Best Player Available at #51: DJ Swearinger, S, South Carolina

If South Carolina safety D,J. Swearinger is still available when the Redskins draft in the second round, he could be tough to pass on. - USA TODAY Sports

A ferocious hitter with a non-stop motor, the former Gamecock would bring a swagger to the safety position the Redskins haven’t seen since Sean Taylor.

Depending on who you talk to, the prospect of Swearinger being available with the 51st pick ranges from a pipe dream to quite possible. But if it happens to fall that way, I wouldn't think twice about grabbing him.

Strengths

What I like most is that the former Gamecock is capable of playing either free or strong safety — and since the Redskins don’t typically designate their safeties as one or the other, his versatility makes him an excellent fit for us. A muscular 5-11, 208-pounder with long arms, he can play close to the line as a fifth linebacker or back in a deep zone. In some schemes, he can even lock up with a tight end in man coverage. And wherever you play him, he’s a hitting machine.

Weaknesses

Most scouts point to his lack of speed — he ran a 4.6 40 at the Combine — as a liability, but that overlooks the fact that he was among the best in the cone and agility drills. He’s an exceptional athlete whose speed is more functional than elite, and he compensates with excellent short-space quickness and instincts.

How He Fits with the Redskins

But what really sets Swearinger apart is his swagger. One scouting report described him as “…a high-motor, high-intensity player on the field (whose) presence alone brings an attitude to the defense.” His penchant for the big hit occasionally results in neglecting to wrap up and finish his tackles; meanwhile, with his aggressiveness in coverage, he’s going to bite on a few play fakes and look foolish when Eli Manning goes play action.

Still, he’s smart enough to correct his errors through good coaching. Better yet, he’s a three-year starter and team captain who can literally step in on Day 1 and give you more than Doughty, Gomes and the cast of thousands who figure to share the safety position with Brandon Merriweather.

Again, maybe he’s long gone by the time the Redskins make their first pick. But if not, he’s likely to be the best safety left on the board. So unless there’s a tackle or receiver whose fall from grace is even more unexpected, Swearinger would fill a huge need and represent an immediate upgrade for a defense looking for a talent infusion.

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