Total Score: 67
Player Grade: 64 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 21 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 12 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 27 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3
There is a changing of the guard with the safety position in the NFL. Long-time standouts like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, and Adrian Wilson, all of whom will be considered for Canton when they hang it up, are nearing the end. Young players such Earl Thomas, Jairus Byrd, and Eric Berry potentially offer a new vanguard of emerging top safeties.
While I don’t consider DeCoud to be among that emerging vanguard, he’s not far behind. Evidenced by the fact that he could start at free safety for two-thirds of NFL teams.
DeCoud is coming off his most productive season, as he grabbed a team-leading 6 interceptions, the second-most of any safety in the NFL (only behind New York Giants’ Stevie Brown). But despite a great 2012 campaign, I wouldn’t say DeCoud was a drastically improved player at least when discussing his skillset. He’s still an undersized run defender that can struggle with missed tackles in run support (11.5 missed tackles in 2012, 5.5 in 2011) and is not capable of matching up one on one in man coverage against quality wideouts and tight ends.
But DeCoud certainly was more consistent at times. Missed tackles aside, he was able to better avoid traffic in run support (key blocked 3 times in 2012 vs. 7.5 times in 2011). He also didn’t get for nearly as many touchdowns (4 blown coverages for scores in 2011, 0.5 in 2012), and he of course increased his turnover output from four to seven (including one forced fumble). All this means that DeCoud played a lot smarter in 2012 than he appeared to be doing in 2011. And much of that likely has to do with the fact that Mike Nolan was calling the defense rather than Brian VanGorder. And given DeCoud’s role at free safety where he calls the coverages, there is no reason to expect any dropoff from him in 2013.