April 23, 2013
Current Safeties on the Giants Roster:
Antrel Rolle – 30 Years Old – Signed through 2014
Stevie Brown – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2013
Ryan Mundy – 28 Years Old – Signed through 2013
Will Hill – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014
Tyler Sash – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014
David Caldwell – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014
Where They Stand:
Perry Fewell’s scheme puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of its safeties and calls for versatile athletes that are at least capable of man coverage as well as a presence against the run. Their current personnel at this group may not be well known around the league, but it is a reliable component to the defense as a whole. They are led by a savvy veteran and team leader Antrell Rolle. Since signing a big contract via free agency in 2010, Rolle has been the steady presence in the middle of their secondary that had been missing out for years. His versatility is a vital attribute to this defense. Brown came out of nowhere and led the team with 8 interceptions. While I don’t use that stat alone to judge how good a player performs because interceptions are frequently a “right place-right time” occurrence, Brown earned the right to start in 2013. He is a well rounded safety that tackles well and anticipates the action. Will Hill is another nicely-priced, versatile safety with the best physical tool set in the group. He is a capable backup that has shown flashes of physical presence across the middle. Mundy was brought in via free agency to provide an extra layer of depth to the group. He is an average pass defender that can make big hits over the middle. He will make the team, but he’s not a guy that is in the long term plans. Sash is a special teams weapon that that can contribute to the defense as a guy in the box. He lacks the athletic tool set and reaction skills to play a role in coverage schemes. Caldwell is a training camp body that will likely not make the team. When considering the economics of a football roster, these safeties are an efficient group with enough youth. There is a nice blend of talent that mixes in well when put together.
Top 10 Grades:
Kenny Vaccaro – 6’0/214 – Texas: 83
Matt Elam – 5’10/208 – Florida: 78
Jonathan Cyprien – 6’0/217: 77
Shamarko Thomas – 5’9/213 – Syracuse: 77
Josh Evans – 6’1/207 – Florida: 77
Zeke Motta – 6’2/213 – Notre Dame: 76
Eric Reid – 6’1/213 – LSU – 75
Tony Jefferson – 5’11/213 – Oklahoma: 73
T.J. McDonald – 6’3/219 – USC: 72
Duke Williams – 5’11/203 – Nevada: 70
Early Round Target (1st-2nd):
Kenny Vaccaro – Texas
Easy and fluid hips. Minimal effort to turn and run. Very agile and flexible, natural mover in space. Tenacious player that plays faster than he times. Will catch a lot of guys from behind. Closes a 10-15 yard window as fast as anyone. Explodes downhill and will play a physical game against the run. Good tackler that will wrap up. Versatile enough to play safety and cornerback. Was used all over the field in the Texas scheme. Always around the ball, a true gamer. May not be a deep cover safety. Doesn’t show the same speed when chasing the deep route runners. Will get reckless at times, losing track of assignments.
If there is one safety in consideration for round 1, it is Vaccaro. He almost came out last year after receiving a second round grade, but went back to refine some skills, notably as a cover man. Texas’ scheme had Vaccaro moving all over the field and he proved to be a true weapon the closer he moved to the line of scrimmage. He is a guy that plays as fast as the guy he is up against no matter what, something you don’t see often. His relentlessness in pursuit and ability to close a gap is Polamalu-esque, any scheme can use that. Vaccaro is the kind of player that comes in and gets on the field right away because he has such a versatile skill set that elevates the abilities of other players.
Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):
Shamarko Thomas – Syracuse
One of the biggest hitters in the nation. A brick house that brings a presence to every tackle he makes. Intimidator over the middle that makes in impact on receivers that cross it. Elite speed in coverage and pursuit. Moves at such a rapid pace but shows nice balance and body control. Processes his reads well and shows instinctive movement. Plays a reckless style and will overpursue. Needs to slow down sometimes. Not a consistent tackler, fails to wrap up. Ball skills are average in traffic, won’t get his hands on a lot of passes. Run defender that can be exposed in zone coverage.
One player comes to mind every single time I watch Thomas play: Bob Sanders. Now his career was cut short by injuries because of a reckless style within a small frame, but that doesn’t stop me from giving Thomas a similar grade to Elam. He is the guy that every defense wants in the middle of their secondary. He makes an impact on so many plays. When a physical force hustles the way Thomas does, big things can happen on a weekly basis. He is potentially a big time playmaker that can be had in the middle rounds.
Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):
Zeke Motta – Notre Dame
Big time presence that will be physically ready for the power of the NFL right away. Explosive downhill player that plays fast when the action is in front of him. Sound, physical tackler that makes in impact with each it. Takes proper angles in pursuit. Very aware and smart, quick reaction. Can cover tight ends step for step. Experienced in zone coverage. Not a guy you can trust in deep coverage. Doesn’t have a lot of range, lacks top end speed when running with back to the line of scrimmage. Stiff when moving laterally in coverage. Not very versatile.
I really hope the poor forty time bumps Motta down in to the later rounds because I think he is going to be a great value there. He lacks top end athletic traits when the speed is needed. He doesn’t have that extra gear that most safeties possess. But Motta stands out in every Notre Dame tape I watch because of how well he plays downhill. He can be a force in the box, similar to Bernard Pollard. He can cover the athletic tight ends all over the field. Hard worker that will make an impact on special teams. There are simply some guys that you just know will, at the very least, carve a niche for themselves in the league and consistently contribute. Motta is one of those guys.
The Giants have room on their roster for another safety, but there is enough within their group for 2013. Their starters are set and they have a couple of younger guys that are still progressing along with a veteran that can play both positions. Rolle has played very well over the past few seasons, but I still think they don’t have any star players back there. A top tier player back there can make a defense completely different because they are so frequently in the middle of the action. This scheme can do a lot with a versatile safety, thus if the value matches up when they are on the clock, this should be a consideration. There are a lot of guys in this class that I think are vastly overrated by the media. Guys like Rambo, Reid, McDonald and Swearinger are highlight-reel friendly but did not grade out as high on my sheet. I want a versatile athlete that plays with a consistent motor. Put him in to this depth chart and I think good things will happen.