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taking a look at a few mid round safetys

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Many draft pundits focus on the first round in the weeks leading up to the draft, and understandably so. In the salary cap era, the investments teams make in first-rounders puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them to find ...

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Old 03-14-2008, 11:57 PM   #1
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taking a look at a few mid round safetys

Many draft pundits focus on the first round in the weeks leading up to the draft, and understandably so. In the salary cap era, the investments teams make in first-rounders puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them to find players who can contribute early. Fans know this and want to know which players their favorite teams are looking at in the first round.

That being said, the impact of the salary cap doesn't end in the first round. It also prevents teams from signing too many high-priced free agents and forces teams to find quality talent in the middle- to late-rounds. No team did a better job of this last year than the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

When the Giants took Western Oregon TE Kevin Boss in the fifth round, most figured Boss would do little more than provide adequate depth behind Jeremy Shockey. And many questioned whether Marshall RB Ahmad Bradshaw, a seventh-round pick, would even make the team. Things obviously unfolded a bit differently than predicted.

A season-ending leg injury to Shockey forced Boss into the starting lineup, and while he caught a total of just 14 passes, many of them came in key situations. More importantly, Boss did an excellent job of helping out in pass protection, and the Giants took advantage of that by keeping him in as a blocker more often than they would have with Shockey.

Bradshaw's story is even more impressive. After spending the bulk of the season getting spot touches, he exploded for 151 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries in Week 16 against Buffalo. New York then used Bradshaw as a complement to bruising RB Brandon Jacobs throughout the playoffs. Bradshaw deserves the majority of the credit for his success, but the situation was perfectly tailored for him. The undersized Bradshaw didn't have to bear the load while sharing carries and was fresh and explosive when he took the field, offering a nice change of pace behind the powerful Jacobs.

Of course, Boss and Bradshaw weren't the only middle- to late-round picks to make an impact as rookies in 2007. Here are eight other players who went in the middle rounds, found a good fit and made substantial contributions:

• Green Bay WR James Jones (San Jose State, third round)
• Buffalo QB Trent Edwards (Stanford, third round)
• Seattle DT Brandon Mebane (California, third round)
• Baltimore ROT Marshal Yanda (Iowa, third round)
• Tampa Bay FS Tanard Jackson (Syracuse, fourth round)
• Houston CB Fred Bennett (South Carolina, fourth round)
• Arizona WR/RS Steve Breaston (Michigan, fifth round)
• Cleveland CB Brandon McDonald (Memphis, fifth round)

From now until draft day, we'll be taking a position-by-position look at 2008 prospects who could start their careers in similar ways. We'll begin with four safeties from this year's class and look at how the teams they end up with will help determine the impact they have as rookies.

Notre Dame SS Tom Zbikowski
Questions about his athletic ability combined with a disappointing senior season caused Zbikowski's stock to drop over the past year, and it has become clear that he is not a first-day pick as many once thought. He is just too inconsistent and doesn't have ideal instincts for a player with his experience. However, a strong performance at the combine helped his stock rebound a bit, and the fact that he is a fearless punt return man helps him project as a fourth-round pick.

Keeping all of that in mind, Zbikowski is a great fit for the Philadelphia Eagles. First, he has the range to play a center-fielder-type role, and while he doesn't have elite man-to-man cover skills, Zbikowski is athletic enough to match up with most tight ends. That's key for a team that blitzes as often as the Eagles do. Secondly, FS Brian Dawkins is clearly on the downside of his career and missed six games with a neck injury last year. However, Dawkins has excellent instincts and experience, which would make him a great mentor for Zbikowski. Finally, Philadelphia didn't get enough out of its punt return unit last year, so he could offer a boost on special teams as well.

Both Super Bowl teams are also possibilities for Zbikowski. New England coach Bill Belichick has ties to Notre Dame head coach and former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, while New York is another blitz-heavy team and has a defense led by former Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo. On the other hand, San Diego or Washington would not be as good a fit for Zbikowski because they would likely ask more of him in coverage and do not have a strong veteran safety who could take Zbikowski under his wing.

Michigan State Nehemiah Warrick
Warrick possesses a rare blend of size and speed, so he has a great deal of upside. While he has to work on his ability to shed blocks, he plays with a mean streak, and at 211 pounds is certainly big enough to line up in the box. He can also cover a lot of ground in zone coverage and closes quickly when receivers catch the ball in front of him. However, there are concerns about his ability to match up in man coverage because he doesn't appear to read routes well and fails to show great burst coming out of cuts, all of which means he projects as a fifth-round pick.

