This is a good time to be Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr.
One of the 40 players who attended the Ravens' local Pro Day on April 1, Savage has been jetting across the country, meeting with various teams interested in drafting him. It looks almost certain that Savage will be the one of the top safeties selected as he continues building momentum after a strong showing at the NFL Combine.
"He doesn't get out of the second round in my opinion," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said on a conference call this week. "I think he's one of the top 40 or so players in this class. I've got him as the third safety behind John Abram (Mississippi State) and Taylor Rapp (Washington) and ahead of guys like Nasir Adderley (Delaware) and (Chauncey) Gardner-Johnson (Florida) and Deionte Thompson, who got a lot of publicity at Alabama early on."
In his most recent two-round mock draft, McShay has Savage going 44th overall to the Green Bay Packers. In his latest top 1-102 projection, ESPN's Mel Kiper has Savage going 55th overall to the Houston Texans.
Pro Football Focus is also high on Savage, ranking him No. 28 on its latest top-250 big board. The only safety PFF ranked higher than Savage was Adderley at No. 27.
Savage climbed on draft boards after the Combine. His 4.36 in the 40-yard dash was second-best among safeties, and his vertical leap (39.5 inches) was third-best.
Since then, he has been a frequent flier, meeting with a long list of interested teams that reportedly includes the Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After signing Earl Thomas and with other young safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott backing up Thomas and Tony Jefferson, safety isn't one of the Ravens' greatest needs.
The biggest knock on Savage used to be his size. He's not the most physically-imposing safety, measuring 5-foot-10 ¾, 198 pounds at the Combine. However, he was a playmaker with eight interceptions during his college career at Maryland and earned a reputation for being a sure tackler and ballhawk. That same speed Savage displayed at the Combine serves him well on the field, attacking ballcarriers before they can elude him and closing quickly to defend passes.
Pro scouts believe Savage will be a versatile safety – physical enough to line up in the box, but agile enough to pass defend effectively.
Savage's speed is more impressive considering his history. He suffered a severe leg injury as a high school junior in Delaware, breaking his femur and dislocating his knee while being tackled. The rehab process was long and challenging, but Savage was determined to return better than he was before.
"To have something like that happen, it takes a toll on your mental side," Savage said at the Combine. "I think it made me a better person, family member, friend. I think I really matured after that happened. I thank God every day that it happened to me. I think I have something that's really unmeasurable and that's my heart. I play a lot bigger than I am."
PFF likened Savage's playing style to Bob Sanders, a former two-time Pro Bowl safety with the Indianapolis Colts who helped them win a Super Bowl.