Safeties: The new breed

The safety position may be the one position that has evolved as much as any over the last decade or so. The old safety -- the big, physical intimidating player who could fill the lane versus the run and "de-cleat" receivers across the middle of the field -- is almost non-existent in today's game, and many of those types have made the transition to outside linebacker, though some still play strong safety.

Today's game requires range, speed and athleticism more than ever from its safeties, and the ability to cover is at a premium. Many coaches are now exchanging ideal size for speed and versatility to compete in a variety of roles within a defensive scheme, but the "linebacker" mentality is a must regardless of stature.