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Redskins Could Address Safety In the Draft

Posted Apr 2, 2012

Despite the signing of Brandon Meriweather, the Redskins may still address safety in the NFL Draft. Notre Dame's Harrison Smith is a prospect to keep an eye on.


With LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe moving on this offseason, the Redskins entered the offseason with a glaring need at safety.

The team signed free agent Brandon Meriweather and he could be counted on as a starter at strong safety in Jim Haslett’s 3-4 defense.

Holdovers DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty, both starters late last season, round out the safety corps. They are thought to be natural strong safeties, but they also have experience playing free safety.

Cornerback Kevin Barnes played some safety during the 2010 season and free agent pickup Cedric Griffin, also a cornerback, has been mentioned as having the skill set to play safety.

Even with Barnes and Griffin potentially in the equation, the Redskins may need to address the safety position with one of their mid-round picks.

In a recent pre-draft conference call with reporters, ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. said several safeties in this year’s draft have “a chance to be very good” in what is generally regarded as a weak class.

“There are really only, in the first two rounds, three safeties that will come off the board,” Kiper said.

Alabama’s Mark Barron is considered the top prospect, a likely mid-to-late first round selection. He had 12 interceptions the last three years for the Crimson Tide.

It’s unlikely that Barron will fall to the Redskins, who traded away their second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams in the deal that netted the second overall pick in the draft.

After the first round, the Redskins are not slated to pick again until the third round, at No. 69 overall.

Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith is mostly regarded as a second-round pick. If he should fall to the third round, then he could be a target for the Redskins at No. 69 overall.

Smith may lack elite speed in coverage – he played some linebacker for the Irish as well – but scouts say he plays with great instincts.

A four-year starter for the Irish, he posted 309 tackles, seven interceptions and 28 pass break-ups in his college career.

Both Barron and Smith are regarded as strong safeties, though. Given the presence of Meriweather, the Redskins may have a greater need for a young free safety.

Boise State’s George Iloka and Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin are thought to be the best free safety prospects.

Iloka lined up at both safety and cornerback at Boise State, where he started his final 45 games and finished with 231 tackles, seven interceptions and 14 pass break-ups.

His 6-4, 222-pound frame could help him match up against taller tight ends, especially if he maintains his speed.

Martin is a sound coverage safety but scouts say he needs technique work when it comes to tackling. He logged 178 tackles, three interceptions and 36 pass break-ups in his career.

Kiper mentioned Syracuse’s Phillip Thomas, LSU’s Brandon Taylor, South Carolina’s Antonio Allen safeties to keep an eye on in the draft.

Thomas moved up draft boards after he logged six interceptions last year. He finished with 203 tackles, nine interceptions and six pass break-ups.

Thomas, a free safety, opted to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season following his suspension from Syracuse for violating athletic department rules.

Taylor, a strong safety prospect, was an “unsung” safety in LSU’s defensive backfield, Kiper said.

A team captain, Taylor started 33 of 49 games in his college career and had 160 tackles, 15 pass break-ups and four interceptions.

Allen was coached by the Redskins at the Senior Bowl. At South Carolina, he had 197 tackles, eight pass break-ups and four interceptions.