The Washington Times - April 9, 2013, 02:39PM

If the Redskins hope to fill their first-string free safety position in the draft later this month, South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger should be an attractive option, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said last Wednesday.

“He plays with confidence; he’s a rough, tough kid; and then you have to have the computer numbers to justify it, and he has,” Kiper said. “When you look at him on paper and you compare his numbers at 208 pounds, he plays, I think, faster than he times, anyway. And you look at his production and his consistency, and you’ve got to think second round. That’s where I have him projected.”

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Swearinger is known as a physical player and hard hitter. Although Kiper projects the Redskins to draft UConn cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson with the 51st pick, he wouldn’t be surprised if they draft Swearinger there. Swearinger has done everything well during the pre-draft process to maximize his draft stock, Kiper said.

“I think he’s solidly in the second-round mix,” Kiper said. “And you say where? Carolina at 44 certainly could use him. Washington at 51. Green Bay at 55. Cincinnati at 37, even, if they don’t get a Kenny Vaccaro [out of Texas] in the first round. He’s solidly, at worst, Round 3, probably Round 2, which means he’s a solid Friday night pick.”

Swearinger wasn’t particularly colorful during his media session at the scouting combine in February, but his sales pitch was concise and clear.

“I’m the best safety in this draft because I’m a leader first and foremost,” said Swearinger, who captained South Carolina’s defense. “I have instincts that coaches can’t coach. You can’t coach instincts. I have great ball skills, great feet and hips. I’m going to stay in that film room and be a hard worker day in an day out.”

He has experience playing every position in the secondary, especially both safety positions, which suits how Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett likes to disguise coverages. And, of course, that versatility also helps after the snap.

“First of all you’ve got to have great instincts, great ball skills,” Swearinger said. “You’ve got to read coverages. You’ve got to be able to run, tackle in the open field and play the ball when it’s in the air.”

The Redskins need a free safety who can do all those things. Last year’s starter, Madieu Williams, is the only one of 22 starters from last year’s team not under contract with the club for 2013.