As we start to head more heavily into free agency and the draft season, we wanted to start a series of posts that takes a look at the top five position players at each spot. Ed Valentine had a good idea with his series, so we're stealing a page from his work. So without further ado, we're going to starting piecing together lists of the top five prospects at each spot based on the Perfectly Coifed One's lists and then adding some consensus data (CBS, Fox, etc.) on round rankings.
Up first, the safeties.
Kenny Vaccaro- Texas - 6'1" 218 lbs (1st Round)
Matt Elam* - Florida - 5'10" 206 lbs (1st - 2nd Round)
Tony Jefferson* - Oklahoma - 5'10" 199 lbs (2nd Round)
Eric Reid* - LSU - 6'2" 208 lbs (2nd Round)
Phillip Thomas - Fresno State - 6'1" 215 lbs (2nd-3rd Round)
Jets Status: The Jets played two new free agent veterans at the spot last year and it was definitely an upgrade from 2011 and 2010. The wildly athletic LaRon Landry had a Pro Bowl season and Yeremiah Bell was a durable contributor as well for the team. The Jets drafted two younger players in Josh Bush and Antonio Allen in 2012 and of the two, Bush seemed to find a more natural fit. Bush is the coverage player, while Allen played a position in college that might approximate well to the "Big Nickel" role for the Jets should the team part ways with Eric Smith.
Analysis: Free safeties are much more prized than strong safeties in the modern NFL because of the need of safeties to so frequently defend the pass, whether from the safety spot or as an extra cornerback. For the first time in a few years, the safety class has a promising group of talented players that might go in the first three rounds. The top talent is Kenny Vaccaro, who played well in spite of the play of the Longhorns' defense. Vaccaro has protypical size and speed and has a penchant to be a playmaker. Elam is the younger brother of former Jet Abram Elam and is more set to be a strong safety type player. Elam might not have the prototypical size, but his vision and ability to read a play will make him a desirable player for a team in the NFL. Jefferson played at OU since his freshman year and was a huge contributor to the defense with 33 starts in his time with the team. Jefferson might lack some ideal size, but his versatility is his biggest strength. He can blitz, play the run, or cover very well. Eric Reid is an interesting prospect and some have said that he's a better player than Mark Barron was in last year's class ... but his biggest problem is his ability to read and diagnose a play. Because of this, Reid seems to be talked about as a solid second rounder at this point in the draft. Reid has the right size and can play well in coverage but has a tendency to not wrap up his tackles and to play a little over-aggressive, thereby taking himself out of a play. The last player, Phillip Thomas has not garnered the national attention he might deserve. Thomas broke his leg in 2011 which didn't help matters. Even so, Thomas is considered one of the nation's best playmakers and has a knack for committing turnovers in the air or on the ground. He's got prototypical size, but he's not as fast and will need to work on his agility to become a player that could stand out in this draft class.
Keep an Eye On ... : I think the Jets might be too high in the draft to pull the trigger on Vaccaro, and then unless they trade around they might not be in the right spot to land any of the other guys ... assuming Thomas doesn't impress with his Combine numbers, I could see the Jets calling Phillip Thomas's name at the top of the third round.