Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Combine prep: Safeties
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- The scouting combine begins Wednesday in Indianapolis. The Eagles will be taking it all in, checking the measurable and interviewing potential draftees. They have players they’re especially interested in seeing up close, but general manager Howie Roseman isn’t sharing that kind of info.
Based on their needs and the players available, we’ll take a look at some prospects of interest every day until the combine is over. Let’s start with the Eagles’ most glaring need position, safety.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama. ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both have the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Clinton-Dix going to Dallas at 17 in their latest first-round mocks. Mike Mayock of NFL Network has Clinton-Dix as his second highest rated safety behind Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
“He doesn't have elite man-to-man coverage skills but has good range in zone and is an aggressive, efficient run supporter,” McShay writes. Kiper says Clinton-Dix gives “the added bonus of being able to help out closer to the line of scrimmage. While he's great in single high, you can bring him up and he won't shy away from contact.”
Calvin Pryor, Louisville. Mayock’s top-rated safety is 6-2, 208 pounds. Kiper describes Pryor as a “downhill safety who will fly up to the line of scrimmage and make plays. While he's got work to do in coverage, he's instinctive and athletic enough to get better there.”
NFL Network’s Nolan Nawrocki describes Pryor in words that should appeal to Eagles fans: “A big, physical, hammering run defender brings an enforcer mentality to the box and an intimidating, punishing presence to the back end. Is arguably the most violent hitter in this year's draft class and should make his presence felt readily in the pros.”
Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State. Joyner is listed as a cornerback in most roundups, but Mayock projects him as a safety/nickelback type. Because he’s only 5-8, the Eagles would probably not seriously consider him as a corner. But Kiper has him as his third-ranked cornerback and Nawrocki describes him as playing “bigger than his size.” Also a return man.
Deone Bucannon, Washington State. If the Eagles go elsewhere in the early rounds, the 6-1, 216-pound Bucannon could be a second-day option. Nawrocki describes him as “old school” and a classic strong safety type. Had six interceptions as a senior.
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois. The 5-11, 192-pound Ward had seven interceptions in 2013. Kiper describes him as a riser “who isn't a big player but is a very good one and looks as if he can start early. Likely a second-rounder.”
Eagles-eye view: In the first year under Bill Davis, the Eagles didn’t really have a free safety and a strong safety. Nate Allen tended to play deeper and either Earl Wolff or Patrick Chung was closer to the line, but that was subject to change.
It isn’t clear whether that was Davis’ preference or he was simply getting by with the personnel on hand. What is clear is that the proliferation of spread offenses and athletic tight ends requires a group of versatile, athletic defensive backs who can cover as well as tackle.
That is what the Eagles will be looking for in Indy this week.