“Practice does not make perfect.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.” –Vince Lombardi


In my opinion, if you play safety and want to make it to the NFL, you should work on getting better at the things scouts look for in safeties.  That’s what today’s post is all about: what scouts look for when analyzing the safety position in football.

>>Related: Defensive Back Workout for Safeties – Part 1

With almost 30 years served in the NFL, and holding titles such as Director of Scouting in the NFL, I’d say he’s a credible source on the topic.  Would you agree?

In 2010 Reed led the NFL in interceptions with 8, despite only playing in 10 games due to hip surgery. (Image – ICON Sports)

If you’re a safety, pay attention to how the NFL safeties in the videos below look when displaying Greg’s list of skills and attributes. Then look at film of yourself, and compare your game with theirs.

>>Related: Bet You Didn’t Know NFL Scouts Look for Some of this Stuff…

Greg’s list:

Size. Greg Gabriel’s take on size:

For the most part, safeties are bigger then corners. Ideally you would like the prospect to be 6-0 to 6-2, but there are plenty quality safeties in the league who are under 6-0. Most teams would like some bulk on the safeties also, with the ideal range being in the 210-220 pound area.

Coverage Skills and linebacker toughness. Greg admits that there aren’t many safeties that can cover and have linebacker toughness; but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to be one of them.

Teams are able to do more with safeties that can do both well.  Obviously, the more they can do with you, the more valuable you are to their team.  The more valuable you are, the more likely you are to make the roster and stay on the roster.


As Greg mentions in the post, in the 2010 season, Eric Berry was definitely one of the few safeties in the NFL that played with both attributes.

Look at how physical this guy is, he can tackle, come up great on run support like a much bigger player, yet his coverage skills are incredible.


Speed – 4.55 (40 yard dash) or lower. Greg’s take on speed:

If a player is in the 4.5 – 4.55 range that can be more than acceptable but a sub 4.5 is what you really want.

>>Related: How to Set Up Your Own 40 Yard Dash Training

>>Related: 40 Yard Dash Training – STRETCHING to Improve Your 40 Time??

Ball skills. “Ball skills encompass two things: reaction to the ball in the air and hands.” Greg explains.

When it comes to ball skills, I don’t think it gets much better than Ed Reed, who in 2010, led the NFL in interceptions with 8, despite only playing in 10 games.


Great feet. When analyzing safeties, scouts want to see quick, coordinated feet movement.

Safeties with great feet can redirect their body position and direction fast, which helps them get in positions to make more plays than those with slow, sloppy footwork.

Change of direction. Scouts look for safeties that can smoothly and quickly plant their feet and change directions; regardless of whether they’re coming out of a backpedal, running laterally, or sprinting forward.

Playing low. Playing with a low center of gravity by bending at your knees, helps you react faster than you can with your legs straight.

Quick back pedal. NFL-caliber safeties can backpedal with quickness and speed, when necessary.

Quick transition. Scouts look for safeties that can go from back pedaling to closing on the ball quickly (or sometimes, the opposite).

Greg on transition speed:

The quicker a player is in transition can mean the difference between a pass completion and a pass breakup or interception.

Adrian Wilson shows why he’s among the top safeties in the NFL today in the below clip.  At about 1:05 into the video, check out how fast he goes from a backpedal to running full speed as he catches the ball and heads towards the end zone.

Other attributes you can notice in the below film: great feet, playing low, NFL-caliber change-of-direction abilities, and much more.


Do you think a safety can succeed in the NFL without any of the above-mentioned traits?  If so, which ones?  Leave a comment below!

>>Related: What the NFL Looks for in the Safety Position in Football – Part 1

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Scouting Defensive Backs by Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post. 

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