2017 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Back Prospects

The large number of high-end cornerback prospects available is one of the biggest storylines in the 2017 NFL draft, but right next to it should be the presence of two of the better safety prospects available in years.

Malik Hooker from Ohio State and Jamal Adams from LSU both have been mentioned as potential top 10 picks. The last time a safety was among the first 10 picks was 2012 when Alabama’s Mark Barron was selected seventh by the Rams. It’s even possible a safety could be among the first five picks for the first time since 2010 when Eric Berry went fifth to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Hooker and Adams stand as the clear top two prospects in what is considered a good-looking safety class.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect at the position is Jabrill Peppers, who played mostly linebacker at the University of Michigan but at 5-11, 213 probably isn’t big enough to play that position in the NFL.

Other safety prospects given a chance to end up selected in the first round include Washington’s Budda Baker, North Carolina State’s Josh Jones and Florida’s Marcus Maye.

There were five cornerbacks taken in the first round of the 2016 draft and it’s considered almost a given that the number will be surpassed this year.

Among those who likely or could be selected in the first round are Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley from Ohio State, Marlon Humphrey from Alabama, Tre’Davious White from LSU, Adoree Jackson from USC, Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson, Fabian Moreau from UCLA and Chidobe Awuzie from Colorado.

Sidney Jones from Washington likely would have been a first-round selection had he not sustained a torn Achilles tendon during his Pro Day workout, and his draft status will be one to watch over the three days of the proceedings.

A total of 60 defensive backs were invited to the scouting combine in early March, including 25 safeties and 35 cornerback — the total does not include Peppers.

In the 2016 draft, 51 defensive backs were selected, starting with Ramsey from Florida State taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the fifth overall pick and ending with Kalan Reed from Southern Miss taken by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh round.


Top of the class: S Jamal Adams, LSU; S Malik Hooker, Ohio State; CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State; S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan; CB Tre’Davious White, LSU; CB Adoree Jackson, USC; CB Sidney Jones, Washington; S Budda Baker, Washington; CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson

Top small-school prospects: CB Brendan Langley, Lamar; S Lorenzo Jerome, St. Francis (Pa.); S David Jones, Richmond; CB Xavier Coleman, Portland State

NFL family ties: Jamal Adams is the son of former New York Giants running back George Adams. … Marlon Humphrey is the son of former Dolphins and Denver Broncos running back Bobby Humphrey. … USC S Leon McQuay III is the grandson of the late Leon McQuay, who had a three-year NFL career in the 1970s with the Giants, Patriots and Saints.

Florida connections: Defensive backs at the combine from Florida schools included Miami CB Corn Elder, Florida CBs Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, Florida safety Marcus Maye, Florida State CB Marquez White, Central Florida DB Shaquill Griffin, and Miami safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins. … Wisconsin CB Sojourn Shelton played his high school football at Plantation High.

Prospects with unusual size for the position: S Obi Melifonwu, UConn (6-4, 224); S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville (6-4, 217); CB Jeremy Clark, Michigan (6-3, 221); CB William Likely, Maryland (5-7, 180)