University of Texas safety Michael Griffin is one of the most talented safeties in a draft class with several solid prospects at the position. He combines speed, agility and brains to make him a very safe pick for a team looking for safety help.
Griffin went to Bowie High School in Austin, Texas, where he was a two-year starter at running back before becoming a defensive back in his senior season. While at Bowie, he was named All District in his junior season. In his senior year, he was named Class 5A Honorable Mention All-State on offense, All-Central Texas and the District 25 5A Offensive Most Valuable Player.
In college, Griffin became a fulltime safety. In his freshman season, he appeared in 12 games at strong safety, starting two. That year, he totaled 65 tackles (51 solo), two sacks, broke up two passes and caused three fumbles while recovering one.
In his sophomore season, Griffin only started one game, the Rose Bowl against the University of Michigan. That year, he recorded 49 tackles (37 solo), a sack, three pass breakups and interception while forcing, as well as recovering, a fumble. He also gave the fans a taste of what was to come on special teams when he had two blocked punts.
His junior year saw him move to free safety and turn his college career into a great one. In 2005, Griffin had 124 tackles (67 solo), eight broken up passes, three interceptions and caused one fumble, recovering three. He also added on four more blocked kicks and was named Second Team All-Big 12.
Last year was as just as impressive for Griffin. To go along with his 126 tackles (79 solo), he added a sack, 10 pass breakups, four interceptions, caused four fumbles, recovered two and had two blocked kicks. Those numbers earned him First Team All-Big 12 and Second Team All-American honors.
In his four years, Griffin appeared in 50 games, starting 28 of them. He ranks eighth in school history with 368 tackles, and 49 of those were on special teams. His eight blocked kicks are a school record and second all-time in NCAA Division I.
Speed and quickness are cornerstones of Griffin's game. He has great acceleration out of breaks and cuts allowing him to keep up with most receivers to get to the ball quickly. His speed also enables him to make up for mistakes when he takes a risk because of his aggressive style of play.
Griffin is also a very cerebral player who is able to effectively translate the written game plan to the field. His intelligence helps him to recognize blocking schemes and hold his ground in a play action situation or when a quarterback uses a pump fake. This also aids in his knack for getting to the ball and delivering blows to ball carriers in hopes of jarring the ball loose.
Griffin has long arms, a strong upper body, strong hands and excellent leaping ability. Combined with his speed, this is enough to make him an interception threat and, as he demonstrated in college, an exceptional defensive special teams player.
Another scary aspect of Griffin is that he has room to grow physically. Once he does that he will be even more of a threat.
There aren't a lot of negatives in Griffin's game, and those that are can be improved with a little work.
First, Griffin is slightly undersized at this point but probably not enough to hinder him too much. As mentioned, he has room to get bigger and should.
Griffin's lower body strength also leaves some to be desired. While he is athletic, he needs to improve his lower body strength to be able to get himself out of blocks and to not get overrun by bigger ball carriers or blockers when he has to get up into the line to help against the running game.
To help shed blocks, Griffin also needs to improve his hand techniques, so he doesn't get caught by a blocker with little chance of getting out of it and getting to the ball.
Griffin can also be a little over-aggressive at times, but he is a smart man and can learn to be more disciplined in his risk-taking. Although he has the speed to recover from mistakes at times, it's always better to not make those mistakes in the first place.
With his accolades Griffin is probably the third or fourth best safety going into this year's draft. That should relegate him to a late first-round pick or an early second rounder, but don't expect him to fall too much further than that. Better suited for the strong safety position in the NFL, Griffin is versatile enough to play free safety as well.
If Griffin goes in the first round, the earliest could be the New England Patriots at No. 24. Of the Patriots' needs, the secondary is one place they could use a little help. If they don't take him there, and he slips past Philadelphia at No. 26, the Patriots have another chance to pick him up at No. 28. The San Diego Chargers at pick No. 30 could also use safety help.
In the second round, all bets are off, and he shouldn't last very long if he does fall. The Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could all use a solid safety.