Last year, Rahim Moore snagged ten interceptions for the UCLA Bruins. This year, he only managed to grab one. Coincidentally, during last year's NFL Draft there were ten relatively highly-touted safety prospects. This year, there will only be one.
Moore, who lists Baltimore's Ed Reed as the player he most admires, certainly has the magnetic hands and locker-room persona that Reed has displayed over his years in a Ravens uniform. Like Reed, Moore always seems to be in the correct position to make a big play to change the game.
His instincts are off the charts while playing in zone. Moore makes lightning-quick breaks on the ball and his great hands do the rest. As good as he has played, Moore has also stayed very humble and was reportedly a great leader in the UCLA locker room.
At 6-foot-0 and just under 200 pounds, Moore might look more like a cornerback than a safety. That said, he hasn't had any durability problems so far in his career. What he haven't seen is, at that size, will he be able to play man against tight ends and slot receivers.
The safety position is increasingly becoming more important in the NFL. Rookies Eric Berry of the Chiefs and Earl Thomas of the Seahawks provided immediate impact for their teams, leading them to the playoffs in 2010 after disappointing 2009 campaigns.
The Chargers are one of the teams that will be looking for a similar turnaround in 2011. Moore would pair well with Eric Weddle and fill an important need in the Chargers secondary. Sitting at pick 18 in the first round, Moore should be available.
The aforementioned Ed Reed has threatened retirement before, and if he is going to follow-up on those threats anytime soon the Ravens will need to find his replacement. Rahim would jump at the chance to follow in the footsteps of his idol in Baltimore. The Ravens pick at 26, which means they might need to trade up a bit if they want to get Moore for sure.
Houston has had one of the worst passing defenses consistently over the last few years. The addition of Moore, even if safety might not be their most pressing need, would certainly do much to address the Texans' deficiencies in their backfield. Picking Moore at 11 would certainly be a reach, but trading down or back into the first round using their 2nd round pick might be an option.
New England is in a similar situation, with a sub-par passing defense holding the team back. Brandon Meriweather, even with his multiple Pro Bowl nods, has been inconsistent, while Jarrad Page and Brandon McGowan are currently set to be free agents. With two picks in the 1st round, 17 and 28, the Patriots could afford to take a luxury pick.
If any of these teams miss out on Moore, there a few other options in what is a pretty weak safety class in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Ahmad Black, Florida - HT: 5' 9" WT: 190 lba.
Black is another "tweener", measuring 5'9" and weighing in at 190 pounds. Black's good instincts and great ball skills help him overcome his small stature, and he throws his body around like he was a much bigger player. Black is the consummate leader, competitor and warrior - think of a Tim Tebow in the defensive backfield.
Deunta Williams, North Carolina - HT: 6" 2" WT: 210 lbs
Williams is more of a classic safety. He is recovering from a year-ending injury in 2010, so he will have to be cleared by the medical staff before he is selected by any NFL teams.
DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson - HT: 6' 0" WT: 203 lbs.
If you want a big-play safety, this is your guy. He remind us a lot of Brandon Meriweather of the New England Patriots, both the good and the bad. He takes poor angles and will miss some tackles, but also delivers big hits and big interceptions at critical times.
Tyler Sash, Iowa - HT: 6' 1" WT: 210 lbs.
es it for us here over the likes of Quinton Carter of Oklahoma and Robert Sands of West Virginia. The Iowan has a knack for making big plays at critical times and is as athletic as any other safety in this draft. He needs to work on his man coverage skills, but he will be a special-teams demon and a fine in-the-box safety.
Sleeper: Anthony Walters, Delaware - HT: 6' 0" WT: 201 lbs.
Walters is a small-school prospect that has the size and speed to contribute as a 3rd safety in the NFL. He can man up against slot receivers and tight ends, while staying stouter against the run than most corners. Walters could be an interesting pick-up in the late rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft.
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James Christensen's scouting updates will appear here on PatriotsInsider.com throughout the year. James is the publisher of NEPatriotsDraft.com, an independent website dedicated to covering the NFL Draft and college prospects with professional potential.