Colts Draft: Scouting the Top Safeties


The Indianapolis Colts still have quite a few holes on the defensive side of the football with arguably the biggest still being at the safety position. Previously we looked at pass rushers and running backs, but now we’ll address the back of the team’s secondary.

While the Colts signed Dwight Lowery to help solidify the safety position alongside veteran Mike Adams, he’s more of a stopgap solution and is ideally a 3rd safety on a truly elite defense. With Adams recently turning 34 years old, and it’s clear that the Colts could use a long-term answer at the position at either safety spot.

This year’s safety crop is pretty thin in the draft, and most draft experts agree that there’s Alabama’s Landon Collins in the 1st round and then a significant drop-off after him. Even Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson believes that Collins “can do it all” and is the cream of this year’s safety crop per his pre-draft press conference on Thursday.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the Colts can’t find a young and talented safety in this year’s draft, as Arizona State’s Damarious Randall, Washington’s Shaq Thompson, Miami of Ohio’s Quinten Rollins, Stanford’s Alex Carter, Samford’s Jaquiski Tartt, Fresno State’s Derron Smith, Penn State’s Adrian Amos, Lousiville’s James Sample, and Northwestern’s Ibraheim Campbell have all flashed ability and potential among others.

If Collins comes off the board before the Colts select at #29 (which looks likely), the team may have to look to draft one of these “2nd-tier” safeties somewhere around Round 2-4. It doesn’t mean that these safeties cannot make an immediate impact, it just means they aren’t the surefire safety talent that Collins appears to be.

First, we’ll take a look at how each of these safeties fared at the NFL Combine or their respective pro days (if applicable):

To me, four safeties really stand out from a physical measurables standpoint in some of the bigger safeties like Alabama’s Landon Collins, Samford’s Jaquiski Tartt, Penn State’s Adrian Amos, as well as a lighter safety in Stanford’s Alex Carter:

  • Landon Collins: Despite being tied for the biggest safety of this group (with Shaq Thompson) at 228 pounds, Collins runs a fairly fast 4.53 forty time. Additionally, he boasts a 35 inch vertical jump, which is pretty impressive.
  • Jaquiski Tartt: The under-the-radar safety from Samford has the chance to become a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft, especially after looking over his exceptional physical measurables. Like Collins, Tartt is one of the biggest safeties of this group at 221 pounds, yet he still ran a 4.53 forty time and posted a really solid 3 cone drill time of 7.08. However, perhaps most impressive, was his broad jump of 124.0 inches, which led all safeties in this group.
  • Adrian Amos: Another “big safety” (sensing a trend?), Amos at 218 pounds still ran a 4.56 forty time. While Amos is likely a mid-round pick, his impressive combine measurables likely shot him up some draft boards. Amos showed off his athleticism with a 35.5 inch vertical, but what really stands out to me is his 4.03 20-yard shuttle, which was the fastest among all safeties.
  • Alex Carter: Carter’s one of the smallest safeties among this group at 196 pounds, but he ran well with a 4.51 forty time and simply “wowed” with a 40 inch vertical. The “little guys” at safety need some love too. 

Physical measurables aren’t everything, as running around in gym shorts to a stop watch is a lot different than playing safety in actual gameplay. However, it’s certainly an integral part of any scouting department’s prospect evaluation, just ask Ryan Grigson as it relates to the safety position:

"“We’ve been digging, and going through every single player and the further you get down on your board, the more warts appear with those spots,” said Grigson. “You know, there might be a guy that plays his tail off and you love the fact the film, but then you look at the height, weight, and speed, and they ran a 4.90 (forty-time),” added Grigson. “So you’re like, how am I going to draft a 4.90 safety? Or there might be a guy that plays lights out and you know, but he’s only 185 pounds. So you know you’re going to have significant drawbacks in some of those guys later.”"

After looking at their physical measurables, we’ll now shift our focus to their production in each of these respective safeties final year of football at the collegiate level:

Using the naked eye, from a tackles standout, Alabama’s Landon Collins and Arizona State’s Damarious Randall really jump-off the paper with 103 tackles and 106 tackles respectively. It really demonstrates their knack for finding the football, and their ability to make plays all over the field. However, Fresno State’s Derron Smith and Louisville’s James Sample‘s tackle production isn’t too shabby either with 93 tackles and 90 tackles in each’s own right.

Otherwise, nothing is really earth-shattering here except for Miami of Ohio’s Quinten Rollins 7 interceptions, which are 3 more than any other safeties output in this group. As a former basketball standout at Miami of Ohio, Rollins has displayed excellent ball skills despite his limited football background and has shown an uncanny ability to both find and get the football in the air.

Personal Preference

Obviously, if Landon Collins is still on the board at #29 and no premier pass rusher inexplicably falls to the Colts, then that’s a move that should be made, and made yesterday at that. It’s an easy, no-brainer decision because Collins can really do it all and has both the impressive physical measurables and collegiate production to back it up.

In the early 2nd-mid rounds, Damarious Randall and Jaquiski Tartt really stand out to me. Randall was incredibly productive at the collegiate level, while Tartt stands out as a small school sleeper with his strong physical measurables. Also, wouldn’t be upset with either Quinten Rollins or Derron Smith later on, as both have some pretty good upside and could help the Colts.

Nov 28, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Damarious Randall (3) reacts prior to the game against the Arizona Wildcats during the 88th annual territorial cup at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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