2016 NFL Draft Preview: Five Intriguing Safeties

The sixth article in our series leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft

In the past three years as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, John Dorsey has done a phenomenal job finding veteran safeties on the free agent market.

Two years ago, Kurt Coleman stepped in and contributed 392 snaps for the NFL's best scoring defense after he had played just 73 snaps the season before in Philadelphia.

After one season in Kansas City in 2014, Coleman signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Panthers.

Last offseason, Dorsey signed veteran Tyvon Branch to a one-year deal. He had played in just five games over the previous two seasons because of injuries, including playing just 190 snaps in 2014.

For the Chiefs in 2015, Branch stayed healthy and contributed 428 snaps for the defense, and then he, like Coleman, signed a two-year deal after the season was over, his with the Arizona Cardinals.

There's no question that Dorsey has done a good job finding veterans on the free agent market, adding guys who could step in and bring something to the defense on day one.

He's hoping the same thing can happen this year with veterans Stevie Brown and Jimmy Wilson, who both signed with the Chiefs this offseason. They join Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen, Jamell Fleming, who is making the transition from cornerback to safety, and Eric Berry, who was given the franchise tag this offseason.

Branch, who left via free agency, and Husain Abdullah, who retired this offseason, combined to play 860 snaps for the defense last season.

Whether it's from the veterans who were signed this offseason, guys who were already on the roster or a combination of both, those snaps will have to be made up somehow.

In regards to adding young talent at the safety position, Dorsey has drafted one safety in his three years with the Chiefs: Sanders Commings, who played both safety and cornerback in college but had a hard time staying healthy. He is no longer with the team.

Could Dorsey and the Chiefs add a young safety via the draft this year?

We'll find out in a few weeks when the draft begins on Thursday, April 28. The draft will run through Saturday, April 30. The first round takes place on Thursday night, with rounds two and three coming on Friday, and then the final four rounds (4-7) taking place on Saturday.

If Dorsey and his staff do decide to bring in a young safety, here are five guys who could potentially have a positive impact on the defense:

A look at five of the top safeties in the 2016 NFL Draft.

West Virginia's Karl Joseph (5 feet 10, 205 pounds)

Joseph is as physical as any defensive back in the upcoming draft. He plays with the kind of reckless abandon that will endear him to fans who love a hard-hitting safety that sets the tone for a defense.

He missed the majority of last season with a non-contact knee injury in practice after playing in just four games.

As a junior in 2014, Joseph had 92 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles and 4 passes defense with 1 interception for the Mountaineers defense. He was the team's defensive MVP as a true freshman in 2012, picking up 104 tackles to lead the team. He was named a freshman All-American after his debut season in the Big 12.

Joseph is currently NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock's No. 1-ranked safety in the 2016 class.

Here's what NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein had to say about Joseph:

"Fiercely competitive with immense football character. Different teams may have differing opinions of how best to utilize him, but Joseph has proven he can make plays in man coverage or play disciplined enough to be trusted on the back. His average size and subsequent durability will concern some teams due to his aggressive, attacking demeanor; however, Joseph is talented enough to become an early starter and high—impact safety down the road if the medicals check out."

Ohio State's Vonn Bell (5 feet 11, 199 pounds)

Bell began his collegiate career at Ohio State as a nickelback, which gives him the kind of versatility that NFL teams will covet.

He started the past two seasons for the Buckeye defense at free safety and picked up 157 tackles and 8 interceptions during that time.

Bell is Mayock's No. 2-ranked safety in this class behind Joseph.

Here's what Zierlein had to say about Bell:

"Though lacking in desired size and physicality, Bell has the ability to match up in space and is at his best when keeping the action in front of him where he combines his vision, reactive quickness and ball skills to go make plays on the ball. Bell lacks size and isn't an aggressive tackler so he needs to prove he can run so that he locks in his draft positioning as one of the top free safeties in this draft."

Northern Iowa's Deiondre Hall (6 feet 1, 199 pounds)

Hall is a local product who attended Blue Springs High School before playing collegiately at Northern Iowa. He began his career starting at the safety position as a freshman before moving over to a rover position and then outside at cornerback over the past two seasons.

He had 241 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 28 passes defensed and 13 interceptions in his career.

Again, Hall's ability to move between the safety, nickelback and cornerback positions will endear him to NFL teams that try to find creative ways to move around their defensive backs in a pass-happy league in which teams are playing 3-WR sets about 60 percent of the time right now.

Here's what Zierlein had to say about Hall:

"Long and lanky with the arm length and interception production that will have teams trying to find a spot for him. Hall doesn't have the speed or mirror and match ability to be a sticky man­-cover cornerback and his thin frame isn't ideal as a safety. However, Hall's instincts and tackle production scream safety if he can add muscle to his frame."

Boise State's Darian Thompson (6 feet 2, 208 pounds)

Thompson was a four-year starter and two-time All-American at Boise State.

As a senior, Thompson finished with 65 tackles, 9 passes defensed and 5 interceptions.

Here's what Zierlein had to say about Thompson:

"Looks the part and has enough production to warrant a close look, but that close look shows a player with below average man cover skills and a lack of awareness in zone coverage. An even greater concern is that too many big plays were allowed because he busted coverage or failed or to execute. Thompson does his best work near the line of scrimmage and has the frame and demeanor to become a box safety in the league, but it might take time."

Duke's Jeremy Cash (6 feet, 212 pounds)

Cash initially committed to Ohio State and played there for one season in 2011 before transferring to Duke.

After sitting out the 2012 season because of NCAA transfer rules, Cash starred for the Blue Devil defense over the past three seasons, accumulating more than 100 tackles in each season. He was the school's first three-time All-American.

In his three years at Duke, Cash had 336 tackles, including 38 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 21 passes defensed and 6 interceptions.

He's one of the hybrid linebacker-safety guys that have been coveted in the NFL over the past few seasons. The Chiefs have seen that recently with Husain Abdullah and Daniel Sorensen playing those roles.

Here's what Zierlein had to say about Cash:

"Deluxe run-supporter who has the closing burst and size to continue his impressive tackle production in the pros. Cash is much too stiff to be asked to make a living in coverage and any team considering him will likely view him as a box safety or hybrid player who is less about a defined position and more about physicality around the line of scrimmage."

2016 NFL Draft Positional Previews

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising