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1. Plenty To Choose From – At 70 players, this year’s defensive back group at the Combine was the largest there’s ever been. It directly mirrors where the entire league has focused, using five and sometimes six defensive backs on 50-percent or more of snaps in a regular season game. All different body types, quick twitch movement and pure straight line speed were on display Monday morning. Some of the lesser known names that caught my attention were Duke Dawson from Florida (nickel back), Penn State’s Grant Haley (inside/outside CB), and Avonte Maddox from Pitt. Also, Tony Brown (Alabama), is a pure athlete/special teams star that will make a difference, and LSU’s Donte Jackson swiftly ran a 4.32-40 yard dash.
2. Elite Corner Backs – Ohio State’s Denzel Ward (5’11 183) had an exceptional day running a 4.32-40. His game tape will solidify his spot at the top of this list. I believe that Ward will be a player that transitions with ease in the NFL in year one. Another player that looked complete was Mike Hughes from UCF. His forty time and drill work matched his game tape, and he can also contribute as a kick returner. A guy that doesn’t get much hype is Jaire Alexander from Louisville. He ran a terrific forty (4.43) and showed quickness and burst coming out of his breaks. It looked to me that Alexander totally dominated the day because he participated in every drill and in doing so, separated himself from a crowded pack. Two players that didn’t look comfortable during the workout were Josh Jackson (Iowa) and Isaiah Oliver from Colorado. Both came into Indy as top five at the position. They might stay that way on some draft boards, but in my opinion, didn’t have the workout that they were striving to achieve.
3. Standout Safeties – NCST’s Bradley Chubb is considered by most as the best overall defender in this year’s draft. I would look at Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick in the same light. The winner of the Bednarik and Thorpe awards at Alabama ran a 4.47-40, had 14 reps at 225 pounds, a 33 inch vertical and a 10.1 broad jump. He can play every defensive back position and should be selected in the top six picks in this year’s draft. The other elite safety is Derwin James out of FSU. At 6’2, 215 pounds, James ran an impressive 4.48 40, had 21 reps in his bench press and a 40 inch vertical jump. The best of the rest at safety were Justin Reed from Stanford (4.44-40), Ronnie Harrison from Alabama and Terrell Edmunds, brother of Tremaine Edmunds, out of Virginia Tech. Terrell ran a 4.48-40 and a very impressive 41 1/2 vertical jump.