2014 Combine Preview: Safety

Posted Feb 15, 2014

Considering the high value placed on quality safeties in today's NFL, the Lions are in need after the release of Louis Delmas earlier this week

Glover QuinS Glover Quin (left) was a quality free agent signing last year. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off next week in Indianapolis and it'll give teams like the Detroit Lions a chance to get real measurables and medical reports on the more than 300 prospects expected to take part.

It's an opportunity for teams to get a lot of information for their draft boards and start to put names with needs.

In the days leading up to the Combine, we'll take a look at some of the Lions' biggest needs this offseason, what prospects could fill those spots and what questions need to be answered in Indianapolis next week.

Why do the Lions need another safety?

Look no further than Thursday's announcement that Louis Delmas was released in a cap-cutting move that saves the Lions $6 million in 2014.

There's always a chance Delmas can return at a reduced rate after he explores free agency, but this is now an even bigger position of need than it was before.

Delmas played in all 16 games this season after missing 13 games the previous two years, but his lack of practice time due to knee troubles had an effect on his game.

When healthy, Delmas was one of the better cover corners in the league. He was good against slot receivers and tight ends. The knee troubles look to have effected his lateral movement and he wasn't quite the same player.

The Lions like Glover Quin and Don Carey, but it seems time to add a playmaking youngster to that group, either via free agency or the draft.

It's a bigger need than some fans might think. The safety position in today's NFL is so valuable as a second-level run stopper and a player who can match up in the slot against multiple-receiver sets and against some of the more versatile tight ends in the league.

Where does the roster stand?

Quin turned out to be a very good free agent signing last offseason, despite playing through an ankle injury for most of the year. He a solid pro who's always in the right spot.

The Lions re-signed Carey in December to a three-year contract. Carey has made plays when given a chance to play safety, but his biggest impact is as one of the better special teams performers in the league. Carey started six games in 2012 and finished with two interceptions and defended five passes. Is he ready for a full-time starting role or is he a terrific insurance policy as a No. 3?

The Lions also have DeJon Gomes and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah under contract. Isa Abdul-Quddus, who the team claimed off waivers earlier this month, is a restricted free agent.

Standout special teamer John Wendling is a free agent.

Who could fit in the draft?

There has been a recent trend the last couple years of first-round safeties being able to step in help teams right away. Mark Barron (Tamps Bay), Harrison Smith (Minnesota), Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans), Eric Reid (San Francisco) and Matt Elam (Baltimore) were all first-round picks the last two seasons and all five became full-time starters and productive players as rookies. Reid earned a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie.

Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6-1, 208) and Louisville's Calvin Pryor (6-2, 208) could join the above players as instant-impact players in the first round of this year's draft.

Clinton-Dix ran a pro-style defense at Alabama and is considered a mid-first-round pick. Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 1 safety and the No. 2 defensive back among draft-eligible players. Depending on his workout in Indianapolis, he could potentially be in play at No. 10 for the Lions.

Pryor is considered a complete safety with size and range and should be a mid-to-late round pick in the first round.

Both players have the size new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin covets.

If the Lions go a different route at No. 10, USC's Dion Bailey (6-0, 210), Northern Illinois' Jimmy Ward (5-10, 191), Washington State's Deone Bucannon (6-0, 216) and Florida State's Terrence Brooks (5-11, 197) could all be options in Day 2 or 3.

What do the Lions want to learn from the position in Indianapolis?

  • They'll certainly want to ask Clinton-Dix about a two-game suspension he served midway through the season for receiving an improper benefit.
  • Are Clinton-Dix and Pryor in the same mold as the five safeties selected in the first round of the last two drafts? The scouts and personnel department have seen the film and have started to form their opinions on that subject. Next week the scouts and personnel people will see if the Combine numbers correlate.
  • This isn't considered a deep safety class. Are there mid-round finds and diamonds in the rough in this class, or do the Lions have to look to snag a safety in the first two days if they want an immediate impact player?