Draft preview: Defensive backs

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2014 - 12:25 AM


 

Bill Belichick’s first draft pick as an NFL head coach was a safety. It was 1991. We thought he was nuts.

The top cornerbacks were on the board and, besides, nobody in football’s modern era had ever taken a safety as high as No. 2 overall. A safety!

Well, not only did the late Eric Turner outplay the corners picked below him, Belichick also showed that he knew way back when which direction NFL offenses were heading with their multiple receivers spread out and their big, pass-catching tight ends creating mismatches for little corners and bulky linebackers.

Fast forward a couple of decades and, well, it’s good to be an NFL safety.

Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are wrapping up Hall of Fame-caliber careers. Seattle won a Super Bowl by crushing Peyton Manning with a dominant secondary featuring the league’s best safety tandem in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. And a month after the Saints gave Jairus Byrd a safety-record $26.3 million guaranteed at the start of free agency, Thomas topped that this week with an extension containing $27.8 million guaranteed.

“You need safeties that can cover slot receivers and also play the deep middle of the field as well as down in the box,” said Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the top safety available in next week’s draft. “You need more versatile [interchangeable] safeties in this league right now.”

Safety hasn’t overtaken cornerback in terms of overall value, but it is pulling closer. Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, the top free safeties, should be selected somewhere among the second 10 picks, while Jimmie Ward, the highest strong safety on the board from Northern Illinois, could sneak into the bottom of the first round.

“You have to do so much [at safety],” Pryor said. “It’s not like a corner where you just think pass all day most of the time. You have to think and adjust during the game.”

THE FRONT-RUNNER

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Probably as close to a shutdown corner as there is in this draft. A 6-foot, 202-pound playmaker who led the Big 12 with seven interceptions last fall. Also had six kick return touchdowns in his college career. Bears probably hoping he’s still around at No. 14.

THE CONTENDERS

Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State

At 5-11, 190, he’s not quite as big as Gilbert. But he’s still a sturdy corner whose multiple skills helped lead the Spartans to a surprising spot ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten. Beat out Gilbert and others to win Thorpe Award as nation’s best DB.

 

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

Has shown the ability to play both free and strong safety. Has the size (6-1, 208), instincts and enough speed to make plays against the deep ball and come up in run coverage. Clearly the best safety available.

THE SLEEPER

Brock Vereen, SS, Minnesota

A 6-foot, 199-pounder who some believe could sneak into the third round. Known as a smart, instinctual player. Older brother, Shane, a running back, was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2011. Father was a receiver and ninth-round pick of the Buccaneers in 1979.





 

  • related content

  • Video: NFL Draft Profile: CB Justin Gilbert

    Thursday May 1, 2014

    Vikings reporter Master Tesfatsion starts his analysis on cornerbacks with Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.

  • Oklahoma State defensive back Justin Gilbert runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: NYOTK

  • Mark Craig, Sports Writer for the Star Tribune ORG XMIT: MIN2013073017262605

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, MAY 3-4 - FILE - In these photos provided by the NFL, taken at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in April 2014, NFL Draft prospects are shown. Top row from left are: Davonte Adams, Fresno State; Anthony Barr, UCLA; Odell Beckham, LSU, Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State; Blake Bortles, Central Florida and Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Bottom from left are: Derek Carr, Fresno State; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama; Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; Brandin Cooks, Oregon State; Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State and Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/NFL) NO SALES

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, MAY 3-4 - FILE - In these photos provided by the NFL, taken at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in April 2014, NFL Draft prospects are shown. Top row from left are: Davonte Adams, Fresno State; Anthony Barr, UCLA; Odell Beckham, LSU, Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State; Blake Bortles, Central Florida and Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Bottom from left are: Derek Carr, Fresno State; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama; Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; Brandin Cooks, Oregon State; Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State and Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/NFL) NO SALES

  • Gopher Defensive Back Brock Vereen answered media questions during media day press conference on 8/2/12. Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune bbisping@startribune.com Brock Vereen/roster

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Houston 2 Top 9th Inning
St. Louis 5
Washington 9 Top 8th Inning
Atlanta 8
Miami 5 Top 9th Inning
Boston 3
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 4 Top 7th Inning
Philadelphia 0
Baltimore 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Toronto 2
Detroit 4 Top 8th Inning
NY Mets 4
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Los Angeles 7 Top 3rd Inning
Milwaukee 0
San Francisco 7 Bottom 2nd Inning
Texas 0
Chicago WSox 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Diego 0
Kansas City 2 Top 2nd Inning
Cleveland 4
Seattle 2 Top 4th Inning
Los Angeles 2
Colorado 0 Top 3rd Inning
LA Angels 1
Oakland 2 Bottom 2nd Inning
Arizona 0
Pittsburgh 6:05 PM
NY Yankees
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Orlando
Utah 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Miami 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Boston 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Detroit 7:00 PM
Houston
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Memphis
Phoenix 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
Denver 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 6:30 PM
Detroit
Edmonton 7:30 PM
Chicago
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 68 FINAL
Char Southern 60
Ark-Pine Bluff 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Southern Ill 45 FINAL
Wichita State 56
Winthrop 34 2nd Half 13:54
Radford 33
Evansville 15 1st Half 14:07
Illinois State 13
Towson 5:00 PM
Elon
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
High Point
Samford 5:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Ball State
Bowling Green 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Brown 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
Toledo 6:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Akron 6:00 PM
Kent State
Ill-Chicago 6:00 PM
Oakland
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Ohio
Columbia 6:00 PM
Penn
Cornell 6:00 PM
Princeton
Central Mich 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bradley 6:05 PM
Northern Iowa
Morehead State 6:30 PM
Murray State
UNC-Asheville 7:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Yale 7:00 PM
Harvard
Furman 7:30 PM
Citadel
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
Drexel
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Baylor
Pacific 8:00 PM
San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 60 FINAL
(4) Maryland 70
Belmont 65 FINAL
UT Martin 71
Arkansas 36 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 58
Mercer 56 FINAL
East Tenn St 66
Miami-Florida 61 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Richmond 43 2nd Half 0:45
Fordham 44
Siena 44 2nd Half 10:07
Iona 47
Washington St 22 2nd Half 15:45
(9) Arizona State 29
Ark-Pine Bluff 37 2nd Half 11:49
Miss Valley St 32
(23) Rutgers 30 1st Half 2:41
(24) Northwestern 21
Tennessee St 31 2nd Half
SIU-Edwardsville 28
Loyola Marymount 23 2nd Half
Gonzaga 28
(18) Texas A&M 10 1st Half 9:33
LSU 24
Cincinnati 3:00 PM
UCF
Saint Josephs 3:30 PM
Dayton
UCLA 4:00 PM
(19) Stanford
Santa Clara 4:30 PM
San Diego
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
(7) Florida State
SMU 5:00 PM
Memphis
Lehigh 5:05 PM
Holy Cross
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
(20) Fla Gulf Coast
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Stetson
Nebraska 6:00 PM
(14) Iowa
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Marist
Navy 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Lafayette 6:00 PM
American Univ
Colgate 6:00 PM
Army
Georgia 6:00 PM
(5) Tennessee
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
Brown
Penn 6:00 PM
Columbia
(13) Princeton 6:00 PM
Cornell
Kansas 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Harvard 6:00 PM
Yale
(15) North Carolina 7:00 PM
(10) Louisville
San Jose St 7:00 PM
UNLV
Houston 7:00 PM
Tulane
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Nevada
Niagara 8:30 PM
Fairfield
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
California
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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