Detroit Lions should be able to find a good cover safety early in this year's draft

Posted Feb 24, 2013

A good cover-safety is becoming a trend in the pass-happy NFL of this day and age. lead writer Tim Twentyman believes the Lions should be able to fill that need in the early rounds of this year's draft.

INDIANAPOLIS - A lot of teams around the NFL are intrigued by the Seattle Seahawks model to building a secondary. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner measure in at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4, respectively. Even free safety Kam Chancellor measures in at 6-foot-3 for the Seahawks.

But Seattle's secondary isn't one of the best in the league because they can match up with a community college basketball team, they're one of the best because they have the right mix of physicality with the above-mentioned players and one of the best cover safeties in the league in Earl Thomas (5-foot-10).

It's Thomas' ability to cover that allows the Seahawks to be as effective as they are.

The Lions have a big need at safety and are particularly on the lookout for a safety with cover skills after giving up 13 pass plays of 40-plus yards in 2012, the second most in the NFL.

This year's class at safety is deep with talent. It's particularly heavy at the top with players astute in coverage skills.

Kenny VaccaroTexas' Kenny Vaccaro (6-0, 214) is the head of the class as a versatile player who's the complete package. He can play both safety spots and has experience in the nickel, dime and even at cornerback.

"Earl (Thomas) has to be one of (my) biggest mentors," Vaccaro said down at the NFL Scouting Combine Sunday. "I'm actually training with his brother Seth Thomas out in Irvine (Texas) and me and Earl talk all the time.

"The Big 12 is such a pass-happy conference that (being able to) play in space (was necessary)."

Vaccaro is considered a top-15 prospect and could potentially get some consideration from the Lions at No. 5, depending on how much they feel his skills translate to their scheme.

Even if Vaccaro isn't the selection at No. 5, there are plenty of safeties with second- and third-round grades with very good cover skills.

Florida's Matt Elam (5-10) is an undersized safety - like Thomas - who's recorded six interceptions his last two seasons at Florida.

"I think my athletic ability separates me a lot," said Elam, who's considered a second-round prospect. "I'm very confident in myself and I feel I can do a lot of things for teams."

Another possibility for the Lions in that cover-safety mold could be a player like Georgia's Baccari Rambo, who the Lions coached down at the Senior Bowl.

Rambo's 16 career interceptions are tied for the Georgia record and he made a career out of being a ball hawk in that defense.

Rambo is a true cover safety with a second- or third-round grade right now.

"The past couple years I had a lot of interceptions," he said. "I didn't have too many big hits, so I consider myself a cover safety."

With the potential to lose starting safeties Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey to free agency, the Lions are in need of talent at safety.

Even if they re-sign Delmas, they'd ideally like to pair him with a cover safety that would allow defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to move Delmas around more and play to his strengths. Delmas is a better player when he's around the football, not 20 yards back in coverage.

It's the same reason the Lions reached out to veteran safety George Wilson in free agency, though Wilson ended up signing with the Titans this week.

They need to get better in the back end of their defense and a young cover safety makes a lot of sense.