Football

Rating the top strong safeties in the NFL Draft

Alabama defensive back Landon Collins (right) broke up a pass intended for Auburn wide receiver Marcus Davis during the 2014 Iron Bowl.
Alabama defensive back Landon Collins (right) broke up a pass intended for Auburn wide receiver Marcus Davis during the 2014 Iron Bowl. The Associated Press

1. Landon Collins 6-0, 228, Alabama

Bio: Two-year starter who had 103 tackles (4 1/2 for loss), three interceptions, seven pass breakups and 10 pass deflections in 14 games in 2014. Declared for the draft after his true junior season. Turned 21 this year. 31 1/2-inch arms. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.53-second 40-yard dash. 16 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 7.38-second three-cone drill. 4.33-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.94 60-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Possesses ideal size for a safety. Is at his best in the box, attacking downhill vs. the run. Is instinctive, tough and physical vs. the run. Loves to throw his body around — wants to deliver the big blow. Range and hips in coverage are adequate; projects best as a box player. Flashes some ball skills and can make plays on the ball in vicinity. Cut from the mold of Deone Bucannon, who was taken by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round last year and spent the season as a subpackage linebacker.

Grade: 6.8

Story: Alabama’s Landon Collins is latest safety to pattern game after Sean Taylor

2. Shaq Thompson, 6-0, 228, Washington

Shaq Thompson.JPG
Former Washington player Shaq Thompson Elaine Thompson The Associated Press

Bio: Three-year starter who had 81 tackles (2 1/2 for loss), one sack, one interception and four pass deflections in 14 games in 2014. Declared for the draft after his true junior season. Is 21 years old. 33-inch arms. 9 1/2-inch hands. 4.64-second 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 33.5-inch vertical. 117-inch broad jump. 6.99-second three-cone drill. 4.08-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.78-second 60-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Does not possess great bulk but is very athletic, which shows when he gets to attack the ball and diagnose near the line of scrimmage. Gets stuck on blocks too long but possesses some thump when he gets to ballcarriers, though. Shows most comfort in coverage, where his athleticism and nose for the ball shines through. Has has a very large catch radius with 33-inch arms. Best position might be running back — rushed 61 times for 456 yards and two touchdowns in 2014 — but considers himself a linebacker. Probably not a coincidence he returned three fumbles for touchdowns this season. Best fit for a 3-4 team is as a nickel linebacker on passing downs until he processes plays quicker from the inside, but he unquestionably has the ceiling of a three-down player. Reportedly is a leader with good football character.

Grade: 6.6

3. Clayton Geathers, 6-2, 218, Central Florida

Bio: Four-year starter and team captain who had 97 tackles (6 1/2 for loss), one interception and nine pass deflections in 13 games in 2014. 31 1/2-inch arms. 9 1/8-inch hands. 4.55 40-yard dash. 22 bench reps. 37-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 7.21-second three-cone drill. 4.27-second 20-yard shuttle. 12.57-second 60-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Massive, thickly-built NFL box safety with NFL bloodlines — uncles Robert Geathers Sr. and Jumpy “The Human Forklift” Geathers played in the NFL — and has three cousins on NFL rosters. Likes to come up and lay the lumber. Has a closing burst and packs a punch. Is at his best when allowed to play downhill. Decent play speed and good timed speed for his size. Average range but shows some ability to make plays in his short area. Seems to enjoy playing the game. Could be useful as a run defender and enforcer in the box.

Grade: 6.3

4. Imoan Claiborne, 5-11, 187, Northwestern State

Bio: Three-year starter who had 47 tackles (two for loss), four interceptions and seven pass breakups in 11 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 30-inch arms. 9 1/8-inch hands. 4.59 40-yard dash. 13 bench reps. 39-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 7.28-second three-cone drill. 4.58-second 20-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Played corner in college. Is small for a safety but is aggressive as hell as a tackler — plays bigger than his size and will step up and deliver a blow. Plays with an attitude. Long speed is a question but has experience in press and loves to get his hands on receivers. Has quick feet and a closing burst. Can click and close and shows ball skills. Lack of height will be an issue but aggressiveness might help him back up for it. Can help as a nickel corner. Numbers in agility tests are a slight disappointment. Not a ton of tape available on him so this is a bit of a projection.

Grade: 6.3

5. Cody Prewitt, 6-2, 208, Mississippi

Cody Prewitt.JPG
Mississippi defensive back Cody Prewitt (left) avoided a tackle by Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill during a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown in 2014. Bob Levey The Associated Press

Bio: Three-year starter who had 64 tackles (four for loss), three interceptions and two pass breakups in 13 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 32 3/8-inch arms. 9 1/8-inch hands. 4.60-second 40-yard dash. 11 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 125-inch broad jump. 7.12-second three-cone drill. 4.23-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.44-second 60-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Is built well and looks the part. Has the size and physicality to help out against the run. Stiff hips and average range and athleticism, but his timed speed shows on interception returns. Packs a wallop — can deliver the big blow — but needs to be consistent as a tackler. Has some ball skills — led the SEC in interceptions in 2013 with six. Also had seven pass deflections that year. Ball production fell off as a senior. Seemed a little quicker his junior year.

