2015 NFL Scouting Combine Watch List: Safeties

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Nov 22, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Drew Morgan (80) carries the ball as Ole Miss Rebels defensive back Cody Prewitt (25) pursues during first half action at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

Cody Prewitt out of Ole Miss is one of the most highly regarded safeties in college football, second only to Alabama’s Landon Collins on most analysts’ lists. Having played his college ball in the SEC and not the Mountain West doubtless elevates him over Derron Smith on draft boards, and he could be gone as early as late in the first round or early in the second. He may not even be around when Reggie McKenzie is ready to draft a safety, and he also doesn’t really project strongly as a free safety at 6’2″ and 217 pounds with limited speed.

While he has been productive and at times looked like an elite safety, his game is limited: despite his good size he is not a very physical run defender, and he is a liability in man to man coverage against all but the most limited tight ends, and his speed and burst are not great for a single-high defender.

Prewitt projects as a cover 2 defender, which makes him a likely poor fit for the Raider defense. Still, he is one of the most highly-regarded safeties in the draft, and Reggie McKenzie will likely want to get a good look at him in these drills:

1. Speed Turn Drill: The speed turn drill will show exactly where Prewitt is at with his footwork and fluidity, something it is difficult to grade him on using just game tape. An in the box strong safety – which is Prewitt’s size fit – will need to be able to make rapid changes of direction and burst, while a deep single-high or cover 2 safety needs to be able to close on and finish against deep balls. This drill measures it all.

2. Shuttle Run: 40 times are important for DB’s, and Prewitt may not do very well in the 40 yard dash. But if Prewitt can perform well in the shuttle runs, he can make up for it. A shuttle run is a more accurate assessment of a safety’s ability to explode quickly in a short area and rapidly change direction, and if he can do well here, he can show potential to be consistent at least playing a deep half or deep third.

3. Bench Press: A safety doesn’t necessarily need the bench if he has great athletic ability and ball skills – look at the Cardinal’s Tyrann Matheiu. But a safety who is pushing 220 is going to be asked to play in the box, and if he can’t do well in the bench – at least somewhere around 15 reps – he is going to get his rear end kicked near the line of scrimmage. Also, a strong safety in a cover 3 or cover 1 defense is going to need upper-body strength to engage often much bigger tight ends close to the line of scrimmage and disrupt their routes. If Prewitt can’t do this – and his lack of physicality in the run game suggests he may struggle here – it will drop his stock significantly.

Next: Player to Watch: Josh Shaw