To avoid making future draft mistakes we must first learn from the past. Although every draft is different, there have been some trends that have played out over the years. Based on draft results from 2000-2010, here are some of the facts we’ve encountered about the safety position.
The safety position is becoming more and more important as passing game’s evolve. Safety is no longer a spot in which teams can just plug in a player off the street and receive solid play. Teams must find more talented players for their last line of defense.
Although safety is the least drafted defensive position in the first round, it has paid dividends to those teams who have taken the plunge. Our research has shown that of the 13 safeties selected in Round 1, nine have worked out and become solid starters for a hit rate of 69.2 percent. Former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu was a former first-round pick, as were former Pro Bowlers Ed Reed, Sean Taylor and Michael Griffin. With those great players there has been an Adam Archuleta and a Reggie Nelson thrown in, but the safety position has overwhelmingly been the “safest” defensive pick of the first round- which bodes well for whatever team selects Alabama’s Mark Barron.
What about the second round?
Just like every other position, the hit percentage at safety drops when you move from the first round to the second. Of the 27 safeties selected in Round 2, 12 have worked out for a hit rate of 44.4 percent. The near-50 percent hit rate is the best of any defensive position in the second round. Round 2 has yielded solid starters such as Mike Brown, Deon Grant, Madieu Williams, Eric Weddle and Pro Bowler Nick Collins. Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith may be a starting safety that can be had in Round 2..
Can you find a starter in Round 3?
The safety position takes a pretty big hit when we go from the second round to the third round. Of the 16 safeties selected in Round 3, just five have worked out for a hit rate of 31.3 percent. The best of the bunch is the Atlanta Falcons Thomas DeCoud, who has become a solid starter. Otherwise, finding a starting safety in Round 3 is a tall task.
What about the late rounds?
Although safety is becoming a premium position, there has been solid success in the later rounds. 12 of 50 safeties selected from Rounds 4-7 have been solid starters (24 percent), which is the highest percentage of any position in football. Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea, Kerry Rhodes, Chris Harris and Dawan Landry are some of the most notable late-round alumni at the safety position.
In summation, the safety position yields the highest hit percentage of any defensive position. Like most positions, the elite players are former first-round picks such as Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, but there has been solid selections in each round. There’s safety in numbers and the numbers look pretty good at safety. Now that you have the information, draft accordingly.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/nflcharlie"