Draft Daily: Safety Targets For the Eagles

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From now until the draft, we’ll try to hit on some key positions with our previews. Yesterday was outside linebacker, and today is safety.

Howie Roseman said last week that this is not a good safety class overall.

But that’s no reason to dismiss the position completely. The team signed Malcolm Jenkins in free agency and has high hopes for second-year player Earl Wolff. Nate Allen and Chris Maragos provide depth, but more bodies are needed.

Keeping that in mind, here are some names to know on Day 1, 2 and 3 of the draft.

DAY 1

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (6-1, 208) – It seems unlikely that Clinton-Dix falls to the Eagles at No. 22, but a recent mock draft by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com suggested that as a possibility. The Alabama product has a lot of the qualities the Eagles value. He is versatile enough to play deep and also cover slot receivers man to man. Clinton-Dix is probably better against the run than he gets credit for. He ran a pedestrian 4.58 at the combine, but Clinton-Dix is still the favorite to be the first safety off the board. Gil Brandt of NFL.com recently compared him to Kansas City standout Eric Berry. If he drops to No. 22, the guess here is the Eagles would be thrilled.

Calvin Pryor, Louisville (5-11, 207) – The question with Pryor is whether he’s a scheme fit. He’s considered much  more of a box safety than Clinton-Dix and didn’t play a lot of man coverage in college. At first, I was going to leave him off the list, but it’s important to remember that teams are projecting what prospects are capable of doing, not solely going off of what they’ve done. It seems likely that Pryor is off the board before No. 22. But even if he’s there, I’m not sure the Eagles take him.

DAY 2

Deone Bucannon, Washington State (6-1, 211) – He’s become a fan favorite in recent weeks, and for good reason. Bucannon has one of the best size/speed combos (ran a 4.49 at the combine) of all the safeties in this class. At the Senior Bowl, Bucannon told me he played a lot of zone in college and wasn’t often asked to man up. Considered a big hitter, he made a lot of plays, totaling six INTs and three forced fumbles last year. Bucannon could be a nice option in the second round.

Dontae Johnson, N.C. State (6-2, 200) –  According to Adam Caplan, the Eagles had him in for an official visit. Johnson has experience playing both corner and safety. Along with the size, he ran a 4.45 at the combine. The Eagles would have to decide what role Johnson’s best suited for, but the measurables match up. Johnson is No. 94 on Mayock’s big board, so he’s probably on the border of being a Day 2/Day 3 pick.

Brock Vereen, Minnesota (6-0, 199) – The same can be said for Vereen, who is No. 91 on Brandt’s big board. And he’s another player with cornerback and safety experience. Vereen ran a 4.47 at the combine and started 32 games during his college career. There’s certainly a chance he could be available on Day 3.

DAY 3

Dezmon Southward, Wisconsin (6-0, 211) – A couple respected evaluators – Greg Cosell and Brandt – have labeled Southward a sleeper. He didn’t work out at the combine because of a neck injury, but reportedly ran in the 4.4s at his Pro Day. Southward has experience playing both corner and safety. With the size/speed combo, he’s a guy to watch on Day 3.

Antone Exum, Virginia Tech (6-0, 213) – He battled injuries last year, but has experience playing both safety and corner. Mayock said recently that teams are looking at him for both spots. Exum ran a 4.59 at the combine and could be a Day 3 option if his medical checks out.

Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama (5-11, 210) – Another guy who dealt with an injury last year. Sunseri suffered a season-ending torn ACL in 2013, but reportedly turned in 40 times of 4.48 and 4.52 at his Pro Day. As we’ve mentioned in this space before, the Eagles have good working knowledge of Alabama prospects. Sunseri excelled on special teams and could be worth a late-round flier.

Ed Reynolds, Stanford (6-1, 207) – As a junior, he had six interceptions and scored three touchdowns. Reynolds has good size and ran a 4.57 at the combine. He’s another Pac-12 player with whom Chip Kelly should be familiar.

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