Post-draft West ranks: Revisiting safeties

May, 5, 2013
5/05/13
10:00
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Our post-draft amendments to pre-draft positional rankings continue with Matt Williamson, NFL scout for ESPN.com.

Up next: safeties.

NFC West teams drafted two of them, both in the first three rounds: Eric Reid to the San Francisco 49ers with the 18th overall choice, and T.J. McDonald to the St. Louis Rams (71st overall). The Arizona Cardinals used the 69th choice for Tyrann Mathieu, a slot cornerback they plan to use at safety in some situations.

We pick up the conversation there.

Sando: NFC West teams will have turned over five of eight starting positions at safety this offseason. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor remain in Seattle. Donte Whitner remains in place with the 49ers. Teams from this division picked up two potential Week 1 starters in the draft, but I notice you haven't changed the overall order for the position.

Williamson: Seattle is No. 1 by far. San Francisco is a pretty clear No. 2.

Sando: The 49ers and Rams were naturally excited about the safeties they drafted. Analysts on the outside seemed underwhelmed. That was my perception, anyway.

Williamson: I thought that was early to take Reid, but if you look at the top safeties, he is the true free safety of the group, which is what they needed. They felt like they had to get their guy. And if Craig Dahl is your three, that is not terrible. McDonald is not enough to get the Rams out of the cellar. Look at all their safeties and I can't say any of them is a really good player. I like Darian Stewart. He is serviceable. I hope McDonald is serviceable.

Sando: The Cardinals talked about playing Mathieu at weak safety, but I'm thinking we'll notice him most as a slot corner. Steve Keim, the Cardinals' general manager, recently compared Mathieu to Antoine Winfield, suggesting both get more than most from their physical abilities.

Williamson: I think Mathieu is more of a corner, but it depends what they say. His best role is a slot corner. That isn’t a starter, so if they are looking at him as one of their four best DBs, then he will be a free safety in their base package. Then he is equal parts. If the fifth guy in is a safety and Mathieu walks down to slot corner, then I don't know what we label him, but I guess it is a safety. That is one more more reason to give the safety edge to Arizona over St. Louis. Mathieu is a better football player than McDonald, and Arizona was ahead of St. Louis at safety to begin with.

Sando: That's going to wrap up this series, Matt. Thanks for running through all the positions the first time and then revisiting select ones after the draft. We've heard from some fans upset to see their team ranked fourth at a specific position, but sometimes there's very little separation from one to four. This is also a tough division. The fourth-best defensive line in the NFC West could still be among the better ones anywhere.

Williamson: No doubt about it. This is going to be a highly competitive division for years to come.

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