clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NFL Combine Wrap Up: S: Definitely Hefney

New, comments

You'all don't think Seattle needs a safety. You're wrong. If I had no dignity I might post an emoticon to imply I was being less than serious, but I do, and that emoticon would be ironical. Seattle has little depth at the position, with Mike Green having his joints and muscles molder on the bench, C.J. Wallace completely untested and Jordan "third down conversion" Babineaux locked into the utility spot. Like a Kamikaze spiraling into the USS Coverage. What's more, current starter at free safety, Brian Russell, sucks. Eggs. Through a straw.

Russell recorded 68 non-special teams tackles or passes defensed in 2007. 36 pass plays, 32 run plays.

Average yardage on a Brian Russell pass play: 14.2

Run tackle: 10.8

Percentage of pass plays that he prevented from being successful: 28%

Run plays: 31%

As my father would say, that's hellrocious. Seattle runs something not quite like a Tampa-2, but akin in principle. That flurry of small, quick defenders does many things well: Rush the passer, stop runs for a loss, cover, but for the past two seasons it has failed at stopping runs of 10+ yards. In 2007 it allowed runs of 10 or more yards on 24% of all runs, 30th. 2006, 29%, last. Two spots better than Seattle in 2006 was Indianapolis who allowed runs of 10+ yards on 23% of all runs. That year Bob Sanders only played in 4 games. In 2005, Sanders played in 14 games. In 2007, 15. In those seasons Indianapolis allowed runs of 10+ yards on 19% (19th) and 11% (4th) of all runs. A tough, run stopping safety who knows how to fill made all the difference. Or most of it, anyhow.

Seattle's defense would greatly benefit from a safety with any ability to stop the run. Russell plays painfully deep. Painful because he hasn't the speed to get back into plays. Painful because his lines to the ball carrier were drawn in a Spirograph. And painful because the few times teams passed deep on Kelly Jennings, Russell still found a way to exit coverage stage left. At the same time, in Jim Mora's system, he likes to have at least one safety play very deep on nearly every play. He also uses his two safeties, free and strong, more or less interchangeably. So, the safety Seattle needs must be able to provide deep cover and charge the line for play saving fills in run support.

4 star safety Jonathan Hefney does that. The NFL respected him so that they excluded him from both their cornerback and safety rankings and instead labeled him a "specialist". A packed and largely undifferentiated safety class can do that. Hefney is not faster than the fast safeties, is scraping 5'8", and after a standout season as a returner in 2006, folded in 2007. As is, his stock wouldn't float in the Dead Sea, but my Trucker's Atlas says that's bollocks. Hefney is an excellent cover DB with football quickness and excellent agility. I'm not surprised he didn't light up the 40 (4.56), Hefney possesses a stocky build, his return success was predicated on agility and vision rather than burner speed. One can watch his highlights and see that he rarely runs in a straight line on returns. It's not hard to catch Hefney in the open field, that is, until you get close to him. Then he'll throw a wicked cut on you and find some new open patch to bust through. Hefney isn't a blow guys up tackler, either. But he takes good angles and finds men in the flats. This series started out as something like game theory. My thinking, that because the NFL Combine is meaningless but not irrelevant, and because GMs make decisions based on abstract silliness like 40 times and "shuttles", it presented an exploitable market advantage. Hefney may be the perfect embodiment of my theory. Hefney was considered the second best safety in this year's class by many top sources, but since then his rating has dropped amid a crowded class. The reasoning basically boils down to a short guy without world class speed has no place in the NFL. If Seattle drafts Hefney, at the cost of as little as a 7th round pick, they could land a player that's no Bob Sanders, but might feel like it after a year of Brian Russell.