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Draft Primer 2014: Safety

Posted Apr 14, 2014

Alabama's Clinton-Dix, Louisville's Pryor should be first two off the board

Alabama's Ha Ha Cinton-Dix (6) is expected to be a first-round draft pick.

The NFL draft will be held from May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Cardinals addressed several needs in free agency and are now zeroing in on their draft targets. We’ll take a look at each position over the next few weeks.

Draft primer: Safety

Cardinals under contract: Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson, Rashad Johnson, Orhian Johnson, Curtis Taylor.

Prospects by projected draft round:

First:  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Second: Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois, Deone Bucannon, Washington State, Terrence Brooks, Florida State

Third/fourth:  Ed Reynolds, Stanford , Craig Loston, LSU, Dion Bailey, USC, Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt, Ahmad Dixon, Baylor

Fifth or later: Daniel Sorensen, BYU, Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State, Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State, Marqueston Huff, Wyoming, Brock Vereen, Minnesota, Tre Boston, North Carolina, Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin, Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech, Nat Berhe, San Diego State.

Analysis: The safety position could be in play when the Cardinals draft at No. 20 overall in the first round. General Manager Steve Keim has stressed his philosophy of best player available, but if there are two similarly ranked players at safety and, say, wide receiver, the expectation would be for him to choose the defensive player because it is a bigger area of need.

Last year’s starting strong safety, Yeremiah Bell, is a free agent and could still return, although reports have him leaning toward retirement. Tyrann Mathieu took over as the starting free safety midway through 2013, but he tore multiple knee ligaments on Dec. 8 and is still in the midst of a lengthy rehabilitation. Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson are capable reserves. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are the two safeties expected to go in the first round. Clinton-Dix showed better coverage skills in college while Pryor was the bigger hitter. Pryor has been linked to the Cardinals in several mock drafts and could be an option if available.

Washington State’s Deone Bucannon might be a possibility on the second day of the draft. There are a variety of names pegged for the third day, and after finding Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Ellington beyond the first two rounds last year, the Cardinals are hoping for more late-round gems. Safety is a position of need and it would not be a surprise to see one selected by the team at some point in the draft.

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