INDIANAPOLIS -- With the NFL on the lookout for safeties who can play physical and cover in space, the SEC is sending a group of versatile safeties to the 2013 NFL Draft. They won't last long on draft weekend.
Led by potential first rounders Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) and Jonathan Cyprien (FIU), this year's class of safeties is deep, but it's the group from college football's premier conference that is creating the buzz.
Although often overlooked due to his size, Florida's Matt Elam is determined to stand out, despite his shorter stature. And he is able to do so because of his physicality.
“I'm not the biggest safety, but I feel like I play hard and that makes me stand out,” Elam explained. “I love to strike people and I feel that will help me stand out the most.”
Elam cited his past experience on offense as the reason he likes to “deliver the blow” instead of receive them. But what about his ability to hold up in coverage?
“I feel I'm versatile, I can cover slot receivers,” Elam answered. “I can go down and cover, play in the box, play in the post, that will make me stand out.”
South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger is one of the most physical hitters in this draft class and prides himself not only on his production, but also his NFL skill set. If you ask him, he'll tell you he has all the skills it takes to make an impact at the pro level.
“First of all, you've got to have great instincts, great ball skills,” Swearinger said. “You've got to read coverages. You've got to be able to run, tackle in the open field and play the ball in the air.”
With experience at cornerback, nickelback and both safety spots, Swearinger feels ready and battle tested for what the NFL will bring. And a large reason for that is the weekly competition he faced in the SEC.
“The SEC is the best conference in America,” Swearinger said. “It's next to the NFL if you ask me. I haven't played in the NFL, but a lot of my past teammates say it's no different that the SEC, just more professional. I think that will be a big help with me going into the next level.”
Besides Elam and Swearinger, the SEC will also send Eric Reid (LSU), Josh Evans (Florida), Bacarri Rambo (Georgia), Shawn Williams (Georgia) and Robert Lester (Alabama) to the 2013 NFL Draft and several of them will be top-100 prospects. With a deep class of safeties, it can be a daunting task to try and match up with the rest of the talent in this group. But the SEC helped prepare these prospects for the competition on draft day.
“It's not nerve racking at all,” Swearinger said. “I see competition, I'm all for competition. I'm glad it is a deep class so I can show what I can do out here on Tuesday.”
Defensive backs will perform agility and positional drills on Tuesday.