The safety position is an interesting one for the Falcons. In Seattle, Quinn had a formidable pairing in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. In Atlanta, he's inheriting a lot of question marks. William Moore is a good player, but can he be relied upon for 16 games? Is Kemal Ishmael a worthy starter or nickel player? Is Dezmen Southward ready for a bigger role or is he in line for a position change? Is Charles Godfrey an answer at free safety?
For a position of utmost importance in Quinn's defense in Seattle, there are a lot of questions in Atlanta.
Our Current Guys
Let's start with our veteran strong safety William Moore. It's easy to pigeon-hole Moore as a strong-safety, but the reality is he probably has the ability to play in the box or in center field. He's got good speed (4.56/40) and he's a very physical player. The biggest issue Moore has is his propensity to get injured. In his 6 seasons in the NFL, he's only had 2 seasons where he's played all 16 games. He only played in 7 last year. But when healthy, he's a quality starter with the ability to play at either position.
Due to the rash of injuries last year, Kemal Ishmael received quite a bit of playing time. While he had an impressive 4 interceptions, he also had several instances of getting beat (often badly) in deep coverage. He seems to project better at strong safety, but lacks ideal size for the position. But his performance last year warrants keeping him around, and he looks to be a young player with some upside to be developed. He's a player to keep an eye on.
Dezmen Southward was an "interesting" pick in the third round last year. On the one hand, he's a player with the physical tools to be a very good player. At 6'2" and 209lbs, Southward had a very impressive pro-day, logging a 4.38 in the 40 and 10'04" in the broad jump. But Southward lacks experience and in many ways is still learning the safety position. There's also talk that he could be moved to the CB position, so he may not even be a factor at safety for the Falcons.
Finally, we have Charles Godfrey. Godfrey struggled to find success in Carolina but he's someone to keep an eye on. He's got decent speed and may have been misused with the Panthers. As more of a true roaming center fielder, Godfrey may fit the bill better - at least for the short-term. He should be in competition for that starting free safety spot.
This draft class is widely considered to be pretty weak at the safety position. Right now, the top rated safety - Landon Collins - is one of the few considered to go in the first round. The drop-off after Collins could mean that teams will reach for safety prospects. Guys who should go in the mid-rounds may be scooped up early.
As for the Falcons, the clear need is for a long-term answer at free safety. Between Moore and Ishmael, they're more than capable of handling in the box duties. But with the expected move of Southward to CB and Godfrey being more of a stop-gap solution, the team may look for a free safety prospect relatively early in this draft.
One name to keep an eye on: Damarious Randall out of Arizona State. He's a rangy player who will fall in the draft due to his less than ideal size (5'11"). He's still a bit raw in coverage, but has the speed to be a true center-fielder. And for Dan Quinn, size at the free safety position is not a big issue, with Earl Thomas being only 5'10". Randall timed at 4.46 in the 40 and his 6.83s performance in the 3-cone indicates a player with good movement skills.
Another name to listen out for: Eric Rowe. Although Rowe is being listed as a corner, he could be a good fit at free safety. He's a bit taller at 6'1", but he has some potential elite physical traits. His combine time in the 40 was 4.45, while he put up an impressive 6.70s in the 3-cone. Some scouts said he registered a sub-4.4 in the 40 at his pro-day. Either way, he's got the physical traits that make coaches salivate. His relatively poor hands may hurt his draft stock, however. He could potentially be found in the third or fourth round, though his physical traits could cause him to be drafted much sooner.
Given the importance of the safety position in Dan Quinn's defenses in Seattle, it's a near certainty that the Falcons will look to address the position in the draft. While it's clear free safety won't be the first round pick, it's entirely possible that the team will begin considering the position as early as the second round pick. While someone like Godfrey could be a decent stop-gap solution, Quinn is building for the future. I fully expect the team to look for a long-term solution for free-safety in this draft class.