Indianapolis' biggest draft need: safety

May, 5, 2014
May 5
5:00
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Safety? Offensive lineman? Receiver? What about linebacker?

The Indianapolis Colts could look to address some or all of those areas during the draft this week.

Which position do they need to address most?

Safety. That's according to the fine folks over at ESPN Stats & Information.

Antoine Bethea signed with the San Francisco 49ers shortly after the start of free agency, leaving a significant void at that position for the Colts. Bethea not only started every game he played in with Indianapolis, but his 651 tackles over the last six seasons were the most by any safety in the league.

Delano Howell, Sergio Brown and Colt Anderson will compete for the starting spot alongside LaRon Landry.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson talked like a person intrigued with possibly taking a safety. The key is that player needs to be able to have range. Bethea and Landry were interchangeable, which allowed them to try to disguise their coverage.

The Colts' first pick is at No. 59.

"There are plenty of athletic safeties out there that can run," Grigson said. "It's hard because our safeties are interchangeable, so to speak. That's how Chuck [Pagano] likes them so that you don't necessarily have a true 'free' or a true 'strong.' They should be able to be interchangeable but at the same time, we need safeties that can cover. We need safeties that can run because it's a balance. To give you guys some more insight, usually those safeties that can truly cover, they have corner background and you ask them to support in the run and there's only a select few that are good tacklers.

"Then you have the true box guys that come downhill like linebackers but you put them in space versus a tight end or a back or a receiver, you are going to get torched. There's never a perfect world but if you can find those safeties that can both cover and support the run, then you are doing pretty well."

Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor are the two best safeties in this draft class. Both players are expected to be long gone by the time the Colts select.

A name that continues generate a lot of buzz is Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois. He had 89 tackles and six interceptions last season.

"You can make an argument [Ward] is the best cover safety in this draft," ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said last month. "He's coming off the [foot] injury, but had a very good career. He has great ball skills and real good hands for the interception."

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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