Grade: 6.2

6. Jaquiski Tartt, 6-1, 221, Samford

Bio: Three-year starter who had 63 tackles (three for loss), one interception and one pass breakup in 11 games in 2014. Turned 23 this year. 32 3/8-inch arms. 9 7/8-inch hands. 4.47-second 40-yard dash. 13 bench reps. 33-inch vertical. 123-inch broad jump. 7.03-second three-cone drill. 4.29-second 20-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Looks the part — is a big, yoked up dude with closing speed vs the run. Is like a missile in run support when he sees the play develop; takes good angles and likes to deliver the big blow. Excellent timed speed for his size, but is stiff-hipped and only possesses average long speed in coverage. Instincts are still developing vs the pass. Tough guy who played through a shoulder injury as a senior — had way more tackles (98) as a junior. Level of competition is a concern.

Grade: 6.2

7. James Sample, 6-2, 209, Louisville

Bio: Juco transfer. First-year starter who had 90 tackles (two for loss), four interceptions, eight pass breakups and 12 pass deflections in 13 games in 2014. 32-inch arms. 9 1/2-inch hands. 4.56-second 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 32.5-inch vertical. 123-inch broad jump. 7.04-second three-cone drill. 4.43-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.33-second 60-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Went to junior college for a year after two nondescript seasons at Washington. Looks the part — is tall with long arms. Interesting athleticism — moves OK and has a but of closing burst. Average hips. Led the Cardinals in tackles so he is willing to support the run but isn't a big-time hitter. Plays with a chip on his shoulder; has some attitude. Excellent production as a senior but only did it for a year

Grade: 6.2

8. Craig Mager, 5-11, 201, Texas State

Bio: Four-year starter who had 63 tackles (six for loss), three interceptions and 10 pass breakups and 13 passes defended in 12 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 29 3/4-inch arms. 9 1/4-inch hands. 4.44 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 38-inch vertical. 130-inch broad jump. 6.83-second three-cone drill. 4.07-second 20-yard shuttle. 11.35-second 60-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Short arms and lacks ideal bulk. Very experienced, productive college corner who is aggressive with his hands in press. Has good hips but possesses average long speed and burst; receivers can create separation once they are into their routes. Had good ball production as a senior with three interceptions, 13 passes defended and 10 pass breakups. Is aggressive vs the run. Also has experience as a punt returner. Has a great motor — is into the game.

Grade: 6.1

9. Harold Jones-Quartey, 5-11, 215, Findlay

Bio: Four-year starter who had 105 tackles (3 1/2 for loss), zero interceptions and eight pass breakups in 11 games in 2014. Is 22 years old. 4.59-second 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 40-inch vertical. 133-inch broad jump. 6.78-second three-cone drill.

Consensus: Big body with long arms who looks the part and possesses solid athleticism. Has above-average play speed and a closing burst, especially when blitzing or closing in on a tackler. Will step up and deliver a blow. Shows some ball skills. Average change of direction. Level of competition is a concern but is an experienced, super-productive four-year starter with a chance to stick.

Grade: 6.0

10. Julius White III, 5-10, 199, Rice

Bio: Three-year starter who had 34 tackles (five for loss), zero interceptions and seven pass breakups in 11 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 4.48-second 40-yard dash. 15 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 123-inch broad jump. 4.34-second 20-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Plus athleticism for the position. Good play speed, especially vs. the run. Flies up in run support. Has a closing burst. Willing tackler with good instincts vs. the run. Likes contact and is at his best attacking downhill. Lack of tackle production as a senior is a concern, but averaged 73 tackles the as a sophomore and junior. Has some experience in two-deep and one high. Iffy ball production — four career interceptions in 47 games — and coverage ability remains a question but he has the athleticism and hips to be a factor. Awareness and instincts in coverage need to improve. Motor runs hot.

Grade: 6.0

11. Isaiah Johnson, 6-2, 206, Georgia Tech

Bio: Three-year starter who had 64 tackles (three for loss), one interception and five pass deflections in 12 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 4.59-second 40-yard dash. 14 bench reps. 34-inch vertical. 124-inch broad jump. 6.98-second three-cone drill. 4.13-second 20-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Missed 2013 season because of torn ACL. Looks the part. Big body with a closing burst but is late to fill sometimes and can be a tad late to diagnose. Is willing tackler and will throw his body around. Has good range vs the run — can cover some ground.

Grade: 6.0

12. Jacob Hagen, 6-3, 205, Liberty

Bio: Three-year starter who had 108 tackles (5 1/2 for loss), eight interceptions, seven pass breakups and 15 pass deflections in 14 games in 2014. 4.62-second 40-yard dash. 22 bench reps. 36.5-inch vertical. 124-inch broad jump. 7.01-second three-cone drill. 4.43-second 20-yard shuttle.

Consensus: Big safety with a closing burst and movement skills. Level of competition is a concern — will need some time to adjust but popped on film the way you need a small-college kid to earn a NFL shot. Has some ball skills. Runs to the ball and makes plays. Has experience playing downhill and playing in zone. Change of direction skills need work but had tremendous ball production as a senior and also showed a knack for forcing fumbles (four as a senior).

Grade: 6.0

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TerezPaylor.

GRADING SCALE

7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick

7.0: 11-20

6.9: 21-32

6.8: Top half of the second

6.7: Bottom half of the second

6.6: Top half of the third

6.5: Bottom half of the third

6.4: Fourth round pick

6.3: Fifth-round pick

6.2: Sixth-round pick

6.1: Seventh-round pick

6.0: Priority free agent

NOTE: All rankings are based on a combination of extensive personal film study, interviews conducted with draft analysts and information gleaned from NFL Network draft broadcasts. Evaluations are cross-checked with multiple draft profiles, courtesy of NFL.com, ESPN.com, CBSSports.com. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to the resources listed above. Grades are assigned based on where The Star believes the Chiefs should take each player, based on their needs and scheme-fit.

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