2014 NFL Combine Recap: Defensive Backs

Story posted February 25, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Jeff Jezewski

As the NFL Combine came to a close, the defensive backs were the last athletes to perform on Tuesday.

Many of the top defensive backs solidified their hype with strong performances, while a few lesser-known DB’s had big days to boost their stock.

Top cornerback prospect, Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, stole the show with a tremendous showing in Indianapolis. Gilbert measured in well, coming in at six feet tall and 202 pounds. Gilbert’s long arms are also a plus for DB’s as they measured out at 33 1/8 inches.

Despite his solid measurements, Gilbert stole the show on the field, running the fastest 40 yard dash time of all defensive backs (4.37 seconds). Gilbert showed his speed is for real and translates well into his overall game. The Oklahoma State product also showed solid strength finishing in the top five in the bench press, as well (20 reps).

Another top corner prospect dazzled, as Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard also had a solid day at the combine. Dennard (5’10 7/10”, 199 pounds) proved those doubting his speed and athletic ability wrong, as he posted a solid time in the 40 yard dash (4.51). Dennard is heralded as the best cover corner in the draft, but questions about his speed were popping up. Dennard quelled those questions as he performed admirably at the combine, solidifying himself a solid draft slot.

Jason Verrett, an undersized cornerback prospect out of TCU, showed off outstanding athletic ability, as he finished third in the 40 yard dash (4.38 seconds) and tied for third in the vertical jump (39 inches). Verrett had a very good day at the combine and is expected to be drafted within the first two rounds.

Another cornerback who struggled during his year at Ohio State, but has all the tools of an NFL starter, Bradley Roby put together a tremendous performance. Roby dominated the drills and looked very fluid and quick. Roby was another corner who posted a great 40 yard dash time (4.39) while showing good explosion in the vertical jump (38.5 inches) and the broad jump (10-4). Roby re-enters the discussion as one of the best corners in the draft after a strong day in Indy.

As for safeties, the two players most pundits have in the first round, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, performed solidly. Clinton-Dix (6’1 208 pounds), out of Alabama, proved he has the athleticism to pair with his size and toughness, as he ran a solid time (4.58 seconds) and showed good quickness and explosion throughout the day. Clinton-Dix didn’t put up the biggest numbers, but he showed that along with his film, he has the ability and athleticism to get it done in the NFL.

Pryor, another top safety prospect out of Louisville, solidified his position as one of the top safeties in the draft. Pryor (5’11 207 pounds) checked in a little smaller than expected, but ran a solid enough time (4.60), showed good strength (18 bench reps) and dominated the position drills. While Pryor didn’t light up the field, he certainly didn’t do anything to negatively affect his draft stock.

While these big names guys impressed, there were some lesser known names that showed off their abilities. Phillip Gaines out of Rice helped his stock by running a tremendous 40 yard dash (4.38 seconds), good for second of all defensive backs. Gaines showed impressive speed and explosion for a player his size. He is definitely a player to watch as we move closer towards the draft.

Another small school defensive back, Pierre Desir, out of Lindenwood, showed he belongs during the combine. Desir, while not running a blazing time (4.59), finished in the top ten of the broad jump (11-1), long shuttle (11.60 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.86 seconds). Desir proved he has the ability to play with the big boys and will continue to be on the board of NFL teams.

While these defensive backs and many more, including Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), Deone Bucannon (Washington State) and Keith McGill (Utah), impressed, there were a few prospects that failed to make an impact.

A pair of Florida Gators, cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, both affected their stocks negatively. Both were expected to impress and show off their speed, but each left something to be desired, running 4.61 second 40’s respectively. They both failed to impress during the rest of the drills, as well. Purifoy ranked second worst of all defensive backs who attempted the bench press. Their respective stocks are both expected to decline after the pair’s poor showing.

Hybrid corner-safety LaMarcus Joyner also failed to impress at the combine. The Florida State product ran a slow time (4.55) for a player of his small stature (5’8 184 lbs). He also struggled in multiple other drills.

Finally, Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon, known for his physical presence, struggled athletically. Dixon posted a subpar time (4.64), and failed to look fluid during the drills session. Dixon also finished dead last in a few events, including vertical jump and broad jump.

Teams that need help in the secondary can certainly find it in this season’s draft. After the few bona fide prospects in the draft there is plenty of depth. Many teams could find steals in the middle-to-late rounds with the great depth of defensive back prospects.

The NFL draft will begin on May 8th, stay tuned for more up-to-date information from ComRadio.

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu.