Sleeper at Safety?
By Matt Zenitz
With Ed Reed's long-term future up in the air, and Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura both having departed as free agents, expect safety to be a position that the Ravens look to address at some point during the draft, possibly even at some point during the first few rounds.
But if Baltimore doesn't take a safety during the first three rounds, thus passing on the likes of Harrison Smith (Notre Dame), George Iloka (Boise State) and Markelle Martin (Oklahoma State), ESPN's Mel Kiper floated out a potential sleeper at safety that could potentially be of interest to the Ravens at some point during the fourth or fifth round.
In a recent article, Kiper tabbed Presbyterian safety Justin Bethel as one of the top sleepers in this year's draft.
Kiper described Bethel as "super productive with great ball skills," and wrote, "He can immediately come in and, if not start, make big plays on special teams as he develops into a good starter."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Bethel, who actually played cornerback at Presbyterian, finished his college career with 279 tackles, seven interceptions and a Big South Conference-record nine blocked kicks.
Playing cornerback, a position not often associated with being a team's primary tackler, Bethel actually led Presbyterian in tackles during both his sophomore and senior seasons.
As a senior, he tallied 87 tackles, four interceptions and three blocked kicks.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, he posted a 4.56 40-yard dash, an impressive 39.5-inch vertical jump and 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Some have compared Bethel with current Green Bay Packers safety Nick Collins, a second-round pick in 2005. Like Bethel, Collins was a cornerback at the FCS level before making the move to safety in the NFL and eventually developing into one of the better safeties in the league.
Collins made three straight Pro Bowls from 2008-10 before missing most of last season because of injury.
NFLDraftScout.com currently has Bethel ranked as the seventh-best free safety in the draft and projects him to be selected somewhere in the range of the fifth or sixth round.
Here is a video interview with Bethel, which also includes some clips from his time at Presbyterian, as well as some clips of him working out.
Follow Matt Zenitz on Twitter @mzenitz.
Posted April 19, 2012