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Scout’s Eye: Safeties

Posted Mar 9, 2013

Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz gives a scouting report on five safety prospects.


Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz sat down to discuss prospects at several positions of need leading up to next month’s draft. This is the third installment of a five-part series: defensive linemen, inside linebackers.

For the last 11 seasons, Ed Reed has been roaming the secondary for the Ravens and tormenting opposing quarterbacks.

But now the 34-year-old safety is an unrestricted free agent, and it’s unknown if he’ll be back in Baltimore next year. Reed and the Ravens both say they want him to stay, but the two sides have yet to work out a deal.

Even if Reed does return, he’s on the tail end of his career and the Ravens will likely look to bring in young talent to eventually take over the free safety position. This year’s draft class has a talented crop of safeties that can play both the run and the pass, and could be available to the Ravens in the first few rounds.

“You don’t have the elite safety in the draft this year, but you have a lot of good ones,” Hortiz said. “When you add it all up, it’s a really good safety class.”

Here’s Hortiz's take on five prospects who could be possibilities for the Ravens:

Kenny Vacarro, Texas
Senior, 6-foot-0, 214 pounds; 92 tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
“He’s a tough football player. He plays physical. He’s got a good mentality for the physical aspects of the game. He’s a really good kid, engaging individual, smart football player. He gets around the ball, plays aggressive.”

-       Very strong playing up at the line in run coverage

-       Played rover role last year, where he had freedom to come up and make stops against the run

-       Average speed, and best suited to cover running backs and tight ends rather than receivers

-       Solid tackler, but will miss if he gets too aggressive

Eric Reid, LSU
Junior, 6-1, 213; 91 tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 passes defended
“He looks like a hulking monster. He’s a big guy. He’s got good length to him. Long arms. He’s got good speed. He plays high and low.”

-       Played mostly free safety in college, but has size to also be strong safety in NFL

-       Made some big plays in pass coverage, with six interceptions over his career

-       Likes to come up and make big hits, which can lead to occasional missed tackles

Matt Elam, Florida
Junior, 5-10, 208 pounds; 76 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions, 9 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
“He’s short, he’s compact, he’s stout, he’s tough. He’s a good kid. His brother [Chiefs safety Abram Elam] plays in the league. He has an idea of what’s coming ahead of him in terms of being a pro, and I think his brother has been very influential in his life and his career.“

-       Played strong safety in college and best suited in that role

-       Good range in run and pass coverage, and usually matches up against slot receivers in coverage

-       Has good speed and quickness

-       On the smaller end of elite safety prospects, but still plays with aggressive mentality

D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
Senior, 5-10, 208; 79 tackles, 9 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles
“He’s played free safety and he’s played strong safety, depending on the season and depending on the time off the season. He’s versatile in that sense. He’s another guy who plays physical, looks to hit you, not afraid to strike you.”

-       Average speed

-       Best suited as strong safety to come up and make stops in the running game

-       Sure tackler who likes to look for the big hit

-      Size on the smaller end

Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International                                                                  
Senior, 6-0, 217; 93 tackles, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
“He has good range. He’s 217 pounds, so you have no problem with him playing the run at the line of scrimmage, but he’s also got the range to work on the back end.”

-       Played primarily free safety in college

-       Made plays in pass coverage and notched six interceptions during his college career

-       Good speed in the secondary

-       Has aggressive mentality to come up for big hits in the running game



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