First round could see four safeties chosen

Updated: September 20, 2006, 2:32 PM ET
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

The 2007 class of safeties projects as one of the strongest in more than a decade. In the last 15 drafts, no more than three safeties were selected in the first round in any year -- and that only occurred three times (1998, 2001, 2002). Looking ahead to next April, LaRon Landry (LSU), Brandon Meriweather (Miami-Fla.), Michael Griffin (Texas) and Aaron Rouse (Virginia Tech) all warrant opening-round consideration. Griffin and Rouse are bigger safeties, while Landry and Meriweather display better range in coverage. However, what makes all four such highly coveted prospects is their versatility to defend both the run and pass effectively.

INSIDE THE NFL DRAFT
With the college football season under way, NFL scouts are hard at work evaluating prospects for the 2007 draft. Our Scouts Inc. draft specialists are no different. DraftTracker 2007 already is loaded up with in-depth scouting reports on nearly 250 college seniors who are on the NFL's radar, and our guys are filing updates each week as the prospects perform on the field.
• NFL DraftTracker 2007
There also should be quality depth in next year's safety class, as Tom Zbikowski (Notre Dame), Eric Weddle (Utah), J.D. Nelson (Oregon), John Wendling (Wyoming), Willis Barringer (Michigan) and Michael Johnson (Arizona) all possess first-day potential.

In the 2006 draft, six of the top 15 defensive backs came from the underclass ranks. A similar trend is unlikely to unfold in next year's draft, as the vast majority of top defensive back talent hails from the senior class. There are a few young cornerbacks -- Antoine Cason (Arizona), Ambrose Wooden (Notre Dame), Darrelle Revis (Pittsburgh and D.J. Wolfe (Oklahoma) -- who could emerge as first-round competition, but all the elite safeties are seniors. On a side note, Zack Bowman ranked as one of the elite cornerback prospects in the 2007 class before suffering a season-ending knee injury in summer camp. Bowman will return to Nebraska for his final year of eligibility in 2007, making him available for the 2008 NFL draft.

Michigan's Leon Hall is the top cornerback prospect heading into the college football season. While he seems to come up a bit short in terms of elite size and speed, Hall is an outstanding natural athlete with playmaking instincts in coverage and impressive tackling skills in run support.

Marcus McCauley (Fresno State) and Fred Bennett (South Carolina) should compete with Hall to be the top cornerback taken in next year's draft. McCauley was overshadowed by Richard Marshall in 2005, but his exceptional combination of size and speed has NFL scouts drooling. Bennett also possesses elite height and speed, but he must improve his strength and consistency in coverage.

Safety Rod Rogers (Wisconsin) and CB Aaron Ross (Texas) are talented players who could skyrocket up the draft board with strong senior campaigns. Also watch for CB Tarell Brown (Texas) as he looks to rebound from a broken right arm suffered in the national championship Rose Bowl victory over USC.

Finally, the best small-school defensive back prospect to monitor is Hampton CB Travarous Bain, who is on the radar of NFL scouts because of his outstanding height and straight-line speed. And Bain's defensive backfield mate, Calvin Bannister, is a fringe late-round prospect in next year's class.

