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Size, speed make Davis attractive

4/18/2005

Here is how ESPN.com rates the top 10 safety prospects in the draft:

SS/OLB Thomas Davis (Georgia)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 1, 230 pounds, 4.52 in the 40.
Numbers game: In high school, played eight positions, including quarterback at one point. As a redshirt freshman and in his sophomore season, alternated between safety and strong-side linebacker. Played in 39 games, starting 29, and had 272 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10½ sacks, 27 pressures, three interceptions, nine passes defensed, six forced fumbles and nine recoveries. Blocked two punts and returned one for a score. Also scored a touchdown on an interception return. A consensus All-American and all-SEC in 2004 and a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award.
Upside: Incredible, freaky size, and moves well for such a big man. Explosive tackler who hits with a naturally rising action and drives through in textbook fashion. Can really de-cleat a ball carrier or receiver and is always looking for the knockout hit. Will put the fear of God in anyone who crosses through his zone. Good lateral quickness and closing speed. Tough and nasty and plays with passion. Loves the game and competes hard on every snap.
Downside: Kind of an in-between player, and some teams still aren't sure whether he is a safety or a weak-side linebacker. A little tight in the hips and doesn't always take good angles in pursuit. Not a great change-of-direction defender. Does not show great range, even when sitting back in a zone, and can't play single coverages. At times, a flat-out liability in pass coverage. Not exactly a ballhawk.
The dish: Size-speed ratio is jaw-dropping, and his lights-out hitting style is compelling. He's a certain first-rounder, perhaps in the top half of the round, but the team that takes him is going to have to design things so that he plays in the box, where he should be a huge component in stopping the run.


FS Brodney Pool (Oklahoma)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 1, 207 pounds, 4.52 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played in 12 games as a true freshman. Appeared in 39 games, with 25 starts, and had 171 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, two sacks, nine interceptions, 15 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one recovery. Also blocked two kicks. Named to the all-Big 12 team in 2004 and was a second-team All-American.
Upside: Good size and frame, and his long arms provide even more extension. Natural athlete who gets around the ball. Good diagnostician, sees the play, takes good angles and moves with economy. Might be fluid enough to play some "nickel" cornerback and is good enough in coverage to play over the slot. Makes nice reads on the quarterback and has range when the ball is in the air. Aggressive in supporting the run, comes up quickly to fill. Smart enough to make the coverage adjustments in the secondary.
Downside: Has a playmaker mind-set, but that sometimes works to his detriment since he is always looking for the game-altering event. Doesn't always play with urgency and will have some concentration lapses. Not a very physical tackler.
The dish: The best of the center-fielder-type safeties, looks like a first-round pick – and a guy who could be a Pro Bowl-caliber defender in time.

FS Josh Bullocks (Nebraska)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 0, 209 pounds, 4.46 in the 40.
Numbers game: Started in 28 of his 36 appearances, most of them playing alongside his brother, strong safety Daniel Bullocks. Finished career with 160 tackles, one tackle for loss, eight quarterback pressures, 13 interceptions, 17 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one recovery. Had 10 interceptions in 2003. Named all-Big 12 in 2003 and '04.
Upside: Tracks the ball well in the air and very aware in coverage. Particularly adept in playing "halves" zone schemes. Will flash some speed out of his breaks and is fluid in his movements on the ball. Good leaper, as indicated by 38-inch vertical jump. Nice hands and won't drop many interception opportunities.
Downside: Decent size but not great bulk and doesn't always play strong. Gets muscled off the ball by bigger receivers. Doesn't use his hands very well to redirect receivers. Will have to improve his single-cover skills. Seems to play a step slower than stopwatch times. A solid but not physical tackler.
The dish: Good blue-collar player with instinct and smarts. Should be a solid second-round selection.

SS Donte Nicholson (Oklahoma)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 1½, 209 pounds, 4.54 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played two seasons at Mount San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College before transferring to Oklahoma in 2003. A two-year starter, opened in all 27 contests in which he appeared. Had 162 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three interceptions, 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one recovery. An all-Big 12 choice in 2004.
Upside: Super-productive player with good size and intensity. Really springs into his tackles. Comes forward with a burst and will close down the running lanes. Good enough speed but more of a factor in zone coverages than in man-to-man. An effective blitzer with a keen sense of timing, especially on the delayed rush. Competitive and has a mean streak. Hard worker and very coachable.
Downside: Lacks recognition skills against the pass and gets caught peeking into the backfield too frequently. Will take poor angles and has some trouble fighting through the action and back to the ball. Slides off some tackles. Will need to use his hands better to disengage from blockers.
The dish: An in-the-box–style defender who should improve in coverage as he gets more exposure to the game. Solid second-round choice.

• FS Oshiomogho Atogwe (Stanford)
Vital statistics: 5 foot 11, 219 pounds, 4.52 in the 40.
Numbers game: A four-sport high school star in Canada, who spent much of his prep career at tailback. Started in 33 of 44 appearances and amassed 241 tackles, six tackles for loss, nine interceptions, 19 passes defensed, one sack, 11 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Had one touchdown on a fumble return. Voted all-Pac-10 in 2004. A member of the Stanford track team, competing in the long jump, the triple jump and the 200 meters, for two seasons.
Upside: Excellent positional player who has the instincts to be in the right place at the right time. Plays coverage with his head as much, maybe more even, as with his feet. Surprisingly fluid when he makes a break on the ball. Quick to support the run and a real downhill-type defender. Will stick and wrap in his tackles and moves his feet through the ball carrier. Knows how to slip a block, uses his hands well to keep blockers off his body and takes disciplined angles. An active, compact body.
Downside: Not as tall or long overall as you'd like. Will struggle in man-to-man scenarios and a step slow in playing "halves" zones. Not explosive, either in moving to the ball or in redirecting.
The dish: Wasn't even on scouts' radar screens a year ago, but once they discovered him, most teams liked what they saw. Should be a second-rounder.

