Over the past 10 years of the draft, 13 safeties have been taken in the first round, with only one (Roy Williams by Dallas) selected in the top 10.
In 1998, we had three first-round picks (Donovin Darius, Jacksonville; Tebucky Jones, New England; Shaun Williams, New York Giants), which is the most in any one draft in the last 10 years. Not a single one was taken in the first round of the 1997 or 2000 drafts.
Over the past 10 years, 70 safeties have been selected in Rounds 2 and 3 combined. Two of last year's second-round choices were starters and had pretty good seasons. They were Bob Sanders of the Colts and Michael Boulware of the Seahawks. The Jets stole Erik Coleman in the fifth round, as he played in all 16 games with 100 tackles and four interceptions. Eugene Wilson was a cornerback in college, but he made the switch to safety when the Patriots needed him the most and he helped lead the team to a Super Bowl championship.
In order to be the top player at this position, you need to be a good tackler, as many teams now play eight defenders in the box against the run. You also have to be a good blitzer and be able to cover big, fast tight ends and speedy receivers. It also doesn't hurt to be a good special-teams player. Rodney Harrison (Patriots) and Brian Dawkins (Eagles) are perfect in that respect.
Only one, and possibly two, safeties will go in the first round this year. But that doesn't mean there won't be some good players available in the following rounds. Remember, Dawkins, Darren Woodson, John Lynch, Lawyer Milloy, Ken Hamlin and Mike Minter were all drafted in the second round. Harrison was selected 145th overall in the 1994 draft.
Two of the best all time -- Willie Wood of Green Bay and Cliff Harris of Dallas -- were undrafted free agents. The two combined to play in 13 Pro Bowls and helped their teams win Super Bowls. Larry Wilson could be considered the best ever at the position and he was drafted in the seventh round and played in eight Pro Bowls.
Here are my rankings for the safeties:
1. Brodney Pool, Oklahoma (6-1, 207)
Did not work out at the combine. He ran his 40s in 4.53 and 4.55. Had a 39-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-8 long jump, 4.30 short shuttle and 7.19 three-cone drill. Played defensive back and running back in high school. Played, but did not start, as a freshman for the Sooners in 2002. Started the past two seasons with nine combined interceptions. He has outstanding athletic ability and could play cornerback if needed. Pool is an instinctive player but not a great tackler. He is very good against the pass and has ball skills. Pool has a chance to be a Pro Bowl player. He's young, turning 21 just after the draft.
2. Sean Considine, Iowa (6-0 1/8, 212)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.50 and 4.54. Had a 37-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-9 long jump, 3.92 short shuttle, 10.65 long shuttle, 7.09 three-cone drill and did 19 strength reps. Considine was a linebacker and running back in high school, while also playing basketball and baseball. Basketball team won the state title in 1999 and he rushed for 1,580 yards with 400 receiving and scored 34 touchdowns that year. He was a walk-on who was redshirted as a freshman at Iowa in 2000 and started the past two seasons with six combined interceptions. This is the type of player you want on your team. He is an overachiever with speed and athletic ability. Considine is a smart player and is great in run support. May lack a burst, but he will make up for it with mental toughness. It's like having another coach on the field.
3. Josh Bullocks, Nebraska (6-0, 209)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran the 40 in 4.46 and 4.49. Had a 371/2-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-10 long jump, 4.08 short shuttle, 10.82 long shuttle, 7.09 three-cone drill and did 13 strength reps. He set a Big 12 Conference record with 10 interceptions in 2003. He needs to get stronger. It may have been better for Bullocks if he would have stayed in college one more year.
4. Oshiomogho Atogwe, Stanford (5-11, 219)
Did a partial workout at the combine but did not finish because of muscle tightness, and didn't do anything at Stanford's Pro Day. In high school in Canada, he played running back and defensive back, as well as playing basketball and running track. Ran sprints and jumps on Stanford's track team. Redshirted in 2000 and eventually became the starting strong safety in 2002. Atogwe moved to free safety in 2003 and started there his last two years. He has good athletic ability and will tackle. Has good ball skills with 10 interceptions in three years. A good worker that probably needs to be a little taller.
