Thursday morning the 30-some hours of the NFL Scouting Combine is daunting. It feels as though the four days of the Combine will take forever to get through. But every year it seems as though the Combine has passed in the blink of an eye by Sunday evening.
As always, Sunday afternoon saw the defensive backs — the cornerbacks and safeties — take the field to close out the weekend. The New York Giants have needs at both levels of their secondary, needing to find a dependable slot corner as well as a long-term answer at free safety. These were the players who stood out to me on Sunday, and of course the Chris and Joe Show is here to give our instant reaction to the day’s events.
Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah is still the top corner in the draft, despite not running as fast as everyone was expecting and taking a concerning fall in the position drills. He still ran fast enough and looked remarkably smooth and fluid in drills. Okudah showed his competitive toughness by staying around and performing the jumps. Okudah posted a 41-inch vertical and 11-foot-3 inch broad jump
C.J. Henderson (Florida)
Henderson measured out as one of the biggest and longest corners at the Combine, coming in at just under 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds with 31 5/8 inch arms. He also had one of the best 40-yard dash times with a 4.39. But what set Henderson apart was his fluid hips and quick feet in the position drills. Henderson performed well in transitions, flipping and opening his hips up well on the move, and looked particularly good on the “W” drill.
In that drill Henderson showed very quick feet, “clicking” and driving to transition from a backpedal to running downhill, rather than relying on a “T” step.
A.J. Terrell (Clemson)
Terrell is another potential top corner who needed to show that he has the athleticism to be in the top five at his position group — particularly after getting beaten up by LSU in the National Championship game.
Terrell is another long corner at 6-foot 1 1/8 inches and ran faster than many were expecting with a 4.43 second 40 yard dash. And like Henderson, he showed great feet and hips in the position drills, as well as hands in the (newly implemented) DB gauntlet. He showed the physical drills to play in man coverage, which is vital for corners looking to be drafted highly.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the top two safeties in the draft perform on Sunday. LSU’s Grant Delpit was held out of the combine as he recovers from an ankle injury which nagged him throughout the season while Alabama’s Xavier McKinney had his day ended early by cramping. However, that opened the door for other safety prospects to show up and impress with the top dogs off the field.
Antoine Winfield Jr. (Minnesota)
Of the pure safeties, Winfield Jr. has to be the highlight of the afternoon. The star of the Minnesota defense might be a bit short at 5-foot-9, but he is stout and moved as well as you could ask. He was smooth and controlled in all of the position drills and showed off his athleticism with a 4.46-second 40 yard dash and a 36-inch vertical.
Even more impressive, Winfield Jr. showcased remarkable ball skills. He has excellent timing when high-pointing the ball and didn’t let a single pass hit the ground that I saw. He was productive his last year at Minnesota, with 3.5 tackles for a loss, 3.0 sacks, and 7 interceptions, and some team is going to get a playmaker for their secondary with him.
The STARs of the show
Whether you call it the “STAR”, “Buffalo Nickel”, or the “Moneybacker”, a positionless hybrid player who blends the size, athleticism, and skillsets of safeties and linebackers is becoming an increasingly popular position in NFL defenses. This isn’t an “official” position yet, but I also don’t think its fair to evaluate players who are closer to small linebackers the same as a traditional safety. We could easily include Isaiah Simmons in this group as well as the players who worked out Sunday afternoon. In fact, at least some teams requested that Simmons work out with the DBs as well as the linebackers.
Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois)
Measuring in at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, Chinn could easily blend in with a crowd of linebackers. But with a 4.46-second 40 yard dash as well as an 11-foot-6 inch broad jump and 41-inch vertical leap, Chinn has the athleticism to play like a safety.
Kyle Duggar (Lenoir-Rhyne)
Dugger didn’t run as well as expected, turning a 4.50 second 40 yard dash after stating that he would run in the 4.3’s. It appeared as though Duggar stumbled in his 40’s, but he too showed an explosive lower body, jumping 11-feet 2-inches in the broad jump and 42-inches in the vertical.
Dugger is a bit closer to traditional safety size at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds and he showed very good movement skills n the position drills, executing the 90-degree break very well. Dugger has been a popular name out of a D-II school and he could be an intriguing pick for a creative defensive coordinator.
Tanner Muse (Clemson)
While Duggar might have looked more like a big safety who could play some linebacker, Clemson’s Tanner Muse simply looks like a very athletic linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 227 pounds he has the size many teams prefer in their off-ball linebackers, and with a 4.41 second 40 yard dash, he has the wheels.
Muse did not move as well as the other big safeties in the position drills, playing a little wilder and struggling a bit to keep his feet under him when breaking. However, he still did well enough in the position drills to give confidence that he can cover the middle of the field as a safety/linebacker hybrid, or as an outright conversion to linebacker. That potential makes him an intriguing player later in the draft.
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