NFL Scouting Combine Recap – Defensive Backs

03/04/2019
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The final day of NFL Scouting Combine workouts is reserved for the defensive backs. The cornerbacks kicked things off but not in a smooth way. Many participants had struggles adjusting to drills, with some failing to digest the directions. The execution was not fluid either. However, a handful of cornerbacks stood out with attractive 40-yard dash times and consistent on-field drills.

As for the the safeties, no one prospect managed to stand out over others, but none necessarily saw any indication of their draft stock taking a tumble.

CORNERBACKS

Deandre Baker, Georgia

Baker will have mixed reviews turned in for him today. Not jumping off the page with an official 4.52 time (still acceptable), Baker was only average in all the field drills. He showed promising footwork in his backpedal and when making his transition from his breaks. Despite his turns looking somewhat unnatural, Baker still displayed control when transitioning.

He showed natural hands in the gauntlet drills and looked smooth when having to locate and high point the football.

 

Jamel Dean, Auburn

Dean was rumored to have elite-level speed and he didn’t disappoint when he turned in a 4.30 40-yard dash time. Long speed was never of question with Dean as opposed to his lower body flexibility. Dean didn’t check any boxes referring to fluidity today, as his lack of oily hips will just have to be something a team has to work with. Some choppy footwork in the turn and run drills doesn’t help his cause, but Dean did show some burst out of his turns.

Despite not being able to quickly unlock his hips, Dean still managed to maintain control when addressing the drill. He was smooth in the “W” drill showing the ability to plant and explode to the cone and the football. Dean showed plenty of patience not attempting to jump any drills throughout the day. He looked natural when catching the football in the gauntlet drill and showed some promise high-pointing the football and adjusting.

 

Justin Layne, Michigan State

Even as a former wide receiver, Layne was one of the more fluid and natural looking cornerbacks on Monday. Layne showed tremendous control and discipline when flipping his hips. He stayed balanced and fluid throughout his transitions and exploded out of breaks when seeking the football or finishing the drill.

Layne has gained a lot of intrigue over the past few weeks across the NFL Draft media, and he proved his top 50 worth on Monday.

 

David Long, Michigan

Long was pinpointed as one of Deion Sanders’ favorite players of the day mostly due to his technique when backpedaling. Long was controlled and explosive when flipping his hips and running. He stayed patient and low to the ground paving way for effective movement skills with not any wasted motion.

Long showed plenty of quickness when transitioning by unlocking his hips with ease and maintaining control. His disciplined eyes will go unnoticed but he was noticeably locked in throughout the day.

 

Byron Murphy, Washington

One of the easiest movers and fluid defensive backs in this class, Murphy didn’t disappoint. Murphy was a cool customer when planting his foot and exploding during the “W” drill showing balance and plenty of control. He was one of the few cornerbacks to show comfortable ball skills when high pointing with soft hands. One of the smoothest participants I have ever seen in the gauntlet drill by a defensive back (looked the ball in, no double catches).

Murphy’s 4.55 speed doesn’t blow too many evaluators away but when reverting back to tape, his play speed is not indicative of the slow time.

 

Greedy Williams, LSU

Williams started the day in the driver’s seat posting one of the few sub-4.4 40-yard dash times this weekend (4.37). Unfortunately for Williams, his day went downhill after that. Williams struggled in the first drill looking unnatural when flipping his hips. This resulted in him losing balance and being way out of control when turning and running vertically. His theme of playing high-hipped put him in awkward situations to turn and show adequate burst. The LSU cornerback had to restart in back-to-back reps before being sidelined for the rest of the day with leg cramps.

It’s not surprising that Williams looked unnatural when having to backpedal, but when being projected as a top 10 pick, one would expect that a cornerback should embody more control and technique.

 

Rock Ya-Sin, Temple

“He has a chance to go in the first round. It wouldn’t shock me if he is the first corner to go.” -Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

 

SAFETIES

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida

Gardner-Johnson’s low to the ground, compact frame may indicate he is a stiffer prospect with some change of direction limitations. That is not the case for the versatile defensive back. The Florida defender turned in a 4.48 in the dash showing off impressive initial burst.

He displays a fluid lower body with easy transition skills to turn and run in every direction. Despite his not ideal frame (a hair under 5-foot-10, 210 pounds) Gardner-Johnson showcases the versatility, athleticism and overall coverage ability to be coveted as a top 20 selection.

Juan Thornhill, Virginia

Thornhill had an incredible day from as far as numbers go. His 44-inch vertical and 11-foot-9 broad jump were two of the highest markings in the whole event. Thornhill was not as impressive in the on-field drills, as he showed slight hitches when changing direction.

Though never described as an explosive athlete on the field, it would have been nice to see Thornhill put together a better physical performance on the field today. He struggled to turn and run and accelerate out of breaks. He displayed an adequate back pedal but did not look smooth when having to turn and run.

Ugochukwu Amadi, Oregon

Marquise Blair, Utah

Blair’s tape embodies more of that of a free safety with plenty of range and acceleration. He showed off his fluid lower body by easily turning and flipping his hips. He shows an impressive burst when he plants his foot which translates to his attractive free safety range.

lNJURY UPDATES:

  • Kendall Sheffield, injured pectoral on bench press yesterday, was not a participant today. He did receive positive news as he is suffering from only a partially torn pec. Will not require surgery (Kim Jones, NFL Network).
  • Nasir Adderley of Delaware did not participate in any activities today. He is nursing a nagging ankle injury (Kim Jones, NFL Network).
Christian Page is a scout and writer for Cover1.net. His scouting experience dates back to 2015. Christian has a background of radio along with collegiate athletic department experience and corporate marketing.

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