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February 26, 2013 @ 4:38 pm
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NFL Combine Day 4 Impressions: Cornerbacks and Safeties

Written by Mark
Cook
Mark Cook

Mark
Cook

Editor-In-Chief E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Which cornerbacks and safeties turned in star performances on Tuesday, and which ones disappointed at the NFL scouting combine? Which players may be targets for the Buccaneers in the 2013 NFL Draft? Find out the answers in this Pewter Report article.
The final group of NFL prospects went through the annual pre-draft NFL Combine on Tuesday, hoping to improve their status for the NFL draft in late April.

 Inside Lucas Oil Stadium NFL coaches, scouts and pro player personnel had their eyes glued to the secondary players in hopes of solidifying their opinions of the prospects or maybe even finding a draft-day steal.


Cornerbacks
The 2013 crop of defensive backs is one of the deep classes seen in years. Overall the depth is impressive and while the jury is out on how may are, or will develop into shutdown defensive backs, with the amount of talent on display several NFL teams will improve their roster for the upcoming 2013 season.

Dee Milliner came into the Combine as the top-rated cornerback and all he did on Tuesday was solidify that notion with an impressive day. The former Bama standout turned heads immediately, running an official 4.37, 40-yard time. Miller was equally impressive during on-the-field workouts, showing excellent technique. While he did drop a few balls early, no NFL team will allow that to stop them from taking the All-American three-time national champion. Milliner could very well end up in Detroit, but regardless, the odds of him falling to the Bucs No. 13 is slim-to-none after Tuesday’s performance.

Desmond Trufant’s 4.38 official timed 40-yard dash made many stop and take notice. Trufant’s skill-set is solid and he looked good on the field, with the only major question of his game coming into the Combine was his speed. Not any more. Trufant had an excellent Senior Bowl in Mobile and Tuesday’s performance only will help his steady rise. Thought to be a second day pick soon after the season, Trufant is pushing  himself into the first round and some have whispered he could potentially be an option at No. 13 for Tampa Bay.

Xavier Rhodes came into Tuesday trying to prove he is worthy of an early first-round selection, starting quickly but came up limping after his second 40 attempt. Rhodes was blazing fast on his first attempt, unofficially clocked at 4.41, which at 6-2, 210-pounds, is impressive.

Rhodes also stood out with a 40.5-inch vertical leap, one of the best of the entire Combine among all players. Could the Bucs be considering Rhodes at No. 13? Perhaps, but it may come down to his pro day in Tallahassee. Regardless Rhodes most likely moved himself into position to be the second cornerback selected in April’s draft.

Darius Slay played opposite Johnthan Banks at Mississippi State and caught the eye of NFL analyst Mike Mayock a few weeks ago when watching tape.

“I tell you what's interesting (when watching the, I like that other corner too, Darius Slay,” Mayock said. “I put the tape on to watch Banks who plays in the boundary for the most part, and my eye kept going to the other kid, and I liked him a lot.  I think [Slay is] a guy that's a third‑ our fourth‑round player.  And I think he's opened some eyes.”

Slay certainly opened eyes after running the fastest time of the day on Tuesday, officially listed at 4.36. Slay picked of five passes last season for the Bulldogs. Coming into the Combine most felt Slay was a fourth-round selection but after Tuesday he could move into the third round.

The player formally known as the “Honey Badger” came into the Combine with as much to prove as any player in recent memory. After violating a number of team rules, LSU head coach Les Miles finally dismissed Mathieu earlier this season. Mathieu doesn’t have ideal size but was always playmaker in college before his transgressions cost him last season in Baton Rogue.

Mathieu struggled in the bench press managing to only get four reps at 225-lbs, but had a solid 40-time (4.50). During on field drills Mathieu excelled, reminding those in attendance why he was such a dynamics player for LSU. Mathieu was explosive out of his breaks and showed a good lean in his back pedal while demonstrating excellent movement from the waist down.

Where Mathieu ends up being drafted will depend a lot on how he handles his interviews with prospective team, which according to reports included the Buccaneers.

The most disappointing and potentially costly performance of the day came from Johnthan Banks who ran terrible 4.61, 40-time on Tuesday. Banks, along with Rhodes, and Trufant, had been vying to become the second corner off the board behind Milliner. But after the sluggish pedestrian 4.61 it appears there is little chance Banks sneaks into the first round. This could work out in the Bucs favor if they have interest in the former Mississippi State product. With the poor showing Banks most likely will be available in the second round or even later. The Bucs could conceivably take Rhodes or Trufant in the first round and still end up with the 6-2 cornerback.

Banks, and a handful of others who disappointed on Tuesday, will have a second chance to impress at their college pro day, however, most NFL tend to use the Combine barometer as the most reliable time.

Other cornerbacks who has solid performances and most likely improved, or at the least solidified their draft stock, were Dave Amerson, Jamar Taylor, Brandon McGee, Jordan Poyer, Logan Ryan and USF’s Kayvon Webster.

