This year’s safety draft class is one of the deepest that I have seen in the past few years, which is a good thing for the 49ers. Their biggest need is at the safety position, and they will surely draft a safety with one of their first few picks. Whoever they draft will be given the opportunity to compete for a starting position alongside Donte Whitner. One of my top-rated prospects in this draft is DJ Swearinger from South Carolina.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Swearinger about his abilities. One thing that I noticed is his passion for football comes right through the phone when he’s talking about the game. This passion is exactly what makes him the intense player that he is.
“My love for the game is what makes me play the way I do. I’ve played football all of my life. I love the game,” he said.
If you watch Swearinger play, you will see a fiery player that plays the game with a high degree of physicality. I liken his game to Brian Dawkins. He mentioned Dawkins along with Sean Taylor when asked who he has patterned his game after. Another player he mentioned was Ray Lewis.
Swearinger said he played linebacker growing up, so Lewis is naturally a player that was an influence.
Swearinger is the top safety in the 2013 NFL draft, in my opinion. He has played every position in the secondary, including a short stint at corner. The cover skills are there. Just watch the Tennessee game, where he had to cover Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson on a few occasions. He is one of the most physical safeties in this draft; just ask Andre Ellington of Clemson if you don’t believe it.
He also has the range to play some single high. What you get from Swearinger is the complete package. I asked him what he felt would make a general manager want to draft him and he spoke about his leadership qualities, and he talked about having the intangibles, the instincts, those talents that you can’t really coach a player into having. He also alluded to his football intelligence and his versatility.
Leaders are born, not made.
“I like getting my guys hyped up. I like how they feed off my energy. I lead both by example and vocally. I do the things that I have to do to help my team win games,” he said.
Those are things that you want your leader to say. The South Carolina defense was stacked with playmakers, but Swearinger is the leader. I watched how the guys would circle around him and he would get them riled up for the game that they were about to play. It reminded me of how Dawkins led the Philadelphia Eagles during pregame. That’s another reason why the Dawkins’ comparison is an easy one to make.
Two of the players — Chris Culliver and Stephen Gilmore — that Swearinger played with in college have moved on to the NFL.
I asked him how he would feel about being selected by the 49ers and he said, “Cully is my boy. We called ourselves the Goon Squad at SC. I would welcome the chance to play with him again in San Francisco.”
Culliver played a lot of safety in college but he settled in at corner. Swearinger felt comfortable playing anywhere in the secondary and mentioned that he likes playing the nickel position. Playing corner in college will help when he has to match up against tight ends in the NFL.
I aksed him what tight ends he thought would be interesting match-ups for him: “The guys at New England. (Aaron) Hernandez is a shifty guy, gets in and out of his breaks like a wide receiver.”
He also mentioned Rob Gronkowski because of his size. Swearinger pointed out how so many people have placed doubt on his height and mentioned that as a reason for wanting to cover a tall tight end that can make his way up the seam route.
Height is one thing that people have knocked Swearinger on. He pointed out guys like Earl Thomas, Brian Dawkins and Louis Delmas as safeties that have done well despite supposedly being too short.
As he said, “Turn on the film. The SEC is the best conference and I balled out. My height is not an issue.”
I agree with him. His “height deficiencies” didn’t keep him from playing the position as well as anyone.
I point to the Arkansas and Clemson games as the best showcases of what Swearinger can do. “The Arkansas is a game that I would tell GMs to watch. That and the UAB game. Not because I put up big numbers, but because of the physical presence in the secondary,” said Swearinger.
Physical presence is an understatement. Receivers get punished for going across Swearinger’s zone. He will be the kind of safety that will make guys think twice before stretching out to make a catch.
Swearinger’s time in the SEC allowed him to go against a number of wide receivers that went on to play in the league.
“I’ve seen some really good players but AJ Green is the best receiver,” he said. “I have to mention my teammate Alshon Jeffrey too but AJ Green, he’s on another level. He went to the league and is doing his thing.”
Another thing that I like about Swearinger is his work ethic. He is a guy that will grind and he isn’t afraid to let you know it.
This what i live for!!!! Bump the draft……A bet wont no other safety outwork me in the league from this day forward!!!! DARE 2B GREAT
— DJ Swearinger (@JungleBoi_Swagg) April 19, 2013
His mentality is a part of why he got the name Jungle Boi. “On the field, if you don’t hunt you don’t eat.” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock has commented about how he loves the aggressiveness that Swearinger plays with. Swearinger has worked with Eric Berry in pre-draft workouts this year.
DJ Swearinger gives you everything that you want from a safety. He can cover, he can hit, he has some range. In addition to that, he is a leader and has a tremendous work ethic. Some say that Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in this draft. I challenge you to watch both of their film and tell me which player jumps out more on film. Swearinger is a game changer, whether it be by way of a pick six or a bone-jarring hit that changes the momentum of the game. He will be a big time value pick for whatever team that drafts him, especially if it is in the second round.