2013 Miami Dolphins Draft: Solution at Safety?

Joel Auerbach

Today it’s time to take a quick look at David Amerson, the cornerback out of North Carolina. While he does not possess the skill-set of a true lockdown cornerback that Miami sorely needs, he does have the skill-set to make a successful transition to the safety position in 2013. The question is….will that be with Miami?

One player getting lost in draft conversation is David Amerson. This is a guy who has seen his draft stock plummet after an indifferent year. Making thirteen interceptions in 2011, he was scheduled to be a top ten pick in the 2013 draft. However, things didn’t quite go to plan for Amerson in 2012. The cornerback got exposed multiple times by wide receivers; especially on those deep throws. For this reason, I think it’s fair to suggest that Amerson is not your typical shutdown corner in the Darrelle Revis mould. He’s not a physical man-to-man or press coverage guy. But that doesn’t mean Amerson will not have an NFL future ahead of him. His weaknesses and strengths could make him an ideal fit at the safety position. Lets take a look at some of his traits:

1. Tackling

There is one flaw to my plan, and I may as well get it out of the way first. In short, Amerson needs work on his tackling. While he actually showed steady improvement in this area from his sophomore to junior year, he is not yet NFL standard. He does a good job of wrapping his arms around the receiver, but does not hit the receiver with the force required to make the successful tackle. He leans into the player instead of jolting the receiver with the ‘pop’ you’d expect from a guy of his size. Having said this, I think this flaw can be coached out of him. We have an excellent defensive coordinator who has a history of getting the best out of his players dating back to his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. Once he works on his tackling technique, I can definitely see him as a starting free safety in the NFL.

2. Recovery Speed

For a cornerback, one of the first things a scout looks for is recovery speed. If a receiver gains a step on the cornerback, it’s essential the cornerback has the speed to make up the ground lost to the receiver. At the combine over the next few days, the fort-yard dash time is going to be incredibly important for these prospects. This presents a problem for Amerson because he will not run a 4.40 or 4.50 time; it’s more likely he will run a mid to late 4.50 time. In short, Amerson is quick, but not fast. This is one of the main reasons why he got beat deep numerous times this season, something that was especially apparent in the Clemson and Tennessee games. This downside to his game is one of the reasons why I don’t see him as a cornerback in the NFL. He will not be a shutdown cornerback at the next level.

3. Off-coverage

For all of Amerson’s weaknesses, his strengths scream safety to me. One of the reasons behind this is because he possesses the skill to play with his back to the end zone while having his eyes focused firmly on the quarterback, and it just so happens he’s very good at it. If you watch some of the tape, you will see that in most of his plays the linebacker is covering the slot receiver and the safety is positioned pretty close to Amerson in order to help him and mask some of his flaws. This makes it a lot easier on Amerson as he has less responsibility and less of the field to cover. This enables him to play the football, instead of the man. It’s one of the reasons why he got beat deep on a few plays last year, but his ability to play the ball will enable him to excel at the safety position.

4. Reading the passer

Amerson is always focusing on the quarterback’s position and body language. If the quarterback’s position is facing toward a wide receiver, Amerson is quick to process that information in his head and make the play. For example, when he’s running with the receiver, you’ll see him turn his head slightly to check what the quarterback is doing, and adjust his position accordingly. In fact, when the ball is thrown, he is very good at adjusting his body to make the catch, to the extent that he almost looks the part of a wide receiver. So overall, his ball-hawking skills are excellent

5. Size

Standing at six feet and two inches, and weighing one hundred and ninety four pounds, Amerson has the rare size for the position. He has the height to cover those athletic tight ends and the build to not get pushed around.

6. Intangibles

Amerson is no stranger to the safety position. He played safety during his high school years. This minimizes the risk of converting him from a cornerback to a safety. The guy also has a strong work ethic. He’s very competitive and is always striving to become a better player. From all accounts of what I have read, he is also is one of the top players in practice. When you combine this with his playing strengths, I think you have a very interesting prospect on your hands. We all know Joe Philbin prefers his players to have impeccable records, too.

Concluding thoughts

As of right now, Amerson looks like a late second round pick. Some commentators have even given him a third round grade. Now, that projection is likely to change in the coming days, weeks, and months. But as it stands, Amerson would provide great value to a team that is willing and smart enough to utilize his strengths properly. There are a few flaws to his game, and that is probably why he won’t make it at the cornerback position in the NFL. But some of his shortcomings are one of the reasons why he could make a pretty good safety. In particular, his ability to read the quarterback enables him to make interceptions. In a supposedly off-year, he still managed to make five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. It’s his ball-hawking ability that will turn heads toward converting him to a free safety. Lets hope Jeff Ireland is one of those guys.

Do you agree, or do you think I'm totally crackers? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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