Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Safety

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In the Draft Overview series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The position I am looking at today is:


Detroit had some competition last year at the safety spot between James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul-Quddus, and now both players are gone. Detroit has brought in two safeties to compete for the job that is now wide open, Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush. Both of these players were backups last year and could compete for the starting job in Detroit. Isaiah Johnson and Don Carey are mostly used for special teams, but they could also be in the mix for the starting spot. Glover Quinn is the only stand-alone starter this team has at the position. The draft will be a good place to snag a possible starter or someone who will be used just for depth. Let’s take a look at who could be a future lion.

Draft Overview: Safety Options

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1. Vonn Bell – Ohio State

Bell has good man coverage skills. His field vision is impressive, he always seems to know where the ball is and can read the quarterback’s eyes well, knocking the ball out of the receivers hand or getting in front of the ball to end the play. He does have good jumping ability, so jump balls and high passes can turn into interceptions. When he gets beat, his tight hips slow him down. He’s been known to watch the quarterback a little too long and lose track of his receiver. On run plays, running backs can get leverage on him and his hits often lack impact which leaves him dragging players down instead of delivering a solid hit with an immediate tackle. He has shown that he can follow a receiver and hit them center mass when he is going downhill for the tackle. Zone coverage is also good as he knows his play space and where to go to help out a cornerback. Bell ended with 175 tackles, four for loss, one sack, nine interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 15 pass deflections and two fumble recoveries in his three year stay at Ohio State.

Bell is a second round option. Detroit might be content with the offensive line and take the a defensive tackle in the first, leaving safety as the next hole that needs some help. Bell could start for Detroit alongside Quinn on week 1.

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2. Jeremy Cash – Duke

Big and powerful are two words to describe Cash. He does his best when he is blitzing and trying to take down the running back. If Cash is in a zone coverage near the line, he isn’t afraid to leave coverage if the quarterback is near and take a good shot at him. He loves to get involved with every play and is tackle machine. Man coverage is something he needs to work on. His hips are tight, so quick changes of direction are hard for him. Cash is good in certain schemes, so he won’t be a full fledged starter. Cash has huge hands and big arms for the safety position, which helps him knock down balls, grab INTs, and wrap up during tackles. Cash loves to blitz and attack the quarterback, this netted him 8 sacks last season. With his speed, he can blow right by the defensive line and make the play a flop. Fullbacks and tight ends who have to block him have to give their all if they plan on stopping him. Cash ended with 335 tackles, 38 for loss, eight sacks, five interceptions, 14 pass deflections, five fumble recoveries and nine forced fumbles.

Cash is a third round pick. Detroit taking him would mean he could fight for the starting job, but he is better at blitz packages, so Detroit could draft him just for that. Cash could be a great fit for the right scheme, even if that isn’t in Detroit.

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3. Miles Killebrew – Southern Utah

Killebrew is a tall safety at 6 foot 2 and he ran a 4.5 at his pro day, which is fast for a guy his size. His tackling form is really solid and he doesn’t allow for broken tackles to happen. He doesn’t reach for any tackles, he waits for them to be available and everything. While he does have good patience, his instincts could improve. He isn’t good at run defense as he can’t read where the back will go next. He tends to also watch the quarterback too much and lose track of his assignment. When he gets on the line, he plays aggressive, but clean with his hands. Zone coverage is alright, but better at man. Has blocked kicks, so he can have an impact on special teams. Killebrew had 356 tackles, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, three interceptions and three blocked kicks in his career.

Killebrew is a forth round pick. While he possibly won’t start, he could contribute on special teams with his ability to block kicks. He could even replace Don Carey on Special Teams if he can impress enough.

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4. DeAndre Houston-Carson – William & Mary

DeAndre has good field vision. He can find his way to the ball carrier and have an impact on the play. Even when he is blocked, Carson can still be a factor in the play. He has power in his hits. While he hits hard, it can cost him the tackle. Players slip off him or bounce off, keeping the play alive. He is a former cornerback still learning the ways of safety, so he still has a lot to learn. His zone and man coverage skills are there since he was a former cornerback. He is another special teams player, with four blocked kicks in 2014. Carson had 293 tackles, 11.5 for loss, 34 pass deflections, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a whopping nine blocked kicks.

Carson is another fourth round option. He might have a better chance to start over Killebrew, but he would be a great addition to special teams. Nine blocked kicks is insane, while it will be way harder in the NFL, that presence on the field is great for a team.

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5. KJ Dillon – West Virginia

KJ has man and zone coverage abilities. He can deliver some good hits as well. He will run downhill to help his team out instead of staying back. His backpedal seems stiff so it takes him a while to get that going. If he gets beaten, he tends to hold which is something that can’t happen in the NFL. He doesn’t finish some of his hits also, a powerful back can knock him on his ass easily. His athleticism is there with how much he tries to be involved. If someone enters his zone, he notices and starts focusing on them. On short passes or screens, he can rupture some speed and get to the receiver. Dillon at West Virginia ended with 159 tackles, 17 for loss, half of a sack, four interceptions, 20 pass deflections, one fumble recovery and forced fumble.

Dillon is a fifth round pick. He wouldn’t have a chance to start, but he could provide depth in the safety position. If he can learn to not hold if he gets beat and improve his tackling, he could have a shot.

There you have it, another installment of the draft overview series. Next I will be looking at special teams. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts in the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.