With the recent release of fan favorite, Yeremiah Bell, the Miami Dolphins have a significant void at safety. Though Miami has signed Richard Marshall, who is a very versatile player, Miami must fill this need through the draft. There are 4 main prospects who seem to get most of the attention, and many guys who have the talent, but have not quite put it all together.
Although the draft class seems thin at the position, there are a few hidden gems Miami could uncover. Mark Barron and Harrison Smith headline this thin safety class, followed by the likes of Brandon Taylor and Markelle Martin. After these two main groups, there seems to be a major drop off, but there are three guys that stand out as possible contributors during their rookie year.
George Iloka (Boise State) – When I see this kid play at 6’4” 225 pounds, he almost looks like a weak-side linebacker. He possesses good size and speed for a kid of his stature. He is very impressive while the ball carrier is in his sights, even more so when the ball is in the air. Iloka shows great tackling and zone coverage ability, but I question whether he can stick with the new breed of tight ends. Although on film he seems much faster than his 4.6 forty says, he seems to get lost while stuck in man coverage (He was dominated by former Georgia Tight End Orson Charles during the first game of the season). I can definitely see Iloka playing in a 4-3 scheme at weak-side linebacker, following in the foot steps of Thomas Davis, of the Carolina Panthers.
Grade: 3rd – 5th round
Kelcie McCray (Arkansas State) – McCray is a decent strong safety prospect at 6’2” 202 pounds. First off, this kid does not look like he is 202 pounds. He looks like he should be in the next Arnold Classic. Any who, this kid reminds me of Atlanta’s Thomas DeCoud. Both are very similar in size, speed and play style. Kelcie possesses all of the tools to be a top notch safety, unlike Decoud who seems to be more involved in run support. Although McCray did not play against “elite” talent at Arkansas State, he showed ball hawking skills throughout his career. He is a very solid safety in run support and in coverage (over the top and man on man). He has above average tackling ability, and show’s great ability to track both the ball and ball carrier down. Though McCray seems to get lost before the play begins, this is something that can be taught. If McCray can learn offensive schemes and formations, he very well could turn into something special.
Grade: 4th – 6th
Charles Mitchell (Mississippi State) – Mitchell is better suited for a box safety type of role, similar to that of Yeremiah Bell. At 5’11” 202 pounds, Mitchell seems like the prototypical strong safety, but lacks in the play making aspect of the position. I am a strong believer that being a “ball hawk” is an instinct, so I do not believe that Mitchell can learn how to be one. But, I do believe that he can turn into a solid strong safety if a team like the Eagles or the Buccaneers were to draft him. Mitchell needs above average corners along the outside to help blanket him, especially when he gets into coverage issues. Although Mitchell has issues with coverages, he is a solid tackler. He is better suited to play in the box, or in a Tampa 2 scheme where he can roam in a zone. NFL.com believes that Mitchell will be no more than a serviceable back-up, but I beg to differ. This kid reminds me of Bob Sanders. He plays so much bigger than he actually is. Mitchell, like Sanders, can make a huge difference in the run game. If Mitchell can figure out a way to make more plays against the pass, watch out!
Grade: 6th – 7th
Although Miami could, more likely should, go after a safety with one of their top picks, they should definitely give these three kids a look. I strongly believe that Kelcie McCray will become a top notch safety in this league after a few years of coaching, and putting in some major work to get faster and stronger. Iloka probably will be better suited at weak-side linebacker, and Mitchell (at the very least) will be a special teams ace for a team in the beginning of his career. Do not be surprised to see Miami take a look at one of these prospects with one of Jeff Ireland’s valuable picks (after all, it could save his job).