2012 Senior Bowl Performance Reviews: Defensive Backs

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2012 Senior Bowl Performance Reviews: Defensive Backs
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Georgia CB Brandon Boykin had a good week in Mobile.

Cornerbacks

Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard came into Senior Bowl week with a second-round grade—the best of any defensive back in attendance. Unfortunately, Dennard had to leave Mobile early due to a strained hip flexor but had a solid week of practice prior to the injury.

Dennard did have some issues with getting beat deep but showed his ability to play opposing receivers with physicality, as he did a very good job staying right on receivers to force incompletions.

Dennard’s week certainly did not end up as anyone would have hoped, but he remains a second-round talent.

There was no true standout among the cornerbacks at this year’s Senior Bowl, but Georgia’s Brandon Boykin was the most consistent of the group. Boykin was very solid all week in coverage, and although he was not among the more physical cornerbacks in Mobile, he showed the ability to be physical and make tackles this week. Boykin remains a Round 2 or Round 3 draft choice.

North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins had an up-and-down week. Jenkins has the ability to be a lockdown cornerback and made some terrific plays in coverage this week, but he also got burned on occasion for being overaggressive.

Jenkins is also a physical cornerback who's a very skilled tackler. Jenkins, an athletic, instinctive and physical cornerback, has the skills to be a first-round pick, but he must learn to be less aggressive at times, and he has some major character corners following the two drug arrests that resulted in his dismissal from Florida before last season.

Jenkins still grades out as a second-round or third-round pick.

 

Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward was as impressive as any cornerback in Mobile this week. Hayward struggled when he went up against Chris Rainey, the fastest receiver at the Senior Bowl, in practice, so speed does appear to be somewhat of a concern.

That said, Hayward played with the best physicality of any cornerback at the Senior Bowl this week. Hayward can break up passes with his hits, which he did once on game day, and is a very solid tackler. Hayward also had an end-zone interception in the game, showing his coverage skills.

Hayward made a case to be a potential third-round draft selection with a very solid week.

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Dwight Bentley had moments of greatness this week but was very inconsistent. This week, Bentley displayed that he's a very good athlete who has an ability to find the football in the air and make plays to break up passes. However, he seems to struggle in mirroring receiver routes and gets hurt by his lack of size and strength.

Bentley displayed the skill set to be a difference maker in an NFL secondary, but his lack of consistency should leave him as a fourth-round draft pick at best.

Oklahoma’s Jamell Fleming did not stand out in practices but had the best performance of any of the cornerbacks on game day.

Fleming showed his ability to force turnovers in the game. On the first drive of the game, Fleming forced a fumble against Joe Adams, resulting in the game’s first change of possession. Later, in the fourth quarter, Fleming did a good job of establish inside position against Dwight Jones and came up with an interception.

 

Fleming also did very good with tackling and had four tackles in the game. Fleming is not a tremendous coverage back, but he's aggressive, physical and has great ball skills. All of those traits could make him a third-round draft pick.

Coming from small schools, Furman’s Ryan Steed and Cal Poly’s Asa Jackson really needed strong showings in Mobile. I barely noticed Steed this week, so it's almost unfair to evaluate him, but I was hoping to see more from him. He stands as a Round 4 or Round 5 pick, but I need to see more tape of Steed.

Jackson, on the other hand, simply had a bad week. Jackson was both out of position and gave too much cushion consistently in one-on-one drills. Jackson is a long shot to be drafted.

Iowa State’s Leonard Johnson played with physicality at the line of scrimmage and did have a very nice highlight on game day when he jumped over A.J. Jenkins to swat down a pass. However, Johnson looked tight in the hips and had much too inconsistent of a showing. He should be a fourth-round pick at best.

Alabama’s DeQuan Menzie struggled at the Senior Bowl. Menzie looked good as a tackler and playing with physicality, but he tended to be out of position and gave too much cushion in coverage this week. Likewise, Penn State’s D’Anton Lynn looked good as a tackler but was not particularly impressive in coverage. He struggled with quick receivers and gave too much cushion.

Coastal Carolina’s Josh Norman was a late addition to the North roster following Dennard’s injury, but he did not get an opportunity to perform on the practice field. Norman did have an impressive break on a pass that was nearly an interception, but otherwise, did not make much of an impact in the game, following a big week at the Shrine Game.

Which Senior Bowl defensive back is the best draft prospect?

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Safeties

Among the safeties in attendance at the Senior Bowl, South Carolina’s Antonio Allen had the best showing. Allen was the leading tackler for the South defense in the game with seven tackles, and he also looked very good in coverage this week. Allen displayed very good athleticism and instinctiveness. He is at least worth a fourth-round draft choice.

Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin had a solid week in both coverage and tackling, including picking up a tackle for loss on game day. That said, he failed to stand out in any facet at the Senior Bowl, and remains a fourth-round value.

LSU’s Brandon Taylor did come up with a nice interception on game day, but that was his only real highlight of the week. Taylor lacks height for the safety position at only 5’11’’ and struggled for the most part in coverage this week. Taylor is a skilled defensive back who is a solid in-the-box tackler, but he looks to be a backup at the next level and is only worth a fifth-round or sixth-round draft pick.

Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith and Boise State’s George Iloka were two safeties who had a chance to become day-two prospects with strong weeks in Mobile, but neither did much of anything to stand out.

Both players have intriguing combinations of size and athleticism, but Smith remains a fourth-round draft prospect while Iloka’s lack of impact plays, both collegiately and at the Senior Bowl, leave him as only a fifth-round draft pick.

Boston College’s Donnie Fletcher played cornerback collegiately and continued to play that position for the week at the Senior Bowl but is going to have to make the transition to make safety at the next level. Fletcher proved this week that he lacks the hip fluidity to play cornerback, and he has the size and tackling ability to have potential as a safety.

 

However, Fletcher may struggle in coverage even as a safety. He was burned often this week. He does well at tackling with the offensive player in front of him but has a tough time getting himself into position. Fletcher likely has a future in the NFL as a backup safety and special teams player but should not be selected higher than Round 6.

Michigan State’s Trenton Robinson did have a fumble recovery in the game, but that was his only highlight in an otherwise disappointing week.

Robinson is more of an in-the-box than a deep safety and was not even a consistent tackler on game day. Robinson should be a sixth-round draft pick but did nothing to help his stock this week.

 

Thanks for reading!

Click the following links to read the remainder of my 2012 Senior Bowl performance reviews:

Quarterbacks and Running Backs

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Offensive Line

Defensive Line

Linebackers

For more 2012 NFL draft coverage, follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.

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