FS Sean Considine (Iowa)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 0 1/8, 212 pounds, 4.50 in the 40.
Numbers game: Enrolled at Iowa as a walk-on and redshirted his freshman season. Played mostly on special teams in 2001. Appeared in 48 games and started in 23 of them. Registered 157 tackles, three tackles for loss, six interceptions, 13 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and five blocked kicks. Scored two touchdowns on fumble returns. Member of the conference all-academic team three straight years. Also selected to the team's Leadership Council as a senior.
Upside: Nice anticipation, and his ability to read plays quickly helps compensate for average running skills. Natural ability to sense the flow and to move to the ball without having to cheat by looking into the backfield. Spatial awareness is a big key for him. Basically, a student of the game, kind of a coach on the field. A better athlete than most people think. Superb special teams player as evidenced by five blocked kicks.
Downside: Lacks closing speed and might not be strong enough to take on tight ends and even some of the bigger wideouts. Not quick enough to play in the slot. Plays a little tall, so he struggled to plant and come out of his backpedal. Not a big hitter.
The dish: A career overachiever who gets by with smarts and guile. Should be an instant contributor on special teams. Could sneak into the second round, no worse than the third.

FS Nick Collins (Bethune-Cookman)
Vital statistics: 5 foot 11¼, 206 pounds, 4.38 in the 40.
Numbers game: In 35 games and 26 starts, totaled 101 tackles, four tackles for loss, 13 interceptions, 25 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three recoveries.
Upside: Solid, compact build, but lightning-fast speed and quickness. The kind of innate cover and movement abilities you don't just learn. Arrives at the ball in a hurry. Gets his hands on a lot of throws. A sudden, quick-twitch defender. Has played some cornerback.
Downside: Very raw, and lack of big-time competition makes him a little hesitant. Does not always play to speed. Only average footwork and, because his speed has always been enough to get him into the play, will take faulty angles. Kind of a tweener, who might end up playing cornerback at the next level.
The dish: An interesting and compelling guy who many teams have projected to corner. Has played both safety positions and has superb natural skills. Still a project, but if he slips into the third round, someone is going to get a steal.

SS/OLB Ernest Shazor (Michigan)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 3 5/8, 228 pounds, 4.63 in the 40.
Numbers game: Was a Parade Magazine and USA Today All-American in high school. In 35 appearances, including 25 starts, he accumulated 166 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, three sacks, four interceptions, 10 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and two recoveries. Scored one touchdown on an interception return. A consensus All-American and all-Big Ten team choice in 2004. Finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in '04.

Upside: Exceptional size and, as is the case with Thomas Davis, some teams feel he could eventually wind up at linebacker. Loves to hit. Will go out of his way to track down a back or receiver to lay the hammer on him. Can plant people. Plays mean and with a chip on his shoulder. At the bottom of a lot of piles and has some pass-rush skills.
Downside: Might be too big, and too stiff through the hips, for the position. Plays tall and doesn't always recover when he gets overextended. Very limited in coverage, even when playing zones, because he lacks awareness. Won't win any races, even with most tight ends, and struggles in transition.
The dish: His size, and potential to move to linebacker, will get him drafted a round or so higher than he should be.

FS Vincent Fuller (Virginia Tech)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 1 1/8, 189 pounds, 4.51 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played in 50 games with 20 starts. Concluded his career with 142 tackles, two tackles for loss, one-half sack, eight interceptions, 21 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three recoveries. Scored one touchdown each on fumble and blocked punt.
Upside: Has some exposure at cornerback, so his cover skills are better-developed than a lot of the safety prospects'. Moves economically to the ball and can snatch interception at the apex. Smart and aware and does a nice job reading the quarterback's eyes. Solid recovery and makeup speed, runs well enough to play in the slot.
Downside: Slight build, looks more like a cornerback, will struggle in traffic when he comes up to play the run. Doesn't always transition cleanly when he makes his breaks. Plays tall and loses some burst.
The dish: Might not be physically strong enough to play safety or swift enough to line up at cornerback. A nice, aware athlete who might be a career "nickel" defender.

FS Gerald Sensabaugh (North Carolina)
Vital statistics: 6 foot 0½, 214 pounds, 4.44 in the 40.
Numbers game: A three-year starter at Eastern Tennessee State, and twice was named to the all-conference team, but transferred to UNC in 2004 after ETSU shuttered its program. Between both schools, played in 46 games and started all but one of them. Posted 261 tackles, 14½ tackles for loss, eight sacks, four interceptions, 19 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and five recoveries. Blocked seven kicks in his career, including five in 2003, and tied an NCAA record with three blocked punts in one game. Scored once on an interception return and twice on fumble recoveries. Was chosen as the Tar Heels' most valuable player in 2004 and was named a team captain.
Upside: Great athlete, as evidenced by his 40 time and his amazing 46-inch vertical jump at the combine workouts. Almost lithe in his movements. Fluid and smooth in getting to the ball. Will support the run. Excellent special teams performer. Has the ability to really lay out and block punts. A hard worker who made the transition, late in his career, to a big-time program.
Downside: Because he played at a smaller school for three years, he got by on skill alone and developed some poor habits. Footwork needs refinement, and overall techniques are not as good as they will have to be. His speed is more linear than functional. Plays out of control at times. An average tackler.
The dish: Really raw and will have to go to a team that will exercise great patience in helping him to develop.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.