We've all thought about it before. Why not convert one of our three CBs into the FS and then move Weddle over to SS? On the surface it sounds simple. We need safeties who can cover, CBs are built to cover, move him over, piece of cake. Why not? Well, it's not quite as simple as it sounds. If it were that simple, every safety (or at least every free safety) would be a former college cornerback.
There are some skills that a safety must have that your normal cornerback may not have. First of all, safeties are much more involved in stopping the running game than corners are. More so with strong safeties than free safeties, but true for both. A cornerback who can't tackle might be tolerated if they can cover, a safety that can't tackle isn't a safety.
Safeties are also more involved in the defensive play calling and aligning. They must have a much better grasp of what the defense is trying to do as a whole and where they fit in. Corners tend to live on islands (as much as any defensive player can). There are certain plays where a CB really only focus on their own man and nothing else, a safety never is in that situation.
Safeties usually are involved in covering the bigger bodies on offense. While this may sound easier since the bigger bodies are usually slower, there is a different technique to defending a big TE than a skinny WR.
So, there are some challenges to moving from corner to safety. Let's see how often it actually happens. I had some spare time on my hands so I looked up all the starting safeties in the league and figured out what they played in college. 6 of the 32 starting FS played CB in college:
- Antrel Rolle (Arizona)
- Charles Godfrey (Carolina)
- Renaldo Hill (Denver)
- Nick Collins (Green Bay)
- Eugene Wilson (Houston)
- Hiram Eugene (Oakland)
Nick Collins has been to the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro last year. He played CB and FS in college, but was projected as a CB coming out. He also played linebacker his sophomore year.
Could a guy like Malcom Jenkins make the switch? Guys coming out of college tend to want to be labeled as CBs because they want to get more money. Also it would be a project and might not work out. Do we want to spend a first round pick on a project who might not be able to play the position? If we do draft a CB to switch to safety, I would want it to be in the later rounds. I would also want to find a CB who had also played a bit of LB or safety at the college or HS level.
Could a guy like Cason, Cro, or Jammer make the switch? I'm inclined to think Jammer could because he is definitely the best tackler of the bunch and probably understands the whole of the defense better than the other two due to his experience. Of course, I'm not sure it is a good idea to take a position of strength and make it weaker to potentially shore up another spot. Our nickel corner is probably on the field 40% of the time, so shifting one of our CBs to safety leaves a hole there.
Oliver is trying to make the switch and he is a former college CB, so that might be the answer. Although he may be making the switch more because he didn't have the speed or quickness to play CB.
One other option is to look at another position all together. My favorite safety of all time was Carnell Lake for the Steelers. All Pro Safety, moved to CB for a year due to injuries and was All Pro there as well. Played OLB in college at UCLA! Anyone want to look at the OLBs coming out of college and project some of them at safety?