I’m pretty proud of that headline, so I’ll welcome the incoming scorn for its cheese factor.
Projecting where safeties will be selected in the draft is difficult. Gregg Cosell of NFL Films, a well regarded draft guru, says the position is one of the hardest to project:
In his view, safeties are one of the hardest positions to get a handle on or project, because a lot of time they may be deep in coverage, out in space. Case in point, he had to watch a ton of film on Chiefs safety Eric Berry before he was comfortable with his evaluation. For that matter, the perimeter positions are the toughest to assess.
This difficulty in assessing the value of safeties is reflected in the amount of times they’re picked in the first round. Since 2000, 381 picks have been made in the first round. Just 15 of those picks were safeties. For comparison, in 2011 alone nine defensive ends were taken in the first round.
I’m not suggesting the FS and SS positions are identical, but many of those 15 safeties that were chosen early in the last 10 plus years have played in both spots. I’ve discussed how fond I am of Alabama Safety Mark Barron, the senior will likely be the only safety taken in the first round. With that in mind, let’s see where those 15 safeties were picked in the first round and how they’ve fared so far:
|Player||Tackles||Interceptions||Pro Bowl Selections||All Pro selections||Career AV Average|
|Eric Berry 2010 (1-5)||72||4||1||0||11*|
|Earl Thomas 2010 (1-14)||127||7||1||0||9.5|
|Laron Landry 2007 (1-6)||290||4||0||0||6|
|Michael Griffin 2007 (1-19)||286||17||1||1||7.6|
|Reggie Nelson 2007 (1-21)||268||13||0||0||6|
|Brandon Meriweather 2007 (1-24)||194||12||2||0||5|
|Michael Huff 2006 (1-7)||305||9||0||1||5.7|
|Donte Whitner 2006 (1-8)||373||7||0||0||5.5|
|Jason Allen 2006 (1-16)||174||15||0||0||2.3|
|Sean Taylor 2004 (1-5)||244||12||2||2||9|
|Troy Polamalu 2003 (1-16)||460||29||7||4||11.1|
|Roy Williams 2002 (1-8)||472||20||5||1||7.4|
|Ed Reed 2002 (1-24)||461||57||8||5||12.3|
|Adam Archuleta 2001 (1-20)||454||4||0||0||5.3|
|Derrick Gibson 2001 (1-28)||156||3||0||0||2.6|
Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are the names that jump out. The future hall of famers were both selected in the second half of the first round. Both were incredible in their college days, which supports Cosell’s take on the difficulty of evaluating the position. After a phenomenal rookie year Eric Berry suffered a season-ending injury in his first game of 2011, while Earl Thomas anchored a Seahawks defense that is quickly becoming one of the best units in the league.
The rest of the list is filled with disappointments. Sean Taylor’s promising career was tragically cut short. Roy Williams’ production and performance dropped off a cliff after years of early success, and it would be tough to argue that any of the other safeties listed were worthy of their high selection.
Barron is slated to come off the board anywhere between 14th and 27th. History indicates that being selected early isn’t necessarily a good thing.