As we move closer and closer to the NFL Combine, there is one position that many think is a position of need: safety. I believe the Colts will offer Bethea a contract and more than likely he will accept it knowing that his age is going to be against him. Also, we have a young safety who showed great promise in Delano Howell before he went down this season. However, there is still the chance that #41 will never put on the Horseshoe again, and Howell can’t produce like he did pre-injury. In that case, these are a few guys that are going to be available around the Colts’ time to pick.
1. Dion Bailey (USC)
Bailey is an odd duck to me. He played linebacker for USC in 2012 but moved back to safety this year and produced just as well as he did a year ago. After the Super Bowl run the Seahawks made with the LOB (Legion of Boom), many teams are more than likely going to try and build their defensive backfield in a similar fashion. Bailey is more a strong safety but has the athleticism to be a free safety. He could be like Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor with some time and seasoning.
2. Deone Bucannon (Washington State)
Bucannon is another interesting prospect. Like Bailey, he is a bigger safety but lays the wood on ball carriers. Sounds like another safety we already have, right? Wrong. Bucannon hasn’t had the injury issues but also has shown ball-hawking skills in college. He amassed 15 interceptions throughout his college career. That’s an astounding number. Bucannon more than likely won’t make it out of the second round. If the Colts are hurting at safety, this guy would require a second look.
3. Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
At only 5″10 and 190lbs., Ward doesn’t bring a ton of size to his game- but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in tackles. Leading the Huskies in tackles the last two season, Ward is possibly the most sure tackler in the draft this year. He wowed scouts at the Senior Bowl and was dubbed the best defender in the Senior Bowl. He comes from a school where the competition isn’t the best but I don’t think he will have a hard time transitioning into the NFL. He can play both SS and FS, so that’s another plus.
4. Dontae Johnson (North Carolina State)
Johnson is a cornerback turned into a safety. He has 4.4 speed and has no problem covering almost anything on the field. He can close on defenders rather quickly and has good ball skills. From watching a little film and reading up on Johnson, he seems to have trouble with making the sure tackle. He does play run support fairly well but gets trucked over at times or has to hold on for someone to come and clean it up. He is looking at a 6th round grade right now. If the Colts do sign Bethea and they still want to get a safety later in the draft then this guy is worth a look. He has most what of he needs to be a sure first starter in the NFL; he just needs to clean up a few things. Watching and learning from Bethea would definitely help him with that.
5. Kenny Ladler (Vanderbilt)
This guy could be a steal in the later rounds of the draft. He is slated late 4th-early 5th round right now, but could soar up the boards with a good combine and pro day. He has been labeled a better strong safety than free safety but can play both at a high level. He loves contact and creating a turnover whenever he gets around the ball. That sounds to me like a guy the Seahawks would have in their defensive backfield. He doesn’t have great speed, but 4.5 speed is nothing to shake a stick at. Ladler is a ball hawk and would help this defense out tremendously if given the chance.