NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
New England recently added Adrian Wilson to their group of safeties, signing the twelve-year veteran to a three-year contract; however, they still have room for another player. Read on to find out who the Patriots may target if they deem the safety position a target area in April.
1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Vaccaro will probably be off the board by the time New England picks in the first round, but the Patriots probably shouldn’t consider any other options. After running a 4.63 in Indianapolis, teams may question Vaccaro’s range as a free safety, which could cause him to slide. If he’s available, New England fans may be looking at the next Pat Chung, a versatile safety who can cover in the slot but must improve his consistency, especially as a tackler.
2. Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International
A four-year starter, Cyprien has been getting a lot of hype and could easily go in the thirty-to-forty range in April. If he doesn’t slip, New England may be out of luck if they are targeting a safety in the second round, as Louisiana State’s Eric Reid and Florida’s Matt Elam should be long gone by the time the Patriots are on the clock. Cyprien could provide a physical in-the-box presence at strong safety.
3. Phillip Thomas, Fresno St.
Thomas played free safety at Fresno State, and projects there at the next level as well. He can do a little bit of everything; drop into high-zone coverage, defend the slot, and support the run. He has ideal size for the position and would fit well as a backup to Devin McCourty. Thomas may slip to the third round because of concerns regarding his ability to tackle in the open field, as well as his below-average 40-yard dash time (4.65.)
4. Josh Evans, Florida
Evans possesses all the measurables evaluators look for in a pro safety; at 6’1” and 207 pounds, he has prototypical size for the free safety position, and his 4.54 time in the 40-yard dash and 6.64 second three-cone drill are both starting-caliber as well. His combination of movement skills and aggressive run support could earn him a spot in a professional starting lineup at some point as long as he is able to minimize mental errors.
5. Duke Williams, Nevada
Williams is worth drafting even higher than this, but New England may be able to wait and pick him midway through the draft’s third day. At 5’11” and 201 pounds, Williams ran an impressive 4.41 second 40-yard dash; he should be able to play either free safety or strong safety at the next level, and some scouts have been projecting him to cornerback. He is a rangy, physical safety with appealing diagnostic ability and tackling skills.
6. Robert Lester, Alabama
Lester’s lack of athleticism will likely prevent him from ever developing into a quality starter at the next level, but he could make sense as a New England Patriots draft target because of his familiarity in Nick Saban’s similar defensive scheme. His size, physicality, and intelligence could help New England develop a more feared secondary, and he also possesses considerable ball skills. Look for Lester to follow in the footsteps of fellow Crimson Tide alum Roman Harper.
7. Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan
Addae was a three-year starter at Central Michigan, where his muscular physique helped him develop into an effective in-the-box strong safety. He projects as a backup at the next level, but with quick reaction times, a controlled backpedal, and fluid movement skills, he could enjoy a long career in the NFL. He offers some additional value as a blitzing safety; during his time with the Chippewas, he recorded 3.5 sacks.