Green Bay would not be a very good fit for Warrick because the Packers already have two safeties -- Atari Bigby and Aaron Rouse -- who are far better stuffing the run than they are in coverage. Green Bay needs a safety with better cover skills, and the same can be said for Minnesota after the loss of Dwight Smith in free agency.

New England is a possibility for Warrick, though. Admittedly, the Patriots probably aren't thrilled with Warrick's inconsistent technique and tackling. However, Rodney Harrison is on the downside of his career and getting Warrick would infuse some much needed youth. Harrison could help bring Warrick along, and New England's zone-heavy scheme does a great job of using players in ways that make the most of their strengths and mask their weaknesses. Harrison is a great example of this, in fact, and would be a great player for Warrick to learn from.

Tennessee FS Jonathan Hefney
You wouldn't think Hefney is an NFL prospect if you saw him on the street. After all, he is just 5-foot-8, and there is no doubt that his size raises some red flags. Scouts are concerned about his ability to match up with bigger receivers and step up in run support, and his lack of size is the biggest reason he projects as a sixth-round pick. But Hefney is capable of overcoming his physical inadequacies and contributing for a team willing to use him in the right way. He can cover a lot of ground in zone, is quick enough to match up with slot receivers and versatile enough to line up at corner as well. Coaches covet that kind of flexibility because it makes it easier to mask coverages and allows one player to add depth at two positions.

Green Bay might choose to fill its safety need earlier in the draft, but Hefney would be a good fit if the Packers decide to wait. He has the cover skills and range Green Bay currently lacks and would be an excellent complement to run-stoppers like Rouse and Bigby. Dallas would offer another favorable situation for Hefney. The Cowboys put the franchise tag on Ken Hamlin but would be wise to add some depth in the secondary. With Roy Williams being a liability in coverage, adding another safety who can hold up in man coverage and play a center field makes sense. On the flip side, Jacksonville does not fit Hefney's skill set as the Jaguars need a physical complement to 2007 first-round pick Reggie Nelson, who has great speed but is not a strong tackler.

Small-school prospect
Appalachian State SS Corey Lynch
If you caught Appalachian State's monumental upset of Michigan in the season opener, or at least saw the highlights, you saw Lynch preserve the two-point win by blocking Michigan's last-second field-goal attempt. That game aside, playing at the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level prevented Lynch from showing what he can do against elite competition and raises concerns about his ability to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. There are also questions about Lynch's lack of top-end speed and explosiveness, so it comes as little surprise that he projects as a seventh-round pick or rookie free agent. Still, he could develop into a quality reserve for the right team because he's a tough run defender who flashes big-play ability in coverage and has a propensity for blocking kicks.
Denver needs a safety and John Lynch could be the perfect teacher for a young player coming into the league. But Corey Lynch isn't a good fit for the roster because the Broncos need a safety who can develop into a starter, and he doesn't have that kind of upside. Chicago, on the other hand, could make good use of Lynch's skills. Current Bears FS Mike Brown is a team leader and SS Brandon McGowan exceeded expectations last year, but Brown hasn't been able to stay healthy and Adam Archuleta had a disappointing season. So even though Danieal Manning provides adequate depth, Chicago needs another safety. Lynch will probably never develop into an every-down player but he can make an impact on special teams and would provide adequate depth if an injury forces Manning or Archuleta into the starting lineup.

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Old 03-15-2008, 07:27 AM   #2
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Re: taking a look at a few mid round safetys

here are a couple of others
Jamar Adams Michigan 6-2 212 4.59
Josh Barrett Arizona St. 6-13/4 223 4.35
Craig Steltz L.S.U. 6-13/8 213 4.60
Quintin Demps U.T.E.P. 5-117/8 206 4.38
Darien Williams Oklahoma 6-0 197 4.50
Dennis Keyes, UCLA, 6020, 203, 4.56, 15
Chevis Jackson, L.S.U., 6000, 192, 4.56, 13, 36
Zackary Bowman, Nebraska, 6001, 197, 4.42
Dwight Lowery, San Jose St., 5111, 201, 4.54
Darnell Terrell, Missouri, 6016, 205 4.46
Antwaun Molden, Eastern Kentucky, 6007, 195, 4.40
Martel Van Zant Oklahoma St. 6-1 210 4.55

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Old 03-15-2008, 07:35 AM   #3
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Re: taking a look at a few mid round safetys

Couple? lol
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