- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Redskins selected two safeties last spring, but one (Phillip Thomas) missed the entire season with a foot injury and the other (Bacarri Rambo) did not look ready for a starting job anytime soon. That’s why they’ll have to take a serious look at the safeties in this draft, with a good chance to do so at the scouting combine over the next week.
Here are four safeties to watch:
Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois): He’s only 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, which is why he’ll still be around in the second round. ESPN's Mel Kiper wrote of Ward that he “isn’t a big player but is a very good one and looks as if he can start early. Likely a second-rounder.” He intercepted seven passes this past season. Ward played well at the Senior Bowl so another good showing at the combine obviously will help him. Ward plays aggressively and showed good coverage skills; he runs through the ball carrier when he tackles. Ward had to cover man (though he did not face great competition in the Mid-American Conference) and lined up at both safety spots. “I think he fits today’s NFL which is coverage ability,” Kiper said, “and the fact he’s around the action so much and makes so many impact plays.”
Antone Exum (Virginia Tech): He’ll be one to watch for any team seeking a safety in the middle rounds. Exum played both corner and safety at Virginia Tech so there’s some doubt over what he’ll play in the NFL. He missed most of last season because of a torn ACL. But he has good size (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) and could be a presence as a safety. Kiper rates him as the sixth best safety.
Dion Bailey (USC): He played both strongside linebacker and safety in college, but at 6-foot and 200 pounds, his NFL future is at the latter (it’s also where he played this past season). Kiper considers him the fifth best safety in the draft. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in coverage drills at the combine. Another player who should be available in the middle rounds.
Ahmad Dixon (Baylor): Kiper rated him as the eighth best safety. Dixon is projected by most as a fourth-round pick at best. Often played in the box at Baylor and played physical in this area. Dixon got in trouble for some hits and will need to fix this area to avoid fines (and penalties) in the NFL. After playing mostly zone (a lot of quarters coverage) in college, he has to show he can cover man and also move from free to strong. The Redskins like their safeties to play both spots.