INDIANAPOLIS -- Sunday at the NFL Combine brought defensive backs to the media room and a trend quickly appeared after multiple safeties addressed the media at Lucas Oil Stadium: they're all the best safeties in the draft class.
Confidence is big in not just professional football, but any professional sport. Without confidence, many of these players would shy away from doing some of the things that have gotten them to this position. Part of being the best is believing you're the best.
Safety is a tricky position to play in the NFL. They're constantly asked to help in the run game, often shedding blocks from offensive linemen twice their size and tackle running backs that outweigh them. They're also asked to cover fast wide receivers one-on-one and cover much bigger tight ends that are often matchup nightmares. Not every defensive back has the capability to play safety.
Former USC safety T.J. McDonald believes he's the best because he "wants it more" than anybody else.
"Yes, I do," McDonald said when he was asked if he thought he was the best safety. "I feel like I want it more than anybody else. I'm coming in to show what I can do, run good, jump good, do the position drills and talk to these teams about football. Do the X's-and-O's."
He also said that he has the ability to play both strong and free safety in the NFL and will gladly play wherever a coach places him.
"I can play both," he said. "I played free safety and strong safety. I was a free safety in college. I played in the box a lot, played cover 2, played in the deep middle. I feel I can play both. I want to be able to show my range, be able to show my speed and athleticism. It depends on whatever my coaches want me to play. I'll play whatever. Being a physical guy, I like to have my nose around the ball a little more, closer to the line of scrimmage. I can play either one."
"Yeah, I'm very confident in myself," he said when asked if he was the best. "I'm very versatile and I feel that I can do a lot of things for teams: special teams, covering, tackling."
Elam said that he models his game after future hall of fame safety Ed Reed and his biggest strengths that he can bring to an NFL secondary are his physicality and his versatility in coverage.
"My physicality," he said when asked about his biggest strength. "I play very hard. I love to strike people. I feel that's what helps me stand out the most and I'm very versatile. I can cover the slot receivers, I can go down and cover, I can go in the box and tackle. I feel like Im very versatile, I can play in the post. I feel like that's what makes me stand out the most."
Former South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger, another one of this draft class' best safeties, says he's on top because of his leadership abilities along with his natural instincts.
"I'm the best safety in this draft because I'm a leader first and foremost," Swearinger said. "I have instincts that coaches can't coach, great ball skills, great feet and hips. I'll stay in the film room and be the hardest worker, day in and day out."
Swearninger, like almost any other college safety, said he models his game off of Reed as well as former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. He said that he has played every position in the secondary, from corner to both safeties and has spent time in the nickel and he made a point of saying that along with being a safety, he's a natural athlete.
Ironically, the player that is widely regarded as the best safety in the 2013 draft class, Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, was the only guy to say he wasn't the best.
When asked if he was, he simply said, "I think I bring the most to the table."
The 2013 draft class is deep at the safety position, which doesn't happen too terribly often. There are quite a few teams that are looking for help at the position and guys like Vaccaro, Swearinger, McDonald and Elam could all be taken off the board in the first couple rounds in April.