Top 30 Senior Defensive Back Prospects
Rnk Prospect, Pos, School Height Weight
1. Leon Hall, CB, Michigan 5-10 3/4 195
2. LaRon Landry, DS, LSU 6-2 204
3. Brandon Meriweather, DS, Miami-Fla. 6-0 190
4. Michael Griffin, DS, Texas 6-1 205
5. Aaron Rouse, DS, Virginia Tech 6-3 7/8 213
6. Marcus McCauley, CB, Fresno State 6-0 5/8 199
7. Fred Bennett, CB, South Carolina 6-2 186
8. Tom Zbikowski, DS, Notre Dame 5-11 3/8 213
9. Daymeion Hughes, CB, California 5-11 185
10. A.J. Davis, CB, N.C. State 5-9 3/4 186
11. Eric Weddle, DS, Utah 5-11 201
12. David Irons, CB, Auburn 5-10 1/4 188
13. J.D. Nelson, DS, Oregon 5-10 3/4 217
14. Tanard Jackson, CB, Syracuse 5-11 3/4 189
15. Tarell Brown, CB, Texas 5-11 185
16. John Wendling, DS, Wyoming 6-0 3/4 222
17. John Talley, CB, Duke 5-11 7/8 191
18. Willis Barringer, DS, Michigan 5-10 1/2 206
19. Michael Johnson, DS, Arizona 6-2 3/4 211
20. Ramzee Robinson, CB, Alabama 5-9 1/8 184
21. Rod Rogers, DS, Wisconsin 6-1 185
22. Travarous Bain, CB, Hampton 6-0 175
23. Tony Franklin, CB, Virginia 5-10 185
24. Aaron Ross, CB, Texas 6-0 190
25. Sabby Piscitelli, DS, Oregon State 6-2 3/4 223
26. Josh Gattis, DS, Wake Forest 6-1 213
27. Kenny Scott, CB, Georgia Tech 6-0 3/4 174
28. Wesley Smith, DS, Memphis 6-1 1/2 205
29. Zach Catanese, DS, Arizona State 6-2 1/4 220
30. C.J. Wilson, CB, Baylor 6-0 7/8 196

Top 10 Potential Early Entries
Rnk Prospect, Pos, School Height Weight
1. Zack Bowman, CB, Nebraska 6-1 3/4 190
2. Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona 6-0 188
3. Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh 6-0 1/2 191
4. Josh Pinkard, DS, USC 6-1 205
5. Reggie Nelson, DS, Florida 6-0 202
6. Eric Wright, UNLV 5-11 180
7. D.J. Wolfe, CB, Oklahoma 5-10 1/2 197
8. Roshaun Fellows, CB, Tennessee 6-0 3/4 189
9. Ambrose Wooden, CB, Notre Dame 5-11 5/8 195
10. Jonathan Hefney, DS, Tennessee 5-10 185

Day 1 Defensive Backs in 2006 NFL Draft
Rnk Prospect, Pos, School Team Round (Overall)
1. Michael Huff, CB, Texas Raiders First (7)
2. Donte Whitner, DS, Ohio State Bills First (8)
3. Tye Hill, CB, Clemson Rams First (15)
4. Jason Allen, DS, Tennessee Dolphins First (16)
5. Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State Chargers First (19)
6. Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina Bengals First (24)
7. Kelly Jennings, CB, Miami-Fla. Seahawks First (31)
8. Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech Falcons Second (37)
9. Daniel Bullocks, DS, Nebraska Lions Second (40)
10. Danieal Manning, DS, Abilene Christian Bears Second (42)
11. Roman Harper, DS, Alabama Saints Second (43)
12. Cedric Griffin, CB, Texas Vikings Second (48)
13. Bernard Pollard, DS, Purdue Chiefs Second (54)
14. Richard Marshall, CB, Fresno State Panthers Second (58)
15. Tim Jennings, CB, Georgia Colts Second (62)

Three-Year Tally

The following is a graphic representation of the number of defensive backs (corners and safeties) selected in each round of the previous three NFL drafts. Most NFL teams use this type of chart to study position trends when setting up their respective draft boards each year.

Defensive Corners
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 5 5 4 4.7
2 4 7 5 5.3
3 2 7 7 5.3
4 1 2 5 2.7
5 2 2 2 2
6 4 1 7 4
7 3 4 5 4
Total 21 28 35 28

Defensive Safeties
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 2 1 1 1.3
2 4 3 2 3
3 2 1 1 1.3
4 4 7 4 5
5 4 5 3 4
6 4 3 1 2.7
7 3 3 1 2.3
Total 23 23 13 19.7

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