is definitely an asset, but he will need to keep it under control or he will hurt the team with penalties and potentially a suspension down the road.
Eric Reid S LSU #1
Size/Athleticism: Taller than the average safety and has an athletic build to go with his height. He’s a prototypical free safety in coverage but has the strength and willingness to play the run necessary to play strong safety as well. He’s a well rounded athlete who could contribute in a versatile role in the secondary. Straight-line speed is decent, but he really stands out for his speed in short bursts. He has the explosive burst to make up for mistakes and also close quickly in run support.
Coverage: A prototypical center fielder. Doesn’t line up in man coverage often and lacks the elite foot quickness to excel against slot receivers. Does a nice job reading the quarterback in zone coverage. However, he is overaggressive at times and he will bite on pump fakes and try to jump routes.
Ball skills: Elite leaping ability. Times his jumps well and does a great job battling for jump balls down the field. He does a nice job putting himself in position to fight for the ball.
Run support: Willing to step up in run support. He’s a hard hitter who won’t shy away from contact with bigger ball carriers. Takes consistent angles in pursuit and puts himself in position to make plays.
Intangibles: Team captain 2012.
Durability: Slowed by a quad injury in 2011.
Comments: Reid the potential to be an asset as a versatile safety who can excel against the run and as the centerfielder in coverage. However, he needs to be smarter in his decision making. He is overaggressive in every aspect of the game and his gambles won’t pay off as often in the NFL.
Kenny Vaccaro S Texas #4
Size/Athleticism: Has the size and athleticism to be a versatile safety. He could easily play strong or free safety.
Coverage: Capable of lining up over receivers in the slot. Takes a lot of false steps in man coverage. His backpedal is sloppy making him susceptible to subtle moves by the receiver. Takes himself out of too many plays, especially in zone coverage by turning his back on the quarterback. His overall awareness as a center fielder is disappointing.
Ball skills: He’s not the ideal ball hawk free safety. He can battle for a jump ball when he’s in position, but he is inconsistent in his ability read the quarterback and put himself in position to play the ball.
Run support: Slow reaction time when diagnosing run vs pass. He seems to lack that quick decision-making ability that some would call “instincts”. Usually a reliable tackler, but he’s also a hard hitter and sometimes he’ll miss a tackle by being overaggressive. Doesn’t always take great angles in pursuit. He’s overaggressive and will over-pursue the ball carrier and times, making himself easily susceptible to cut backs.
Intangibles: Arrested for a fight in 2009. Also arrested in 2012 for failing to obey a police officer’s order.
Durability: Suffered a season-ending knee injury as a senior in high school but has remained healthy in college.
Comments: Vaccaro is an interesting prospect due to his versatility. I like him more as a strong safety because I question his ability to play center field in the free safety role. I love the way he flies to the football, but he’s just a step slow in his diagnosis which will stand out more at the next level. His ability to line up over receivers in the slot made him an asset in college, but his lack of fundamentals and his modest athleticism will make him a liability in that area in the NFL.
Jamar Taylor CB Boise State #5
Size/Athleticism: Height is only average, but he’s strong and physical for his size.
Coverage: Does a nice job turning his head to track the ball in the air. He doesn’t get caught up simply mirroring his man and knows when he needs to try to become the receiver. He has impressive upper body strength which allows him to take on bigger receivers in press coverage. He seems to catch some guys offguard with his physical style because he doesn’t initially look like the type who will challenge you at the line of scrimmage. Does a great job staying low in his backpedal. He has quick footwork and limits his false steps. Speed allows him to recover quickly when he does bite on a move. Biggest downfall is being overaggressive and trusting his skills too much. Gets caught peaking at the quarterback too often and he’ll lose a receiver over the top at times when loses focus and hesitates for a second.
Ball skills: Consistently tracks the ball in the air and puts himself in position to play the ball. He’s much more physical than you’d expect when battling for a jump ball, but his size is limited so he will get boxed out at times.
Run support: Lack of size limits what he’s capable of, but he puts forth a strong effort. He goes straight in for the tackle and doesn’t shy away from contract. Unlike many smaller corners who like to swipe at the legs of the ball carrier, Taylor will line him up and take the ball carrier head-on. He also fights though traffic and tries to be a real difference maker.
Intangibles: Limited experience against top competition. Opponents stay away from his side of the field the past two seasons.
Durability: Redshirted 2009 season due to a knee injury. Missed time with a stress fracture in leg in 2011.
Comments: Taylor may be slightly undersized, but he makes up for his with his physical play. He isn’t quite at this level, but he reminds me of Joe Haden. Like Haden, he never backs down from a tough assignment despite frequently giving up size and strength in the matchup. He’s a scrappy player who will always give you his best effort. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NFL, because he wasn’t tested often at Boise State. But he definitely has the physical tools to take his game to the next level. At worst, he’s a strong nickel corner.
Darius Slay CB Mississippi State #9
Size/Athleticism: Adequate height. Has the speed to stay with just about any receiver. He’s quick-twitch athlete with the fluid agility to excel in coverage.
Coverage: Versatile corner who excels in both man and zone coverage, and can line up on the outside or take on smaller, quicker receivers in the slot. His technique is somewhat inconsistent. He doesn’t always stay low in his backpedal, which makes him a half-step slower when reacting to cuts by receivers. He seems to elevate his play based on his competition. When faced with his toughest challenges he seems to really focus and refine his fundamentals.
Ball skills: Decent hands, but he’ll drop some interceptions. When he’s in position to make a play, he’ll go up and challenge the receiver for the ball. However, he’s inconsistent with his ability to reach the quarterback. He needs to do a better job locating the ball and turning himself in the receivers.
Run support: Lacks the size to make a significant impact, but he’s willing to step up. He improved in this area during his senior year. Tackling is inconsistent due to his size, but he’s shown a willingness to go after bigger ball carriers. Typically takes the correct angles, and even if he isn’t able to make the play, he slows down the ball carrier giving up others time to step up.
Intangibles: Experienced on special teams. Used in special teams coverage throughout his career. Failed to qualify academically out of high school and played two years at JUCO. Only one year of experience as a starter.
Durability: Suffered a knee injury during combine drills.
Comments: You would think Slay would have been picked on as a first-year starter opposite the All-SEC Johnthan Banks, but opponents quickly figured out that he was equally dangerous. In fact, I like Slay more. While he is far from a polished product, I think Slay as the physical talents that you can’t teach. He needs to be much more consistent in his technique, but he has the tools. At worst, he’s a solid nickel corner at the next level.
Johnthan Banks CB Mississippi State #13
Size/Athleticism: Impressive height with a decent vertical to go with it. Speed is very average, but he’s quick in short bursts.
Coverage: Ideal matchup in man coverage against taller possession receivers. He lacks the strength to battle with some of the more physical receivers in press coverage, but his height will create interesting battles between him and some of the taller receivers in the league. Because he’s so tall, he lacks the quickness to stay with shorter receivers. His footwork is a step slower and he bites on too many fakes. A smaller outside receiver such as Mike Wallace will toy with him at the next level, and those matchups should be avoided at all costs. Lacks awareness at times. Struggles to stay with receiver while trying to spy on the quarterback and will lose his man or take a step i the wrong direction.
Ball skills: Height allows him cause trouble for receivers, but he is inconsistent in his ability to put himself in position to make plays. His poor footwork and lack of agility often makes him a step late. While his height allows him to go up with taller receivers, he’s extremely skinny and can easily be boxed out.
Run support: Willing to step up but doesn’t always take the best angles. Struggles to shed blocks. He gives a solid effort, but he just lacks the upper body strength to fight his way out of a good block. Occasionally used to blitz, but if he doesn’t have a clear path to the quarterback or ball carrier, he’s unable to fight through traffic to make a play. Tackling technique is shaky; he swipes at the ball carrier’s legs far too often and doesn’t step up with a form tackle.
Intangibles: Experience at corner and free safety.
Durability: Missed the Senior Bowl with a knee injury which bothered him for most of the season.
