Updated Feb 26, 2013 - 2:03 pm
NFL Draft: Cardinals' day three safety options
Last week we looked at three late round running back prospects, and the consensus seemed to lean towards Arkansas' Dennis Johnson being the fan favorite.
This week I will go over three safety prospects that I believe will be available on day three of the 2013 NFL Draft, and could be options for the Arizona Cardinals.
Duke Williams, Nevada, 5-11, 201 lbs
Even though he lacks the prototypical safety build, Williams is the type of safety product that I think is going to be the new fad in the NFL, and that is simply because of his versatility.
Williams is an explosive athlete that is quick to diagnose run plays and get downhill and attack. He shows a willingness to play physical despite his smaller frame and is excellent in run support.
In the passing game, Williams is good enough in man coverage that he would line up versus the slot receiver at times as a nickel corner, and showed smooth hips and the ability to turn and run with the offensive player.
Williams lacks the ball hawking skills that you want out of a safety, and is prone to going for the knockout hit instead of wrapping up and bringing down the ball carrier.
One of the things about Duke Williams that is baffling to me is the lack of love he seems to be getting in the draft community. Williams is a guy that if he gets into round four or five, will end up being a player that I believe will be talked about in "how did that guy not go earlier in the draft" mold.
Earl Wolff, North Carolina State - 5-1, 209
Wolff, like Williams, is lower on the draft boards because, well Wolff being 5-11 instead of 6-1 makes a difference in his ability… right?
Wolff is an excellent read and react safety, showing exceptional support in the run game, and unlike Williams, is a very fundamentally sound tackler.
Wolff is effective in both a two-deep look as well as playing as a single high safety in the passing game as he is deceptively quick in his breaks, but that starts with his ability to read a quarterback early.
Where Wolff will struggle is attacking near the line of scrimmage, where he isn't nearly as physical as other safeties, and is more of a cerebral, technician type, than the highlight reel hits and big plays in the passing game.
Wolff won't cause a ton of turnovers, but he is a player that can be trusted to not give up the big play, always be in position and someone that you can count on week in and week out.
Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse - 5-9, 213 lbs
Thomas reminds me of a smaller version of Adrian Wilson, in that he is a physical safety that plays with a linebacker's mentality.
Another undersized safety prospect that has for some reason moved down draft boards, Thomas possesses the combination of speed and strength that any team would covet in a safety prospect.
Thomas is effective around the line of scrimmage and when used as a box safety as he plays physical and loves to attack in the run game, where he isn't afraid to mix it up with lineman.
What makes me think that Thomas is being undervalued on draft boards is his ability in coverage. While he lacks ideal size, he makes up for it with a mix of physical man coverage when used in the slot and excellent make up/closing speed when playing the deep zone from his safety position.
Thomas is an effective blitzer from the secondary or the slot knows how to disguise when he is coming, and times his jump well.
Thomas will have to learn to curb some of his physicality in coverage, as he can get grabby with receivers and too often tries to out-muscle receivers when in a catch up mode instead of turning and running with them.
While Thomas, Wolff and Williams are all players I believe would be higher up the board if they possessed more "ideal" size or were more consistent, in the case of Thomas and Williams, or made more "wow" plays in Wolff's case, I am happy they could all be in play on day three when the Cardinals come up too pick in rounds four, five or six.
I believe all three can come in and contribute from game one as safety depth, and spot start as they get used to the NFL game, and eventually push to be quality starters.
Seth Cox/The Sports Headquarters, Editor-in-chief of The Sports Headquarters
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