Posted: 4:53 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, 2013
By Nick Chiamardas
There might not be another position (aside from quarterback) where you'll see more varying opinions in the top ten than safety. Most experts believe the 49ers will use one of their first two or three picks on a safety to replace Dashon Goldson. There has been much debate on whether the Niners should trade up into the middle of the first round to grab one of the top two safeties, or sit tight and pick from what's available at picks 31, 34 or 61.
Before we get into my new rankings below, here is my previous Top 10 from January.
1: Kenny Vaccaro 6'0'' 214 lbs -- Texas Stock: Steady Projection: Top 20 NN Prospect Profile
2: Jonathan Cyprien 6'0'' 217 lbs - -FIU Stock: Rising Projection: Round 1 NN Prospect Profile
3. Eric Reid 6'1'' 213 lbs -- LSU Stock: Rising Projection: Round 1-2 NN Prospect Profil
4: D.J. Swearinger 5'10'' 208 lbs -- South Carolina Stock: Rising Projection: Round 2
5: Shamarko Thomas 5'9'' 213 lbs -- Syracuse Stock: Rising Projection: Round 3
6: Matt Elam 5'10'' 208 lbs -- Florida Stock: Falling Projection: Round 1-2 NN Prospect Profile
7. Phillip Thomas 6'0'' 208 lbs -- Fresno State Stock: Falling Projection: Round 2-3 NNProspect Profile
8: Bacarri Rambo 6'0'' 211 lbs -- Georgia Stock: Rising Projection: Round 2-3
9: Tony Jefferson 5'11'' 213 lbs -- Oklahoma Stock: Steady Projection: Round 3-4
10: Shawn Williams 6'0'' 213 lbs - Georgia Stock: Rising Projection: Round 4-5
Kenny Vaccaro continues to hold down the top spot despite posting some rather pedestrian workout numbers. This year's safety class is extremely deep and, in my opinion, the difference between No. 1 Vaccaro and No. 4 Swearinger is marginal.
Previously unranked, FIU's Jonathan Cyprien seemingly came out of nowhere this winter and is now widely considered a first round pick. Cyprien used a superb week of practice at the Senior Bowl to gain attention and continued to impress throughout individual workouts and meetings. He projects best as a strong safety but has the ball skills to be considered a hybrid.
D.J. Swearinger is the ultimate combo safety. The versatile Swearinger might have the best ball skills in the draft. He spent his time at South Carolina between free safety, strong safety and even corner in 2012. Swearinger's ball skills don't hamper his physicality -- a rarity for typical free safeties.
Swearinger is a big-time hitter as well, although he must work on his technique at the next level to avoid unnecessary penalties; These became too common during his time at South Carolina.
Shamarko Thomas might be my favorite safety in this year's class. You'd never know he was only 5'9'' by the way he plays. Thomas is extremely aggressive and plays with a similar reckless abandon that would remind many of Dashon Goldson. Although Thomas projects as a true strong safety, he has experience (and success) lining up at corner and even linebacker.
Many of you will no doubt question why Matt Elam is ranked so low at No. 6. I'm not as high on him as others, but I still think he'll be a solid contributor to whatever team drafts him. Elam will play strictly as a strong safety at the pro level. He lacks the coverage ability to play from any other spot other than ten yards from the line of scrimmage. He's a built like tank and will be an asset to a team looking for a safety to line up in the box and help primarily in stopping the run.
Tony Jefferson from Oklahoma is a sleeper at free safety. Jefferson started 33 games in three years at Oklahoma before deciding to forgo his senior year and enter the draft. Had he decided to return for his senior campaign, barring injury, he very well could have become the top safety in the 2014 draft. Instead Jefferson will likely be a mid round pick.
Jefferson is a hybrid safety, capable of playing in the box or dropping back in coverage. He also has experience playing man vs. slot receivers and two deep zones. Jefferson is also an excellent pass rusher, having amassed ten sacks during his tenure at Oklahoma.
So there you have it. Who's in your top ten and when should the 49ers consider drafting a safety?