Comments: It’s easy to be intrigued by Banks’ height, but how will it benefit him? For a corner as skinny as Banks, height may actually be a hindrance. Like all tall corners, banks lacks the quick footwork and fluid hips to hand with the game’s shorter, quicker receivers. But unlike other tall corners such as Richard Sherman, Banks also lacks the bulk to fight with the more physical receivers in the league. He’s a boom-or-bust prospect who could develop into the next Sherman, or he could simply be a ‘tweener who can’t find a role in the league.
Jordan Poyer CB Oregon State #14
Size/Athleticism: Adequate height and overall size. Combine performance was about as bad as it gets for a cornerback. He struggled to show the speed and explosiveness necessary to play the position. However, on the field he appears to possess at least average athleticism, if not more. It’s tough to determine the reasons for the poor combine showing, but it could be attributed to a 2012 knee injury.
Coverage: Very polished in both man and zone coverage. He does a great job keeping his eye on the quarterback whenever possible and adjusting to the ball in the air. He makes up for his modest athleticism by limiting his false steps and not biting on subtle moves. He’s willing to get physical at the line of scrimmage. He can’t play press against every receiver, because he gives up a good amount of size in certain matchups, but he will take on bigger, stronger receivers and win.
Ball skills: Focuses on the quarterback and reacts quickly. Turns and tracks the ball in the air and puts himself in position to make plays. 11 interceptions over the last two season were due primarily to his ability to turn himself into the receiver. He’s not very physical when it comes to fighting for the football. If he’s beat out for the best position to attack the ball, he’ll lose every time. Wouldn’t trust him in the red zone with a taller possession receiver in most situations.
Run support: Not real enthusiastic about mixing it up near the line of scrimmage, but he consistently takes correct angles and puts himself in position to clean up the mess if the ball carrier gets to him. He makes himself the last line of defense, and does a decent job, but he very rarely steps in a blows up a play. He’s a reluctant playmaker who has the ability, but not the desire to excel in this area.
Intangibles: Captain in 2012.
Durability: Suffered a knee injury in 2012.
Comments: Poyer lacks elite upside, but he is incredibly polished and ready to contribute immediately. He can step in as a starter as the No. 2 corner from day one. He may never rise above that on the depth chart because of his physical limitations, but at least you know what you’re getting with him. I also like that he seems to know who he is as a cornerback. He isn’t overaggressive and seems to consistently take the right approach to each matchup. A young corner with a realistic image of his physical skills is a rarity.
Zac Dysert QB Miami OH #4
Size/Athleticism: Adequate height. Strong overall build; he’s built to take a hit. Surprisingly athletic. He doesn’t move around a lot, but when he does need to buy some time with his feet he can move reasonably well.
Arm strength/Accuracy: Above average arm strength. He can make all the throws and he’s confident enough to take chances down the field. Maintains his arm strength on the run and when he’s pressured an unable to step into a throw. Needs to improve his touch on certain passes. He has a tendency to fire the ball at his receives from short distances. Accuracy is inconsistent. He can definitely make all the throws, but he’s hit or miss. Even on shorter passes, he misses some open receivers for no apparent reason.
Footwork/Release: Had a tendency to rush his delivery at times, even when it’s unnecessary. He short arms some throws, which leads to some of his accuracy issues.
Decision making: Extremely confident in his ability, but it’s mostly warranted. He takes risks down the field, and it does lead to some interceptions, but it’s a preferable approach to a college quarterback who relies heavily on shorter routes and checks down too often. It’s easier to teach someone to be more conservative than make someone more confident. Even though he makes some mistakes down the field, it’s rarely from a poor read. His accuracy gets him into some trouble, but the decision making skills are fine.
Intangibles: Spoke to an opposing coach about Dysert who said he’s “not a great leader. Appeared to argue and not get along with teammates. Not sure how mentally tough or football smart he is.”
Durability: Unable to work out at combine due to hamstring injury.
Comments: Dysert is an interesting prospect. He has the physical tools but his inconsistent accuracy is somewhat concerning. I like the way he takes risks down the field. He isn’t afraid to challenge the defense and he seems to do a nice job of reading what unfolds in front of him. It’s tough to improve accuracy, so his ceiling is somewhat limited, but he should be an adequate backup and spot starter at the very worst.