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2014 NFL Draft Rankings: Safeties
By Matt Horkman

1. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Perhaps no other prospect of this class plays with a chip on his shoulder as much as Joyner does. He is just 5-foot-8, so his height may drop him to day two of the draft, but Joyner displays all the necessary attributes to develop into a shorter version of Eric Weddle. He is incredibly instinctive, playing his best when he’s able to freelance. He’s a playmaker. He’ll intercept passes, force fumbles, and blitz the quarterback. He’s an outstanding tackler, capable of laying the wood. He had a monster performance against Clemson, where he forced two first-quarter fumbles and intercepted a pass later in the game. Overall, Joyner is a hybrid safety-corner capable of covering the slot. 

2. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
With good size and the physicality to play in the box, Clinton-Dix projects to go on day one. He reads and reacts well, taking good tackling angles. Sometimes he goes for the big pop instead of wrapping up. He is discipline. He knows his assignment and trusts his teammates to do their jobs. Clinton-Dix balances out his game well. He shows enough athleticism to thrive on the backend, but he also pounces on ball carriers in run support.

3. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Pryor can deliver a blow. He serves as an intimidator on the backend, though he knows when to pick his spots. He isn’t somebody who is going to launch himself at an opponent just for the sake of it. His timing is really good. In fact, his tackling fundamentals are superb. Pryor has a nose for the football. In many ways, he somewhat compares to Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu. He isn’t going to cover the slot or matchup well in coverage, but he trusts his instincts, and he’ll normally be one of the most physical players on the field.

4. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
One of the finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, Ward displays toughness against the run, but also enough athleticism to operate on the backend. In addition, he’s good enough to cover the slot. A foot injury prevented him from working out at the combine, but his tape -- especially his 2013 Orange Bowl performance against Florida State -- is very good. Ward is a solid second round prospect. The more you see, the more you like.

5. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
An excellent run defender, Bucannon is a playmaker with terrific athleticism. He had an excellent combine workout, posting high numbers in most of the major events. He was productive. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and finished as a first-team All-American. He has the experience to contribute immediately. He’s a solid day two prospect.

6. Terrance Brooks, Florida State
Aggressive and athletic, Brooks brings a lot of upside to the table. He does a nice job in run support and his instincts are very good. He’s versatile enough to cover the slot. Overall, Brooks is a polished day two prospect with his best football in front of him. He could be a little more productive, but Florida State’s front was so good that it may have limited his production.

7. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
An in-the-box safety, Dixon is tough against the run and wraps up well. His coverage skills are inconsistent. He struggled in coverage at the Senior Bowl, though he has shown the ability to cover the slot before. Rumors suggested he ran a sub 4.40 40-yard dash, but the pre-draft process debunked this. Still, Dixon has the size, fundamentals, and physicality to start in the NFL. He just needs to show more consistency in coverage.

8. Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Reynolds is a backend safety with good instincts. He is put together (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) and does a good job of diagnosing plays. He was productive, earning All-Pac-12 honors twice. He’ll likely develop into an expendable starter, but a starter nonetheless.

9. Walt Aikens, Liberty
Aikens is a small school corner that may play safety in the pros. He doesn’t do good job of finding the ball in the air, though his technique is polished. He has good size (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) and physicality. Overall, Aikens has the size and ball skills of a free safety. His time at cornerback should allow him to step up and cover the slot.

10. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
Coming off a productive season, Lewis is a strong safety prospect. He hits hard, covers well, and plays in the box. He flies around the field, playing with reckless abandonment. He needs to work on his tackling fundamentals. He tries too much to deliver the knockout punch.

Best of the Rest
Dion Bailey, USC
Dontae Johnson, N.C. State
Craig Loston, LSU
Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech
Brock Vereen, Minnesota

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