Recently, I've been spending a lot of time looking at most of the top safety prospects in the upcoming draft class. Below, you'll find my ideas on each of the safeties that I could see the Eagles taking, and what I think of them. This comes as a result of looking at stats, expert scouting reports, and a hell of a lot of tape. First, we must begin with some context.
I believe that the team will resign Nate Allen. I know, I know, the guy we all love to hate. But this past year, he showed some good progression, especially towards the end of the year. His tackling improved, and he seemed to settle well into an in-the-box role, typical of an SS. He would probably get a 3 year deal and be pretty cheap. They could look to sign another veteran, but I doubt they'll break the bank on Byrd or Ward. It seems that the philosophy after the Dream Team disaster has been to build through the draft, and use free agency for fill-ins and depth. I could see a Clemons or Jenkins signing happening. Now onto the draft:
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama (Junior):
I'll say it up front- this is the guy I want. That said, he'll probably get snapped up by the Dallas or the Rams before he gets to us, but if he does, I'd be happy to see him at the 22nd spot. He is definitely the best safety in the draft when it comes to coverage ability. He has a nose for the ball, and covers well in man-to-man as well. His speed is great, which makes him a fit for the FS position, which is where we should be focused. His tackling technique is excellent, he wraps well, and takes good angles on the tackle. He doesn't seem to too effective in run support, as he is usually slow to the line, and the play is over before he gets there. This seems like something that can be taught with the proper coverage though.
Bottom line: Excellent coverage ability, and reliable tackler. Get him if he's there, hands down.
Calvin Pryor, Louisville (Junior):
If we don't get HaHa, then I'd love to see this guy in the second round, though he will probably have to be taken in the first as he seems to be moving up the draft boards. His greatest strength is clearly his ability to bring the boom. This guy is an absolute hitter, and forced 2 fumbles this past year. His tackling ability is good, as is his centerfield coverage, wrapping up his final season with 2 interceptions and 4 passes broken up. He doesn't seem to have blazing speed, but he is still quite athletic. I couldn't find much on his man coverage abilities, but I'm not too worried about that as Boykin is more than capable of handing slot receivers.
Bottom line: Great pick in the second (maybe even first), and would be the hard-hitting safety we've been looking for, with good coverage skills, too.
Deone Bucannon, Washington State (Senior):
He seems like a major gamble. Really high upside, but really low floor as well. In over-the-top coverage, he’s great. Awesome ball hawking skills, and a great grasp for zone coverage. He was used a lot in man-to-man as well, which is always welcome. He's pretty quick, too. All of this would make him an excellent FS, if it weren't for his tackling. To put it bluntly, his tackling is god-awful. He constantly lunges at the ballcarrier, and tries to bomb them with his shoulder, often letting guys get out of the tackle or missing entirely. He also needs to fix the angles he takes to the tackle, as those are terrible too. Looking at his tape, I'd hardly trust the guy to tackle anyone at all. If he could be coached into better tackling, he'd be a great safety to anchor that position for years, but that will be quite the project. I see a lot of people suggesting him in the second round, which would be a risk, but if he fixes his tackling it'd be well worth it.
Bottom line: Bucannon scares me. I don't think that this is a guy we should be going after. If we do, we need to sign a veteran to fill in until he can be taught to tackle his way out of a wet paper bag.
Tre Boston, North Carolina (Senior):
This guy is an intriguing pick. He’s not getting quite the attention of some of the other guys, so he could be a great value pick in the middle rounds if Chip and Howie decide to focus on the pass rush in the upper rounds. He started his college career as a corner, and it shows. His coverage ability is very good, especially in man coverage, but his zone ability over the top looks good to me as well. Some scouts have said he could work on his tackling a bit, but he seems to be a fairly reliable tackler to me. With an offseason at the NFL level, I could see him fixing the little nuances that he needs. Though he's been a SS in college, his coverage and range seem to make him capable at FS as well.
Bottom line: Great value in the middle rounds. I'd be happy to see him as an Eagle if the team decides to address the pass rush early and wait on the safety position.
Dion Bailey, USC (Junior redshirt):
Another intriguing guy. He played well at linebacker for a year before moving to safety, and playing well there as well. His speed allows him to play well in man coverage on faster wide receivers, and his strength and experience at linebacker helps him to cover bigger guys like tight ends. Bailey's got a good nose for the ball, and looks like one of the better ballhawkers in the draft. He's a very reliable tackler, and actually led his team in tackles in his year at linebacker. His biggest knock is that he's kind of in between a safety and linebacker, so a decision needs to be made on where he wants to/can play best. Chip seems to like versatility though, and we could always use guys who can cover from the linebacker spot, so this may end up being a strength of his.
Bottom line: Dion needs to decide where he is going to play position-wise in the NFL. Aside from that, he seems to be a fundamentally sound prospect, and I'd be happy seeing him join the team as a day two pick.
Clinton-Dix is the guy I want if he is available at the 22-spot. If not, I'd be happy with taking Pryor there, but I might consider looking at OLB in that case and praying that Pryor slides to us in round 2. I do not want Bucannon at all, but if we do draft him and plan to rehab his tackling, we need to get a reliable FA to fill in for the meantime. I'd be quite happy to see Bailey on day 2, and wouldn't mind selecting Boston in the mid-rounds either.