"In the first round, I think he's a big gamble. [Former Indianapolis Colts safety] Bob Sanders was a rare special athlete, and he went in the second round. You're fighting two battles with Elam: He's short and he's not a great athlete."

DeCosta mentioned several safeties behind Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, the top player at the position — Elam, Cyprien, D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina), J.J. Wilcox (Georgia Southern) and Georgia's Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams. Fresno State's Phillip Thomas is also highly regarded by NFL teams.

DeCosta didn't discuss Louisiana State junior Eric Reid, a mobile 6-1, 213-pound All-American selection who could play either safety position, or Shamarko Thomas, a speedy Syracuse player who's undersized at 5-9.

"Reid wouldn't be a reach for the Ravens because he's a big-league athlete," Lande said. "He's a tremendous kid off the field. He has all the physical tools, but he's a little inconsistent."

Swearinger has been lauded for his man-to-man cover skills and leadership. He had 244 career tackles, six interceptions, four forced fumbles and 22 pass deflections for the Gamecocks. As a senior, Swearinger had 79 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two return touchdowns.

Swearinger has experience at both safety positions and has also lined up at cornerback and nickel back, but he lacks elite speed — 4.65 in the 40-yard dash.

"I have great ball skills. I've played every position in the back end," Swearinger said. "I'm a versatile player. I'm not only just a safety, I'm an athlete. I want to be a ball hawk. I'm the best safety in this draft class because I'm a leader first and foremost.

"I have instincts that coaches can't coach. You can't coach instincts. I have great ball skills, great feet and hips. I'm going to stay in that film room and be a hard worker day in and day out."

awilson@baltsun.com

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NFL Draft: Ranking the safeties

Player School Ht. Wt.

1. Kenny Vaccaro Texas 6-0 214

2. Matt Elam Florida 5-10 208

3. Jonathan Cyprien Florida International 6-0 217

4. D.J. Swearinger South Carolina 5-11 208

5. Eric Reid LSU 6-1 213