NPLB Day 1 Difference Makers: SAF Part 2
A Bird's eye view of April
In this last planned installment of the Day 1 Difference Makers, we find ourselves attempting to take stock of a weak Safety draft class.
So far in this series, we have been content to analyze 3rd round prospects, in the spirit of "Day 1," but in the context of such a week class, we find it nearly impossible to eliminate a lot of the subjectivism surrounding a glut of players who may end up ranging between early third and undrafted college free agent. There is that much disparity, and only the combine can set much of that subjectivity in the bedrock of objective measurement. I ask only patience of you, fellow reader.
In this light, this final look at safeties with the potential to make an early difference will focus on the 'new Day 1' prospects, that is, only those who are projected to go in the 2008 second round.
This is not an attempt to grade past draft classes. This is an attempt to reasonably assess the potential of certain prospects to have a decisive impact within their first two years. The following is a look at what some of 2008's top prospects have in common with recent first day prospects and picks at various positions. With any luck, perhaps Denver will be able to land one or more of these "Difference Makers."
Another Lone Representative: 2008 Thus Proven Shallow
What more proof are you looking for that 2008 is quite simply a bad year for teams who have safety on their list of desperate need? A single top player, unthreatened by any in the rank and file beneath him, yet who may prove to be anything but a singular player once the NFL gets its hands on him? Well, than how about only a single player beneath him who is in the running for second best? As always many things change leading up to the draft, but burn this in fire on your wall, if you are interested in drafting a safety in 2008: "There is as much projected value in most any second day prospect as there is in the second best pick in the draft." It rarely has been this way, and it has to be wondered which player in the wings will make a name for himself by committing high end measureables to his resume at the Combine...
|2005 FS Josh Bullocks
2006 FS Roman Harper
2006 SS Daniel Bullocks
2006 SS Bernard pollard
2007 FS Eric Weddle
2007 FS Gerald Alexander
2005, in the continuing elaboration of its similarities to 2008 begun in Part 1, also had what may be termed a reach for second best safety. Back then it was a young man named Josh Bullocks, who had an astonishing sophmore year and almost entered the draft then, yet was talked out of it by NFL evaluators and the coaching staff of the Cornhuskers. In quite the turnaround, he was expected to stay beyond his junior campaign the following year, but elected to enter the darft anyways for family reasons. The experts pegged him at late 3rd but New Orleans, DESPERATE for a deep presence took him early in the 2nd.
2006 continued to show great safety depth behind the strong class of first rounders described in Part 1, with 3 more safeties finding their way into the NFL in the 2nd round. Daniel Bullocks, another Husker was taken early by Detroit, followed quickly by Roman Harper to New Orleans, who were still insuring against the big play. Soon Bernard Pollard was off the board as well, taken by KC well before the end of the 2nd round.
2007 saw Eric Weddle go early to the Chargers, who always seem to have a good feel for the timing of 2nd rounders, as well as the scouting going on in their backyard, and later, in a mostly shocking development Detroit reached DEEP, taking safety early for the second time in as many years and selecting Gerald Alexander out of Boise, who had been pegged no earlier than the sixth round. Now that is a jump up the boards!
Josh Bullocks is hardly a dissapointment, but the fact that the Saints went with Safety high in the draft two years in a row says that they were looking for a little better production than 77 tackles and 2 INTs. But with 3 season behind him, Bullocks is a solid contributor, averaging 70 tackles and 2 INTs per year. What you see is what you get, but he still has several years between himself and the veteran savviness that could make him a game changer.
The 2006 class of Bullocks, Harper and Pollard was united by scouting reports that almost universally regarded them as "unexplosive." While not the strongest prospects, they all showed at least one category of specialty. Bullocks was smart and covered a solid 'deep-third' with a full field range. Harper was a FS with SS ability near the line, and the speed to be involved in mid zones, as well as a solid tackler. Pollard was a strong player near the line with an innate ability to plow through garbage and find the ball. Harper and Pollard had solid sophmore seasons, almost mirrors of eachother, both making the most of starting promotions. Bullocks unfortunately succumbed to a torn ACL and was sorely missed by a Detroit team that had needed him to supplant the infamous Kinnoy Kennedy. The rare injury to a top safety, which hurts most because it is least anticipated.
Weddle has made a case for being the starter in 2008, after beating out Marlon Mcree. He isn't guaranteed a job yet but should make a strong run in training camp next year, so not exactly an immediate contributor, but SD has been cultivating defensive players so well that they have bought the luxury of time for this talented young man. Regarding Alexander, I should say that I am a HUGE Boise State fan, so in the interest of full disclosure, I don't know how objective I can remain in his evaluation. He struggled, no doubt about that, but he is an intensely motivated player, who puts a ton of effort into the little things, and his physique is the most startling example of that. The dude is CUT! Where he is lacking is in the dedicated coaching that an NFL level staff can give him, so though he earned a starting role in DET (and struggled with some minor injuries, putting him in position to earn his spot back), his best play will come in his second year. No question he was a reach in the 2nd round, probably would have been available right where he was projected, in the 6th-7th round. That's DET for you, I guess. Difference maker? Someday. Not now.
We Still Gonna Compare 2008 to 2005?
Why not? Castille is a hybrid, a CB/FS with decent speed and strength who excels when the play is in front of him and should be a steal for any team that picks him up late in the 2nd to play FS. He shares Josh Bullocks compulsive need to freelance, and like Bullocks, tends to get reckless if he isn't reigned in. Bullocks took it to the extreme by getting ahead of everyone when he almost entered the draft as a sophmore, but was reigned in just in time. Will Castille be put at CB? That would be a quick way to put him in the NFL unemployment cycle. A smart team will have him late in the third round as an option at Free Safety. And if he is there at that time, they will seem even smarter.
|Currently projected low fourth round, he is climbing the boards and is looking ahead to the combine to advance further. Cerebral, well-built with the atleticism to take advantage of a natural ability to track down the ball. Often relies too much on abiltiy that doesn't always show up. He chooses the big hit over the solid tackle, and has a Ray Lewis like attitude, in terms of celebration and exuberance.
Morgan is a name to look for on the Combine performances tallies as they start to come out. It is his chance to prove that he needs to be considered with the best of them.