Sep 28, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Northern Illinois won 55-24. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Rankings: Ben Natan's Top 10 Safeties

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Sep 28, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Northern Illinois won 55-24. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

There is a dearth of good safeties in the league and every year at least half of the league is looking for competition at the position. This year is no different and while there is no elite talent, there is some very good depth at the position in this draft and many role players.

  1. Ha Ha Clinton Dix (Alabama): Dix is a highly athletic safety who’s ability to close on the ball is incredibly impressive. He still needs to improve his eye discipline and improve angles in coverage, but he has the athletic ability to play free safety very well. Not only this, but he is very physical and can move up in the box to stop the run or even man up in the slot and play cornerback. He is still has lots of room to grow, but his ability and versatility is very enticing. 
  2. Jimmie Ward (NIU): Ward is by far the best centerfielder in this class. His instincts, athletic ability and ball skills make him an ideal free safety who can make an impact over the top. He is also an impact player in man coverage. His size limits him as a run defender, but he is still willing in this area. Some teams may knock him because of size, but he compensates with his ability and is the only other first round player at his position.
  3. Antone Exum (Virginia Tech): Frankly, Exum has the ability to be a Top 50 player at both safety and cornerback. He is incredibly physical and has great length and feet. He is also very rangy for a man his size and come up and make plays in the run game. I really hope he can make a full recovery from his knee injury, because he could be a very good player.
  4. Terrance Brooks (FSU): Brooks is a very athletic safety who has a good ability to play both safety positions. He has very good range in coverage and can come downhill in the run game. He needs to improve his awareness, but he could develop into a nice starter.
  5. Dion Bailey (USC):  The former linebacker looks just like that, an athletic rangy linebacker. He is incredibly impressive as a run defender and can matchup well with tight ends in coverage. His quickness is not great and he can get into trouble if he has to deal with quicker receivers if he cannot press them. He may be in a limited role in the NFL, but I think he can be very successful in that role.
  6. Lamarcus Joyner (FSU): Once again, some teams will take issues with Joyner’s size, but don’t tell him that. He is a very aggressive player who flies all over the field. He has very good range and recognition ability and is willing to make a play on the ball or the ball carrier. His role in the NFL may be best suited at nickel corner or a “roamer” type. With his on field mentality, it is hard to see him not do well at whatever position.
  7. Sean Parker (Washington): Parker is a very good, versatile safety who does a great job playing a linebacker role in the box despite his size but actually flashes very good ability in deep coverage. There are size concerns, but Parker plays bigger than his size. He may not be able to consistently hold up in the NFL as a deep safety, but he is a tackle machine and there is certainly a place for that.
  8. Deonne Buccannon (WSU): Buccanon is a big hitter at the position and can intimidate over the middle, however, he needs to be a smarter tackler for sure. He has the ability to diagnose and come downhill in the run game, but has trouble finishing off a play. In coverage, he shows tremendous range and recognition ability and can be an asset on the back end of a defense.
  9. Ed Reynolds (Stanford): Reynolds, unlike some of the other Pac 12 safeties, Reynolds is best suited in deep coverage where he can read the quarterback and flow to the ball. He moves very well in the open field and can make plays in the ball. He seems hesitant at times, but when he is more aggressive, he does a great job in coverage. I wish he was better in the run game, but it is somewhere he can improve.
  10. Avery Patterson (Oregon): The former cornerback does a great job in man coverage, but his athletic ability and range make him deadly playing centerfield. He needs to improve his angles in both run support and when making plays in coverage, but he has shown the ability to close on the ball or player and make a play. He will need time to improve, but things look up for him.
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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Safeties

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