For the past few weeks I have looked at the positions that I consider the most likely that the Colts will target in the second round, and today we look at the safety position as the draft is now just eight days away (although the Colts will not pick for nine more days).
The safety position is arguably the Colts's biggest need in the upcoming draft. Longtime starter Antoine Bethea left in free agency and signed with the San Francisco 49ers, and LaRon Landry was injury-prone and bad last year - but he will definitely be starting again this year. Alongside him, however, there is a big question mark, and right now it appears that Delano Howell has the inside track to be the starter. Howell played well when he filled in for the injured Landry last year, but he himself was injured later in the year and placed on IR. Additionally, many fans want a guy who can bring more to the table than Howell, who is a solid and dependable starter but who doesn't have as high of an upside as some other guys. Even if the Colts are completely comfortable with Howell, the inevitable issue is that both Landry and Howell were injured last season and in Landry's case, he has struggled with injuries in the past too. At very least, the Colts might want to add someone for depth. If they add a depth player in the second round, however, it would be a bit of a questionable move and would mean that they saw him as the long-term starter, as Howell is due to become a free agent next year. I don't expect the Colts to add a safety in the second round just as a depth guy however, but as a guy to seriously compete with Delano Howell for the starting spot.
Back in late March, Colts coach Chuck Pagano was asked about the safety position, and Pagano said:
"It's tough to have to replace a guy that this organization had for eight years and played the way he played and what he did for the Colts and the city. It's a harsh reality of today's NFL -- you can't keep everybody, and that's what hurt. But you have to move on.
"There are some great safeties in the draft. We have our board set, we'll tweak it as we go through the month of April, go to pro days and gather information on the draft. We'll see how the draft goes and how the board is once we get to our first pick. It'll be nice to get a young one in the fold, but we'll see how it goes."
In other words, even the Colts head coach confirmed that the Colts are interested in a safety. There are several reasonable positions of interest for the Colts to target in the second round, but perhaps none of them make more sense than safety. As such, let's take a look at a few of the safeties who will likely be available for the Colts in the second round at pick number 59 overall. I'll give a scouting report on each, and then I'll look at which one would fit best for the Colts, whether I think the Colts should take a safety, and whether I think they will.
College: Florida State
Weight: 198 pounds
Projected Round: 2
STRENGTHSFluid and flexible. Pedals and transitions smoothly. Has cornerback speed -- plays fast and covers ground. Has a 38-inch vertical jump. Patrols zones with awareness and anticipation to react to threats. Keys quickly, trusts his eyes and does not hesitate. Aggressive in run support -- swoops down with urgency, runs the alley and plays with abandon. Dependable makeup -- solid character. Tough and durable. Has ability and mentality to contribute on special teams.
WEAKNESSESCould stand to bulk up and get stronger. Inconsistent tackler -- arrives out of control, does not always see what he hits and will miss some tackles seeking the knockout blow. Is built like a cornerback, sustained a concussion as a senior and durability could be an issue given his aggressive playing style. Minimal production on the ball -- was not a playmaker. Has average hands and leaves some INTs on the field. Poor short-shuttle time (7.35 seconds) at the combine.
College: Northern Illinois
Weight: 193 pounds
Projected Round: 1-2
STRENGTHSIntense, active and energetic. Zooms around the field and stands out on tape. Aggressive run supporter -- triggers quickly, flies downhill and chops down ball carriers. Breaks on throws and shows short-area burst to close. Has quick hands to snatch interceptions. Confident and energetic. Experienced and productive. Has a 38-inch vertical jump.
WEAKNESSESSize is just adequate -- lacks ideal bulk and is built more like a cornerback than a safety. Bench-pressed 225 pounds just nine times at the combine, second fewest among DBs. Gets snagged on blocks and struggles to disengage. Can be a tick late diagnosing pass, gaining depth and digesting route combos. Lacks elite top-end speed. Inconsistent downfield ball reactions with his back to the throw. Shows lower-body stiffness in space. Could rub some people the wrong way. Has some maturing to do and needs to learn what it means to prepare like a pro.
College: Washington State
Weight: 211 pounds
Projected Round: 2-3
STRENGTHSGood length and overall size. Reads run and drops downhill quickly. Has an old-school mentality -- likes contact and is a physical tackler (seeks to punish the ball carrier). Shows pop on contact. Covers kicks and has an ideal mentality for special teams. Productive four-year starter.
WEAKNESSESStruggles to recover from missteps and will not track anyone down from behind. Some tightness in his hips. Takes some inaccurate angles. Man-coverage limitations (struggles to mirror slot receivers). Can be overaggressive and miss tackles. Does not always arrive under control in space. Lacks discipline on the field and makes too many mental mistakes. Got shook in the hole for a 75-yard TD vs. Colorado State and gives up too many big plays with bad angles.
Weight: 201 pounds
Projected Round: 3
STRENGTHSGood hands to intercept. Was an impact defender as a redshirt freshman despite playing out of place as an undersized linebacker.
WEAKNESSESDurability is a concern. Has pedestrian speed -- struggles to match with slot receivers. Lacks experience in deep coverage. Still developing positional instincts and feel for route combinations. Takes some inaccurate angles. Goes low and misses tackles. Has 'tweener traits.
I think the Colts should absolutely target a safety, and while it's hard to predict who exactly will be available at pick number 59, if some of the above options are available, the Colts should take one. If it were up to me, I would want the Colts to take Florida State safety Terrence Brooks. He's a guy who used to play cornerback but was rather recently moved to safety. Because of that, he brings the ability to match up with receivers out of the slot in man-to-man coverage and hold his own, which is a huge asset for any safety to have. He has good range and coverage skills, and he plays very aggressive. In other words, he's not afraid to go up to get 50/50 balls or go for the big hit - something that can hurt him but that can also pay off. If he was bigger (he's 5-11, 198 pounds), there's no doubt in my mind that he would be gone before the Colts pick, but because of his size teams he very well might be there at pick number 59. He seems like a great fit for Chuck Pagano's system and he is a guy who could step in and start from day one and a guy who, with good coaching, could develop into a high quality NFL starter. Since Pagano has a reputation as a great secondary coach that preceded his time with the Colts, taking a safety who could use some coaching wouldn't be a problem for the Colts. If Terrence Brooks is available at pick number 59, the Colts should take him and not look back.
Will they? I honestly have no idea, nor does anyone else. But there's a good chance the Colts could go safety, and there's a good chance that the safety could be Terrence Brooks if he's still available. Let's just say that you might be seeing his name again when I publish my seven-round Colts mock draft (with all five picks) next week...