5. Marviel Underwood, San Diego State (5-10 1/4, 205)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.45 and 4.52, had a 38-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-10 long jump, 4.21 short shuttle, 11.26 long shuttle, 7.12 three-cone drill and did 19 strength reps. He was a quarterback and running back in high school. Had four interceptions as a senior, returning three for touchdowns. A three-year starter at safety for the Aztecs. Underwood has good instincts and is a player with range burst who plays the ball well. Could possibly be a cornerback at the next level, but he will be able to be drafted as a safety.
6. Vincent Fuller, Virginia Tech (6-1 1/8, 189)
Did not work out at the combine. At Virginia Tech's Pro Day, he ran 4.47 and 4.48 in his 40s, had a 3.75 short shuttle and 6.50 three-cone drill. He played quarterback and defensive back in high school, while also running track and playing basketball. Played both cornerback and safety for the Hokies, starting every game in 2004. Has good height and speed; a smart player. He is tough and hard-nosed, but has a thin body build.
7. Gerald Sensabaugh, North Carolina (6-0 1/2, 214)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran the 40 in 4.40 and 4.50, had a 46-inch vertical jump, 11-foot-1 long jump, 3.96 short shuttle, 10.53 long shuttle, 6.80 three-cone drill and 17 lifts. He is a transfer from East Tennessee State when the school dropped football after the 2003 season. A three-year starter at ETU, he tied an NCAA record in 2003 by blocking three punts against Georgia Southern. Sensabaugh has the size and athletic ability, and will play tough against the run. He needs to work on ball skills and tackling, but there is plenty of potential to work with.
8. Kerry Rhodes, Louisville (6-2 1/2, 209)
Worked out at the combine. Ran 4.56 and 4.59 in the 40, had a 42-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-3 long jump, 4.21 short shuttle, 11.21 long shuttle, 6.94 three-cone drill and did 12 reps. This two-year starter had six interceptions this past year. A good athlete with toughness and range for his position. Made a big improvement his senior year.
9. Justin Beriault, Ball State (6-2 3/4, 204)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.52 and 4.57, had a 391/2-inch vertical jump, 11-foot long jump, 3.80 short shuttle, 10.82 long shuttle, 6.92 three-cone drill and did 14 reps. A three-sport athlete in high school with football, basketball and baseball on his resume. Beriault was a four-year starter at Ball State (45 games). He had a good workout at the combine and should be a valuable special-teams player.
10. James Butler, Georgia Tech (6-1 7/8, 213)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran 4.55 and 4.51 in the 40, had a 401/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-7 long jump, 3.98 short shuttle, 11.07 long shuttle, 7.10 three-cone drill and did 16 reps. As a defensive back in high school, he also won the state championship in the triple jump as a track athlete as a sophomore. Played as a true freshman in 2001 for the Yellow Jackets. Has the size and athletic ability, but needs to be tougher and tackle better.
1. Thomas Davis, Georgia (6-1, 230)
Played running back, quarterback, wide receiver, defensive end and returned kicks in high school, while also playing baseball and running track. Qualified for the state meet in the 100 meters. Redshirted in 2001 at Georgia and started four games in 2002 at both free safety and strongside linebacker. Started 14 games in 2003 at free safety. He worked as a linebacker in spring practice before returning to safety for the 2004 season and started 11 games, missing one with an injury. Led the team in tackles that year. He is a player that will punish people when making a tackle. Plays hard on every play no matter what the score is. A very good blitzer, very good against the run and can surprise people when covering tight ends. May lack great range for the safety position, which could make Davis a possible linebacker candidate for the NFL. He will be a very good player.
2. Donte Nicholson, Oklahoma (6-1 1/2, 212)
Only lifted at the combine. Did everything else at Oklahoma's Pro Day. He ran his 40s in 4.56 and 4.58, had a 34-inch vertical, 10-foot-3 long jump, 4.23 short shuttle, 7.03 in the three-cone drill and did 18 strength reps. Nicholson was a junior college transfer who became a two-year starter for the Sooners. He has the size and athletic ability you want for the position. A physical player and a strong tackler with good work habits. Did not play as well in 2004 as he did in 2003, but that could have been due to a change in defensive system in the program.
