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NFL scouting combine preview: safeties

The NFL scouting combine starts Feb. 22. In advance of the annual meat market in Indianapolis, staff writer Matt Vensel will examine each position and give Ravens fans the 4-1-1. In this post he looks at the safety position.

The top prospects:

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Alabama's

Mark Barron

is the top strong safety prospect in the draft. He has good size and was stout against the run for the Crimson Tide. Notre Dame's

Harrison Smith

projects as a safety who can do a little bit of everything. He is fast enough with good instincts and cover skills. There doesn’t appear to be a consensus top free safety in April’s draft, but that could change once someone steps up at the combine.

Other intriguing names:

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McNeese State's Janzen Jackson, who used to play at Tennessee, is an intriguing prospect with good range and cover skills. He's a guy to watch at the combine. Oklahoma State's

Markelle Martin

has good speed, too, for his size and can cover a lot of ground. Kentucky's Winston Guy, Wisconsin's

Aaron Henry

and LSU's

Brandon Taylor

are three guys I plan to keep an eye on when watching the combine on TV.

Grading the class:

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Other than Barron, there doesn’t appear to be any other elite prospects who could go in the first round. There are some solid strong safety prospects, but no free safeties stand out heading into the combine. Given the underwhelming top-end talent and a lack of depth, I’d grade the safeties as a D-plus.

Fitting the Ravens:

The Ravens expect

Pro Bowl

free safety

Ed Reed

to play in 2012, so finding a replacement isn’t an immediate need. But it’s something they should soon take care of given Reed’s injuries and his past statements about retirement.

Haruki Nakamura

and

Tom Zbikowski

are free agents, so if they don’t return, the Ravens will have to replace them, but they could choose to do it in free agency opposed to doing it in this year's draft.

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