The last day of the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is reserved for the defensive backs. This year's class features plenty of cornerbacks and safeties ready to show they should be taken early in the draft.
At some positions, these workouts and measurements are more of a formality, as in-game production is a better indicator for future success. However, the combine means a lot for players in the secondary.
A slow 40-yard dash indicates that a prospect might not be able to stay with the faster receivers in the NFL. Conversely, a player with a great vertical jump could make more plays in the air. Finally, on-field drills allow scouts and coaches to see if a defensive back has the footwork to play in man coverage.
On Tuesday, a few top stars lived up to their expectations, while some lesser-known prospects turned some heads. Here are the top performances, reactions and results from Day 6 of the combine.
After Dee Milliner, who is the best cornerback in the draft?
Highlights and Best Performances
Dee Milliner Stays In Front of Pack
If you ask NFL analysts who the best defensive back in the class is, almost every one will say Dee Milliner.
Although he will undergo surgery on a torn labrum after the combine, he still impressed with blazing times of 4.31 and 4.37 seconds in his pair of 40-yard dash attempts.
The Alabama cornerback struggled catching balls in drills, but as Will Brinson of CBS Sports points out, that is not a big deal at this point:
We could blame Dee Milliner's inability to catch today on the little things. Or, you know, a TORN LABRUM.— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 26, 2013
Milliner has great size for the position at 6'0" and uses both his strength and speed to stick with any receiver he matches up with. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com points out another important factor that will help him succeed:
Deion Sanders says he loves Dee Milliner's swag. Overlooked intangible— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) February 26, 2013
Milliner should be taken in the top 10 in April.
Tyrann Mathieu Helps His Cause
One of the biggest question marks in the draft this year is former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
After finishing the 2011 season as a Heisman finalist, he was kicked off the team after failing a drug test. Now he is looking to redeem himself in order to be selected at some point in the draft.
He appeared apologetic for his mistakes during the interview process earlier in the week, but the player formerly known as "Honey Badger" still had to prove himself on the field.
Mathieu did just that on Tuesday with strong 40-yard dash times of 4.43 and 4.50 seconds.
The cornerback is small for the position at 5'9" and only benched the 225-pound bar four times, but he makes up for his lack of size with his speed and playmaking ability that he showed off at LSU.
Deion Sanders, a star cornerback back in his playing days, was very high on Mathieu (via Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune):
Deion Sanders on Tyrann Mathieu:"This kid is going to be a flat-out baller in the NFL."— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncanTP) February 26, 2013
Deion Sanders on Tyrann Mathieu: "This is an every-down corner. This is a starter. I don't think he's going to be around by the third round"— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncanTP) February 26, 2013
All it takes is one team to fall in love with his potential and draft him early. He is certainly a prospect to watch over the next couple of months.
Top Prospects Stock Up/Stock Down
While film shows how fast players are on the field, the 40-yard dash is the equalizer among all prospects. This is completely independent of the level of competition the players faced in college.
When the official times were released, there were some surprising results in the top names.
Johnthan Banks likely had the worst day, finishing with a 40-yard dash time of 4.61. Mike Mayock of NFL Network seemed to be disappointed in this performance:
After Johnthan Banks runs a 4.59 40-yard dash (unofficial), Mayock: That is my concern with him. If he runs well, he a first round pick.— NFL Media PR (@InsideNFLMedia) February 26, 2013
While the physical cornerback should still be a high pick, this slow time will certainly hurt his stock.
Banks was actually overshadowed by his Mississippi State teammate, Darius Slay. Slay is not as highly rated as Banks, but he had the best 40-yard dash time of the day at 4.36 seconds.
Other notable cornerback times are Xavier Rhodes of Florida State with a 4.43, and Desmond Trufant of Washington, who had a great mark of 4.38.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller notes that teams are high on Trufant:
Was told at the Senior Bowl by a scout, "Desmond (Trufant) looks like a first-rounder, covers like a first-rounder and he'll run top 10."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 26, 2013
The top safety prospects were nowhere near as fast, but both Kenny Vaccaro and Matt Elam posted acceptable times. Elam was better with a 4.53, while Vaccaro should be satisfied with a 4.63.
This position requires less pure speed and more lateral quickness, which was on display in the drills.
Shamarko Thomas' Trip Doesn't Tell Whole Story
A clip that will start to circulate following the combine is Shamarko Thomas falling at the end of his 40-yard dash on Tuesday.
Outside of this unfortunate trip, however, the Syracuse safety had an outstanding day. Thomas is only 5'9", but he has proven be one of the better athletes at the combine.
His 40-yard dash of 4.42 was the best time among safeties, and he didn't stop there. His 28 reps in the bench press were the most of any defensive back, he tied for the best vertical jump at 40.5 inches, and his broad jump of 11'1" was only one inch behind the leaders.
Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, for one, was able to look past his fall and realize what a good day Thomas had:
Shamarko Thomas-- 4.38 40 time. 29 reps at 225 pounds. Highest vert of all safeties. Get aboard the bandwagon...— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) February 26, 2013
This type of athlete is almost sure to find his way onto an NFL team.
Complete List of Tuesday's 40-Yard Dash Times
|Cyprien, John||Florida International||-|
|Johnson, Keelan||Arizona State||4.54|
|Miles, Rontez||California (PA)||4.62|
|Motta, Zeke||Notre Dame||4.83|
|Slaughter, Jamoris||Notre Dame||-|
|Swearinger, D.J.||South Carolina||4.67|
|Thomas, Phillip||Fresno St.||4.65|
|Wilcox, J.J.||Georgia Southern||4.57|
|Wolff, Earl||N.C. State||4.44
|Adams, Johnny||Michigan St.||4.48|
|Alford, Robert||Southeastern Louisiana||4.39|
|Amerson, David||N.C. State||4.44|
|Banks, Johnthan||Mississippi St.||4.61|
|Davis, Will||Utah St.||4.51|
|McCray, Demetrius||Appalachian St.||4.54|
|McFadden, Leon||San Diego St.||4.54|
|Poyer, Jordan||Oregon St.||4.54|
|Reid, Greg||Florida St.||-|
|Rhodes, Xavier||Florida St.||4.43|
|Slay, Darius||Mississippi St.||4.36|
|Swanson, Daxton||Sam Houston St.||4.56|
|Sweeting, Rod||Georgia Tech||4.42|
|Taylor, Jamar||Boise St.||4.39|
|Webb, B.W.||William & Mary||4.51|
|Webster, Kayvon||South Florida||4.41|
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