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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Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
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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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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