The Eagles have really struggled at the safety position ever since Brian Dawkins left town. They have used second round draft picks on Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett the last two years, and neither player has panned out as they hoped.
Allen has been good at times but has struggled with injury early on. I still think the Eagles reached for Jarrett, but he was impacted by the NFL lockout and hasn’t seen the field much.
Questions surround the position heading into 2012, so the Eagles could potentially attempt to use the draft again to try and find stability. One player they may look at is Harrison Smith.
Smith is large for a safety, measuring in at 6-2, 213 pounds. He actually spent some time playing linebacker while at Notre Dame, but started and finished his collegiate career as a safety. Although he’s stronger against the run, he has shown strong abilities in pass defense at times as well.
In the NFL, it seems Smith will be better utilized up around the line of scrimmage rather than sitting back and playing center field. He’s known to be a strong tackler and a big hitter which wasn’t something the Eagles had at the safety position last season.
Smith is a very intelligent player with a strong football IQ. He doesn’t have top-level athleticism, but he makes up for it on the field by playing smart. I think this often shows in his pass coverage. There are times where a receiver is just more athletic, but he positions himself well enough that it isn’t a glaring hole.
Check out some footage of Smith against Andrew Luck and Stanford last season, via DraftBreakdown.com.
I’m really not sure how highly the Eagles will value the safety position come draft time. They already have a group of very young safeties who are still trying to develop. Can Allen stay healthy and get play at a consistently high level? Is there still hope for Jarrett? They also have Kurt Coleman who will likely never be a Pro Bowl player but has been a serviceable option as a seventh-round pick.
I think Smith is an intelligent and tough player. He does a lot of things that the Eagles safeties had trouble doing last year. However, he’s projected to be a second-round pick and I’m not sure if the Eagles are willing to spend a second-round pick on a safety for the third year in a row.
Maybe a third time could be the charm though?