3. Ernest Shazor, Michigan (6-3 5/8, 228)
Did not work out at the combine and there was no reason given. He did some things at Michigan's Pro Day. Ran his 40s in 4.72 and 4.70. Had a 30-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-1 long jump, did 19 reps and no shuttles. Shazor ran on the track team in high school in addition to playing football. He was said to have run 10.7 in the 100 meters. He has the size you want for the position, but may not be fast enough. He has a chance to be a linebacker if safety doesn't work out.
4. Jerome Carter, Florida State (5-11 3/8, 22)
Ran the 40 in 4.44 and 4.49. Had a 35-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-1 long jump, 4.04 short shuttle, 11.07 long shuttle, 7.18 three-cone drill and pushed up 21 reps. He was a two-time all-state player in high school at safety while also playing running back and wide receiver. Carter played as a true freshman and then became a three-year starter. He is a strong, compact player who has trouble in pass coverage, but should be a good special-teams player.
5. James Sanders, Fresno State (5-10 3/4, 214)
Not invited to the combine but worked out at Fresno State's Pro Day. Ran one 40 in 4.68. Had a 361/2-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-4 long jump, 4.06 short shuttle, 11.31 long shuttle, 7.18 three-cone drill and did 16 lifts. He is a great competitor who plays faster than his timed speed. Good against the run but struggles in passing situations.
6. Hamza Abdullah, Washington State (6-2, 214)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.62 and 4.64, had a 39-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-6 long jump, 3.99 short shuttle, 10.78 long shuttle, 6.94 three-cone drill and did 18 reps. He has the size and speed, but needs to more toughness if he is going to play safety in the NFL.
7. Chris Harris, Louisiana-Monroe (6-0 7/8, 212)
Was not invited to the combine. He ran his 40s in 4.55 and 4.59 at his Pro Day. Harris ran the short shuttle in 4.11 seconds, the three-cone drill in 6.95, the long shuttle in 11.35, 10-foot-4 long jump, 371/2-inch vertical jump and had 11 bench presses. He is a physical player, but there is a question of cover skills. He should be a good special-teams player.
8. Andre Maddox, North Carolina (6-0 5/8, 205)
Worked out at the combine. Ran 4.46 and 4.51 in the 40, had a 361/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-9 long jump, 4.41 short shuttle, 12.07 long shuttle, 7.07 three-cone drill and did 17 reps. Maddox was a three-year starter who is a tough, physical player. He does need to do a better job of covering receivers, but will still be useful as a special-teams player.
9. Diamond Ferri, Syracuse (5-10 1/8, 223)
Had a complete workout at the combine. The times of his 40s were 4.59 and 4.67. He had a 351/2-inch vertical jump, 9-foot-3 long jump, 4.14 short shuttle, 11.37 long shuttle, 7.15 three-cone drill and did 20 lifts. He scored 54 touchdowns as a running back in high school, and was in the backfield his first two years at Syracuse. Also became a backup safety during his junior year and had four interceptions as a senior. He was the Big East Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week in the same week. Ferri is a good team player.
10. Junior Rosegreen, Auburn (5-11 1/4, 193)
Was not invited to the combine. At his Pro Day, Rosegreen ran his 40s in 4.52 and 4.55, had a 361/2-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-7 long jump, 4.41 short shuttle, 12.07 long shuttle, 7.07 three-cone drill and lifted 17 times. A three-year starter who is a tough, physical player that isn't that great covering people. He should find a niche on special teams.
11. Ceandris "C.C." Brown, Louisiana-Lafayette (6-0 1/4, 206)
Was not invited to the combine. At his Pro Day, Brown ran the 40 in 4.47 with the wind and 4.46 against it. He also ran the short shuttle in 4.31, the three-cone drill in 7.04 and the long shuttle in 11.68. He had a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-8 long jump. A junior college transfer who has started the past two years. He definitely has the size and speed.
12. Jamaal Brimmer, UNLV (6-1 3/8, 216)
Had a complete workout at the combine. Ran his 40s in 4.80 and 4.91, had a 32-inch vertical jump, 9-foot long jump, 4.63 short shuttle, 11.98 long shuttle, 7.78 three-cone drill and lifted 16 times. A very good college player and good against the run. Brimmer's speed limits what he can do against the pass.