It’s never to early to get started on your 2014 NFL Draft and NFL scouts are already preparing to, if not already hit the highways to start the long process of covering the nation’s top college players. Many don’t know that approximately 10,000 players are sifted through to eventually get to a more manageable number of around 750 to 800 prospects. Consider of those only 350 or so are invited to the annual NFL Combine. Most can be eliminated off of height, weight, speed and yet many must be meticulously observed over the next five to six months.
An advantage to NFL scouting is the access clubs have to watching players in their element; on the practice field and around their teammates. Scouts have the opportunity to sit down with the support personnel tasked with maximizing the performance of these prospects and really get into what makes them tick. Throughout the day or two of the visit they have the chance to attack the game film with a keen eye and a fine tooth comb in hopes of piecing together the various components that make a potential NFL player.
Today’s technology has all but given the rest of NFL and college football fans the same access that most NFL scouts have today. As a result your likely to find first rate evaluations outside of the personnel departments of the 32 teams. Just as much detail and emphasis is being put into these evaluations as those that are presented in the War Rooms around the League come March and April. The most important aspect to note is that these observations come without a team perspective and are more centered on the talent pool as a whole and not in line with the needs and schemes of NFL teams.
Taber Small has gotten off to a great start in looking at some of the top safeties college football will present in 2013. Safety is one of those sometimes “forgotten” positions on defense that can make or break the effectiveness of a club’s defense versus run or pass, and has become even more relevant as defensive coordinators look to slow down the surge of effectiveness in read option offenses in professional football. You’ll find on average about 4 safeties taken in the top 64 picks, with the 2nd round being the number one source of NFL 2-deep rosters. So Taber’s list could be the key for many looking at the position in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Top 5 Safeties 2014 NFL Draft Prospect Report
By Taber Small – nationalunderclassmen.com
Strength: Loston is an athletic and explosive hitting safety. He moves quickly from the secondary to the box when stuffing the run. He is very fluid and navigates well through traffic to locate the ball. Loston plays with terrific closing speed and executes textbook angles when tackling ball carriers. He shows good range in coverage with the ability to make plays in the secondary as well as outside the hashes.
Weakness: Loston has made vast improvements in coverage, but still needs to show better instincts in this part of his game. He will occasionally bite on play action and ball-fakes causing him to get caught out of position. He possesses average quickness, which creates a struggle when covering receivers come out of the slot.
Final Analysis: Loston is a solid player for LSU and has greatly improved his style of play over the last two years. He’s also a decent special-teams player, which gives him added value as a defensive back at the next level. If Loston continues to show more improvement to his game this season, specifically with covering the field, he could easily rise into an elite safety prospect.
Strength: Ladler is an underrated player with an impressive overall game at the safety position. He is an instinctive and aggressive defender who flies around the field and is always near the ball. Ladler shows good discipline in coverage displaying a great burst of speed. He constantly locates the football and puts himself in a position to make the play. Ladler comes up the field fast when defending the run and is a solid wrap up tackler.
Weakness: Undersized for the safety position and also lacks the height that NFL scouts look for. He occasionally over pursues the action allowing the offense to convert on some big plays. At times, Ladler becomes overmatched in man coverage situations especially when covering the tight end down the field.
Final Analysis: Ladler was an extremely productive player for Vanderbilt last season and burst on to the college football scene in 2012. When watching the Commodores defense last year, Ladler stood out on film and is one of the team’s top leaders. He led Vanderbilt with 90 tackles last season and has the ability to mix it up in the pass and run defense. Ladler has a great opportunity to climb up NFL draft boards with another impressive season and could land somewhere in the top two rounds.