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.