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2018 NFL Combine Day 4: Defensive backs take the field

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Your open thread for today’s workout

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the final day of the 2018 NFL Combine.

Today is devoted solely to the secondary as the defensive backs take the field. Safeties and corners will take the field together, and not be broken up into separate position groups. It should become apparent by the end of the day, however, which players are athletically able to be cornerbacks and which will be safeties in the NFL.

The New York Giants have a talented secondary, but changes to their defensive scheme, and questions about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, could have them interested.

Players To Watch

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) - Fitzpatrick is a playmaker who has played all over Alabama’s secondary. He is generally considered a free safety, but if he shows off the athleticism, he could give defensive coordiantors plenty of options. He is also regarded as having an incredible work ethic and as being an extension of Nick Saban on the field.

Derwin James (Florida State) - James is one of the athletic freaks of the draft. He shows rare size and athleticism on the field. Expectations were sky-high for him coming in to the season, but he got off to a bit of slow start before finishing the season very strongly.

Kyzir White (West Virginia) - White played a hybrid safety/linebacker position on WVU’s defense, and has a reputation as a truly fearsome hitter. He has great size and a nice closing burst, but there are questions bout how well he is really able to move in space and in coverage

Joshua Jackson (Iowa) - Jackson is a one-year-wonder who exploded on to the scene this year with his ball skills almost single-handedly lifting Iowa over Ohio State with three interceptions.

Denzel Ward (Ohio State) - The OSU corner is considered by some to be the top corner in the draft, but he is also undersized. He will want to show that it doesn’t matter and his talent and ability will overcome any size deficiency.

Shaquem Griffin (Central Florida) - This will be an interesting workout to watch, and it is Griffin’s second in two days. Thanks to his size and athleticism enough teams have asked him to work out as a DB. While there are questions about how much Griffin’s amputation will hinder him at the next level, there is no question about his heart, desire, talent, or athleticism.

Events That Matter

40 Yard Dash - Long speed is important to any defensive back. They need to be able to turn and run with receivers down the field. 40 time will also help to differentiate between safeties and corners — Corners generally being the faster players.

3-Cone Drill - Quickness, agility, balance, flexibility, and fluidity are all absolutely vital to a DBs game. How well and how quickly they can change direction will help set their draft stock and differentiate between which players can play where and in what systems.

Vertical and Broad Jumps - These drills will show which players have lower body explosiveness. Odds are that these players will be shorter than at least some of the receivers they will have to cover, and being able to climb the ladder and high-point the ball is important. The broad jump will also help show off hip and ankle flexibility.

Drills To Watch

“W” Drill

1. DB faces DRILL DIRECTOR 5 yards away with feet on the line in a backpedal stance.

2. On command the DB will backpedal for 5 yards.

3. Using a football the DRILL DIRECTOR will direct the DB to execute a 45-degree break towards the cone until the DRILL DIRECTOR directs another backpedal of 5 yards.

4. The DRILL DIRECTOR will repeat this pattern 2 more times with the DB catching the football on the last cone and sprinting to the End Zone.

This isn’t a “football” drill, but it might be the most important drill for the defensive backs. This drill will expose which players have the loose hips and quick feet to backpedal with receivers then effortlessly transition and drive on the ball.

Backpedal, Turn and Catch Drill (Right and Left)

1. DB stands 25 yards ahead of the DRILL DIRECTOR with his back to him and in a backpedal stance.

2. On command DB will back pedal towards the DRILL DIRECTOR.

3. DRILL DIRECTOR will yell “Ball” after at least 10 yards in the back pedal.

4. DB will speed turn to the right and catch the football as he runs forward towards the DRILL DIRECTOR.

5. DB will sprint with the football past the DRILL DIRECTOR and hand the ball to the assistant instructor.

Back Pedal, Break Forward, Speed Turn & Catch Drill

1. DB will line up in a back pedal stance 7 yards ahead of the DRILL DIRECTOR.

2. On command the DB will backpedal downfield, make sure the DB backpedals at least 10 yards before break point.

3. When DRILL DIRECTOR swipes the football downwards the DB will break forward.

4. The DRILL DIRECTOR will then raise the football to a throwing position, of which the DB will speed turn downfield and sprint like he is covering a Go route.

5. DRILL DIRECTOR will throw the long ball and DB will locate the football to catch it.

6. DB will sprint past the DRILL DIRECTOR and return the football to the assistant instructor.

Back Pedal, Weave, 90 Degree & Catch Drill

1. DB will line up in a back pedal stance 7 yards ahead of the DRILL DIRECTOR.

2. On command, the DB will backpedal reacting to the DRILL DIRECTOR direction using the football.

3. DB will maintain a back pedal stance as he weaves downfield looking at the DRILL DIRECTOR.

4. When DRILL DIRECTOR swipes the football downward either to the right or left, the DB will break on a 45-degree angle and catch the football from the DRILL DIRECTOR.

5. DB will sprint past the DRILL DIRECTOR and return the football to the assistant instructor.

Both of these drills are important for the same reasons. They are “football” drills that will show a prospect’s ability to backpedal with a receiver then either transition into running down the field or drive on a route in front of them, and then make a play on the ball.

Teams will want to see how well they backpedal, how loose their hips are, and whether or not they have ball skills.

Enjoy the day and use this as your open thread.