By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
The Patriots seemed well stocked at safety with high draft pick Patrick Chung playing well as a young player, Brandon Meriweather a 2009 Pro Bowler, solid vets such as James Sanders and Jarrad Page and a intriguing rookie in Sergio Brown.
However, a closer look reveals Page is a free agent after this year and Meriweather and Sanders will be after next season. So its possible the Patriots will be looking to upgrade and prepare for the future here depending on whether they re-sign Page and/or extend either Meriweather or Sanders. Its possible they could be moving on from all three players by the time 2011 ends and will be needing to have safeties besides Chung and Brown ready. So you could see a pick here or even two picks over the course of seven rounds. Lets take a look at our top 10:
1.) DeAndre McDaniel (#2), Clemson: The most complete safety in the draft, McDaniel can do it all. He hits like a truck, is good in coverage, can make plays on the ball and is a leader on defense for Clemson. Has played a lot of football over four years for the Tigers. For the 2010 season, McDaniel is second on the team in tackles with 53 and first in interceptions with 4. Early in his career, McDaniel played some linebacker for Clemson showing his ability as a run stuffer. He’s been a full-time safety for two years.
Strictly going by talent and on the field play, McDaniel is the best safety in next year’s draft. One thing that could set him back is that in 2008 he was accused of aggravated assault in an incident that had a pretty nasty set of alleged facts as these things go. Eventually he was given a rather light disposition and no further incidents have resulted, but it is something to watch for. He comes from a troubled background. Born in Tallahassee, Florida he was raised a lifelong Florida State fan. His mother has a serious criminal history and was in and out of jail, leading DeAndre to be raised mostly by his grandmother and later his Godmother, a friend of his mother’s. To the shock of many, when making his college choice he spurned FSU when making his college choice by attending Clemson. He did show maturity in making that decision and he explained if he was in his hometown, there would be influences on him outside of football that could lead him to get into trouble and see his career go up in smoke.
McDaniel is a heck of a good player. He puts in a good effort, is very talented, tough, physical and productive. But he does have some character questions that will have to be addressed by any team taking him. The Patriots probably won’t go first round for a safety with other more pressing needs, so while he would fit their style of play it seems unlikely they’d use the first round choice probably required to get him.
2.) Mark Barron (#4), Alabama: A somewhat similar player to McDaniel is Mark Barron from Alabama. He is just a junior, but could come out after this year. He had a remarkably good sophomore year for the National Champion Crimson Tide, leading them with 7 interceptions and showing excellent leadership in the secondary for just a kid in his second year of college and starting for the first time. A solidly built 6’2″ 215, Barron also is blessed with good speed. While not quite as spectacular, he has had a good junior year and lead Alabama in tackles. If he came out, he is probably a late first round choice which means it is unlikely the Patriots will take him unless he slipped into the second round.
3.) Deunta Williams (#27), North Carolina: Another with similar size to the top 2 on this list, Williams checks in at 6’2″ 215. Williams came to North Carolina as a wide receiver, but was switched to safety after a redshirt freshman year. Came into this year a 3-year starter with 12 interceptions, though he has none this year. Williams was suspended for four games earlier this year for his involvement in the scandal that rocked the UNC football team involving improper benefits being paid to players by agents. He’s back playing now, but hasn’t seemed to regain his previous form yet, which is troublesome. Overall, Williams is an extremely talented safety with the ability to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft and be a starter for years to come. It does need to be asked why he seemed to regress a bit this year and foolishly break rules that cost his team and himself a suspension. He will need a solid end to his season to solidify his slot as a potential first rounder. Watch him today in a big game versus Virginia Tech on ESPN at 3:30 PM EST.
4.) Tyler Sash (#9), Iowa: Sash is another junior on this list, though because of a redshirt year is a senior academically. He has a knack of making huge plays and returns on his interceptions from his safety spot. He came into the year with 11 career interceptions and 350 career return yards off of them. This year he’s added 2 more for 42 yards. A native of Iowa, Sash has good size and is a good athlete, but not a great one. He is smart, physical tough and seems to have great instincts. These are the traits that take him to the next level as a safety. He may not test as well as others physically when drills are performed at the combine, but Sash would be a great player for the Patriots if they can find room for one more safety to develop. He is also a willing special teams player and productive in that area. He is probably a second round choice if he comes out now. Watch him today take on Northwestern at Noon on ESPN.
5.) Rahim Moore (#3), UCLA: Moore is also a junior and is slightly undersized for a safety at 197 lbs. Has started since he showed up at UCLA as a true freshman. Came into the year with 13 career interceptions in two years, including leading the nation last year with 10. Was named a Captain this year by the Bruins despite only being a junior. Has only one interception this year but has played pretty well overall. Can hit hard for his size and solid tackling technique helps him in run support. Could be anywhere from a mid-first round to second round choice.
6.) Jermale Hines (#7), Ohio State: Came to Ohio State as a potential linebacker, but was quickly moved to safety. He is not overwhelming in any way, but is just a solid player who will make the tackle, provide good coverage and occasionally make a play. Does a good job directing the defense as well. He has very good size to match up with tightends at 6’1″ 216 and he also has above average speed. To me, Hines projects as a good, but not great player. A probably starter, he’ll be a solid player, contribute on special teams and play smart football. He doesn’t seem to have the ability to take his play to the next level beyond that, but will be a good, starting NFL player and probably a second or third round NFL pick. Watch him today at 3:30 PM on ABC try to help the Buckeyes take a big step towards the Rose Bowl when they take on Penn State.
7.) Antwine Perez (#2), Maryland: A highly recruited player out of high school, Perez originally went to USC and played one year there before transferring to Maryland. A native of New Jersey, Perez played mostly special teams for the Trojans before he decided to transfer to Maryland to be closer to home. Interestingly, he did not earn a full time role at Maryland either his first two years there. Instead, he was a standout special teams player, occasional fill in starter at safety and has even played a little linebacker when the Terps were short players due to injury. Still, even as a reserve, he played significantly last year and was eight on the team in tackles. This season Perez has finally become a full-time starter at safety and really blossomed. In 9 games, he’s made 41 tackles, intercepted the first 3 passes of his career and had a sack and forced fumble. He seems to finally found his role and is comfortable. Talent wise, there is a lot to like. He is an able hitter, has a big frame but carries it smoothly and is smart in coverage. Perhaps he is a late bloomer, but he is starting to fulfill his potential and has a lot of upside left. Perhaps the Patriots would look in this direction after the first round. Watch Perez and Maryland take on Florida State a week from today, November 20th, at 8PM on ABC in a game that could have important ACC implications.
8.) Andrew Rich (#22), BYU: Rich is a big safety, 6’3″ 217, who originally went to Junior College and came to BYU as a sophomore. He earned starting duties last season as a junior. He’s been a very productive player in run support and is smart and a defensive leader. Perhaps a step slower than some of the other safeties on this list, Rich’s big attributes are that he stays in the correct spots and takes good angles to make plays. He is BYU’s leading tackler this season. He has not intercepted any passes this year, but did have 4 last season. BYU’s defense has struggled this year in coverage and has only picked off 5 passes in 9 games, but it is more the fault of young defensive backs than Rich. Rich is a player who’ll be a mid-round choice but will be productive on a team in a lot of ways. He is of solid character and could develop into a solid, starting NFL safety.
9.) Davonte Shannon (#7), Buffalo: Shannon is an excellent player on a terrible football team. More of a free safety type, Shannon does have a solid frame for the NFL at 6’2″ 205 and has excellent speed and athletic ability. He’s given a lot of freedom in Buffalo’s scheme to roam and has produced. He is a very instinctive player who makes the correct breaks and anticipates plays, leading him to be around the ball a lot. Started all four years at Buffalo and is probably going to be named to his fourth consecutive first team All-MAC team this year, an amazing accomplishment. This year he leads Buffalo in tackles and has intercepted 3 passes, giving him 9 for his career. Shannon is a talented kid who could really blossom with NFL coaching. While its unlikely he’ll start right away, he’ll contribute on special teams and has very high upside to be developed. I could even see him becoming a Pro Bowl type safety, its just going to take awhile coming from a lower level school. The Patriots could possibly get him in the third round and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against the top competition in the post-season all-star games and workouts.
10.) Chris Prosinski (#24), Wyoming: A tough, physical, smart hitter who has racked up amazing tackle number in his time at Wyoming. Prosinski also plays at a more obscure program that has had a down year this season. He could be overlooked and be pushed into the later parts of the draft. But whatever team gets him will be getting a very good player who rarely makes mistakes, makes excellent plays with perfect form in run support and is smart and productive in coverage. He has good size too at 6’1″ 210. He’s gathered 2 interceptions this season which gives him 5 for his career. He is a mid-round choice who’ll eventually impress teams with his solid athleticism, hard work, good form, smart play and toughness. The Patriots would like him.