Draft features strong safety class

Draft features strong safety class
March 25, 2013, 4:00 pm
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With the departure of Ed Reed via free agency, the Ravens secondary has become a glaring hole, with neither starter returning next season. Strong safety Bernard Pollard was released by the Ravens and has since signed with Tennessee.

That leaves James Ihedigbo, who started three games in place of the injured Pollard, as the Ravens most experienced safety. Other safeties on the roster include Christian Thompson, Omar Brown, Emmanuel Cook and Anthony Levine, who have hardly seen any time at safety.

The Ravens are window-shopping for free-agent safeties, and it's also likely they will turn to the draft. NFL Network analyst Matt Mayock said this year's draft has a "great safety class – best safety class I’ve seen in years."

So there should be plenty of talent still on the board when the Ravens pick at No. 32 and again in the second and even third rounds.

The Ravens, including compensatory picks, are sitting on 12 picks in next month's draft. And, with all those picks in hand, the Ravens could always deal a pick to move up in the draft for a better shot at a player. (Though they are not allowed to trade compensatory picks.)

Here are some of the top safeties in the upcoming draft class:

Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

This 6-0, 214-pounder is a physical player and strong against the run. His 40 time at the Combine (4.63) didn't rank among the top safeties, but he has strong instincts and athleticism. Vaccaro is viewed by many as the top safety in the draft, and it's likely he will not be around when the Ravens pick at No. 32. They might need to trade up if they really want him, but other solid options are still likely to be available.

Matt Elam, Florida

He's got the position in his genes; his brother, Abram, is a seven-year NFL veteran who played this past season for the Chiefs. Considered small by safety standards at 5-10, 208, Matt Elam projects as a strong safety with decent speed and is known as a big hitter.

Eric Reid, LSU

At 6-1, 213, has good size for the position with long arms and good hands. Reid was a First-Team All-American free safety at LSU, but could play either free or strong safety, which is a good thing since the Ravens at the moment need both. He is also known as a physical, hard hitter but sometimes is overly aggressive. Reid was just a junior this past season, but announced in January that he'd be coming out of college a year early.

Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International

Cyprien is a solid, physical player at 6-0, 217, and finished his collegiate career as Flordia International's career leader in tackles (365 ). He is considered one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the draft. Cyprien's stock rose after outstanding workouts at the Senior Bowl.

Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse

Listed at 5-foot-9 at the Combine, Thomas' size might be an issue but his physical play and speed are not. Thomas ran a 4.42 at the Combine, fastest among safeties, though he ended the run with a face-plant at the finish. He has shown the speed to stay with receivers and blitz off the edge, and the physical strength to make plays against the run.