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We complete our preseason rankings of draft eligible players by position today by discussing the defensive backs.
1. David Amerson – North Carolina State: David Amerson was 2nd team All-American and 1st team All-ACC last season. He led the country (and set an ACC record) with 13 interceptions and two pick sixes. He was also #5 in the country in passes defensed. A repeat performance may be hard to achieve. I would imagine most teams will throw to the other side of the field. He has reportedly become a student of the game over the offseason and he could actually have a better 2012, but not have the same stats.
2. Johnathan Banks – Mississippi State: Johnathan Banks has the kind of size NFL teams covet. The former safety is 6’2” and 185 pounds. He is an experienced player, entering his third year as a starter. He had 5 interceptions in 2011, one of which he returned for a score against Auburn. Banks has an added dimension as a punt returner which would make him more valuable on draft day.
3. Johnny Adams – Michigan State: Johnny Adams was 2nd team All-Big Ten in 2010 and 1st team All-Big Ten in 2011. He is among Michigan State’s all-time leaders in interception return yards. He plays good tight one on one coverage, but he sometimes gets too aggressive leading to penalties. He reads routes well and understands angles in pass coverage which allow him to break up a lot of passes.
4. Brodrick Brown – Oklahoma State: Brodrick Brown was 3rd team All-American and 1st team All-Big 12 last season. His 20 passes defensed were #3 in the country. He is only 5’8”, but makes up for his lack of size with tenaciousness. He is a bulldog that will fight bigger receivers for the ball. Brown has very good speed and competed in 2009 on the Cowboys track team.
5. Xavier Rhodes – Florida State: Xavier Rhodes is a big, physical 6’2” corner. He is a very good cover corner that is beginning his 3rd year as a starter. He has good speed and the ability to change direction quickly. He also had good hands and ball skills. His combination of size and athletic skills should make him a first or early second day pick next April.
1. T.J. McDonald – USC: T.J. McDonald was a 1st team All-PAC 12 selection in 2011. He is beginning his 3rd year as the starter at strong safety and is the leader of the Trojan secondary. McDonald has good size at 6’3” and 205 lbs and has NFL bloodlines. He is the son of former 49ers safety Tim McDonald.
2. Robert Lester – Alabama: Robert Lester is beginning his 3rd year as the starting free safety for the Crimson Tide and was an Honorable Mention All-American in 2011. Lester teamed with Mark Barron the last two years to give Alabama the best safety tandem in the country. This year, Lester will be on his own as Barron has moved on the NFL. Lester is a ball hawk with a nose for the football. He has the ball skills to play free safety at the next level, but at 210 lbs. has the size to play strong safety as well.
3. Bacarri Rambo – Georgia: It would be hard to find a better name in college football than Bacarri Rambo. It just sounds tough. Rambo was a 1st team All-American and 1st team All-SEC selection last season. He was #2 in the country with 8 interceptions. Rambo does a good job in the box in run support or over the top defending the deep pass. He is not afraid to stick his head in and make a tackle. He will be suspended the first 4 games due to a positive drug test, which may make him a risk on some team’s draft boards.
4. John Boyett – Oregon: John Boyett has been 2nd team All-PAC 12 the last two years as a free safety. He comes up quickly in run support and had a career best 90 tackles in 2011. Boyett does a good job reading he quarterback’s eyes, but he needs to work on making the pick more often.
5. Tony Jefferson – Oklahoma: Tony Jefferson was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection in 2011. He led his team with 4 interceptions and tied a team record with interceptions in one game against Ball State. Jefferson is beginning his 3rd year as the starting free safety. He has the ability to be a nickel back and cover slot receivers in man coverage. With more and more teams going to 2 tight ends or 3 wide receivers, that skill can be a valuable asset at the next level.
by Dwayne Wilton