The last group of position players, the defensive backs, took to the field Tuesday for scouts and NFL personnel to evaluate. Beat writer Eric Dellaratta gives his impressions of the DBs who improved their stock for the upcoming NFL Draft in April.
The defensive backs were the last group to show their skills at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis Tuesday. As there has been the previous three days, a few players turned some heads and raised some eyebrows.Defensive Backs
Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson stole the show on Tuesday in Indianapolis. He ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash, which was the best among the defensive backs. Robinson also recorded a broad jump measurement of 11’1, which tied Stephen Hill for the best broad jump at this year’s Combine. He even finished second among defensive backs in the vertical jump with a leap of 38.5. The UCF standout helped out his draft stock greatly and his Combine performance has put him in third round conversations.
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is the best defensive back in this year’s draft class; he could arguably be the best defensive player in the draft as well. The Buccaneers could select Claiborne with the fifth overall selection in April. Claiborne looked very fluid in all of the position drills and has fantastic ball skills. He displayed great footwork and fluid hips in addition to running a solid 40-yard dash time of 4.47. The LSU stud is the best technician of the cornerbacks in this draft class and he definitely warrants a high draft pick.
Some have questioned Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard’s straight-line speed. Dennard showed off his speed by running a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, which was faster than most were expecting him to run. The Cornhusker senior performs extremely well in press coverage and would fit very well with a team that focuses on press coverage schematically. Dennard didn’t have a great Senior Bowl week before he got injured during one of the practices, so his Combine performance definitely helped his stock.
Stephon Gilmore ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and looked very solid in all of the position drills. Gilmore (6-foot, 190 pounds) possesses ideal size and speed to be successful at the NFL level. On tape, Gilmore is a gambler that will need to work on his ball skills. He’s a raw prospect, but with the right coaching he could be a very good NFL cornerback. Gilmore is projected to be a high second-round pick, and he could be an option for the Buccaneers at the top of the second round.
Boise State safety George Iloka did not look great in the position drills on Tuesday. He wasn’t very agile and displayed tight hips when dropping into coverage. The Boise State Bronco ran a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times. Iloka is a big, physical run defender that tackles well, but he also performs well in pass coverage. His elite size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and arm length (34 ½) is something that intrigues a lot of people. He is very instinctive and can produce big plays for the defense. Iloka is not the most agile defensive back so he will need to play more as an in-the-box safety. He looks like he would fit best at the strong safety position where he could use his size to cover some of the more athletic tight ends in the game today. Iloka looks like a mid-round pick that could be a great special teams player and an eventual starter for an NFL defense.
Two defensive backs to keep eye on are Ron Brooks and Brandon Taylor from LSU. The Buccaneers hired former LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper earlier this month, so he will know more about the LSU defensive backs than anyone else.
Taylor was an underrated player in the star-studded LSU secondary. He plays both the run and the pass well and can deliver some big hits. He ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, but he is much faster on the football field. Brooks ran a time of 4.37 which was the fifth best time in the defensive backs group in the 40-yard dash. He also recorded a vertical jump of 38, which was the third best of the defensive backs. Brooks was stuck behind Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne for much of his career and saw most of his looks in the nickel slot position. He could be a late round target with some upside.
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