Safeties
Former Florida safety Matt Elam was impressive running a 4.46, 40-time and throwing up 18 reps in the bench press. Elam is a thumper and may have moved himself into the late first round with his overall Combine performance. Solid in coverage and an above average tackler, Elam appears destined for first-round draft status after Tuesday.

UConn’s Dewayne Gratz posted a 4.47, 40-time and although he played corner primarily, some NFL scouts see his future in the league as a safety. Whether safety or cornerback Gratz was impressive in all aspects of the Combine on Tuesday showing good speed, range and hands. Gratz has excellent closing ability and demonstrated a good low lean in his back pedal in Indy.

Shamarko Thomas, like Elam, loves to hit. Thomas, on first glance looks more like a linebacker than a safety and while he lacks ideal height, his toughness and ability more than make up for any size deficiency. Thomas was the fastest safety at the Combine posting a 40 time of 4.42 and led all defensive backs with 28 reps on the bench press and a 40.5-inch vertical. Thomas came into Indianapolis projected to be alate round selection and while it is a stretch to think he goes in the first three rounds, with Tuesday’s performance Thomas could become a late second-day selection.




Last modified on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 20:50
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    A lot of things can happen between now and April and the draft.I will be in south fla watching the draft in south miami and looking forward to see what and who the teams will make te farest reaches or hit the bulleye-GO BUCS
  • avatar

    For the record, I am not just saying this cause im Nole, but, Rhoads is the better prospect for the long run. If you watch any of his games, other QBs avoid throwing his way which is why he might not have the best stats and this is also why he is a true game changer. Not right away, but I defenately see him being the next Derel Revis. Man wouldnt it be something for the Bucs to grab him in the 1st, a TE or trade up for Tavon Auston WR out of WVU in the 2nd, and the Honey Badger in the 3rd. WoW! We will still need a veteran CB in FA.
  • avatar

    Trufant and Rhodes both fit our biggest need for Bump and Run corners and would both help our team greatly. Our coach needs big aggressive skilled corners if he wants to make the type of D he called the most last year work. IMO the first round is the safest place to grab a CB to be sure we have a starter for 5 years. Besides corner in round one we should consider: We could also take a future stud LT we could put at RT for 2 years. We could go FS but in round one... nah. A safety in round 1 2 years in a row... We could go TE if they really believe one of those 2 guys would really help greatly on third down and could be effective in the run game. But IMO our TEs were much better then our QBs ability to throw someone open. Josh just isn't accurate enough to make a TE that valuable (1st round) imo. We could go DE if greatness falls in our lap. So I feel LT (that we'd play at RT) or CB is the way to go.
  • avatar


    I'd say this if Trufant or Rhodes is selected by Tampa at #13.then banks may still be available in Rd-2 or 3.Whenever Tampa does,Their defense will get better-GO BUCS
  • avatar


    Trufant has it all.
  • avatar

    No mention of the top safety in the draft Vacarro? I'd take him if Milliner and the top few OTs and pass rushers are off the board. If any of the top 4 CBs are on the board for us in the 2nd rd, I'd be shocked; and if one was, I'd take whichever one it was in a heartbeat. Banks running slow doesn't worry me, and while Trufant and Rhodes are more gamble-type corners, they are solid all-around. Going to be a long couple months...
  • avatar


    Hey mark, Is there any chance the Bucs bring back Talib? He isn't the greatest CB but he could help us during this transition with younger guys. I am not a big fan of him, but Coach Schiano got Talib to buy into his system and he was an outstanding citizen for that short time under him. He was even doing charity events. I think we could get him back for a reasonable price. Just a thought.
  • avatar


    I'm not advocating Banks here, but even though 4.61 was slower than expected, Joe Haden ran a 4.57. How's that working out for him? Let's not put too much into the track meet. Rhodes surprised me and I think you see the Bucs take Milliner, Rhodes or Trufant - whomever is available at 13.
  • avatar


    Let's not forget that the Bucs have had much more success drafting defensive backs outside of the first round. Aqib Talib and Rod "Toast" Jones were premium choices who failed to live up to their draft status; but Buccaneer greats Brian Kelly, Donnie Abraham (now coaching at Horse's Clearwater HS), John Lynch and Ronde Barber exceeded expectations. You could even throw in Tanard Jackson until he decided living a Cheech and Chong lifestyle was more important. At # 13 I don't think any position is out of the realm of possibility except P, PK, QB, RB and perhaps WR.
  • avatar

    The Bucs only drafted those two corners you mentioned in the first round so not many in the entire history now go back and look at all the first round corners taken from all the other 32 teams. You want to roll the dice in the later rounds to solve our corner problem because of some other "lucky" choices? That is ridiculous no offense!
  • avatar


    Dee Milliner if he falls but if not I would prefer Ezekiel Ansah or Margus Hunt preferably Margus Hunt in a trade back and Xavier Rhode and David Amerson at safety or darius slay and shamarko Thomas to go with Xavier. SPEED is due helps on the deep ball When broken coverage or lack of pass rush.
  • avatar


    We can pick one of these guys in the second round. If we don't trade down or out of the 1st round then I hope it is BPA; No. 13 spot should be a starter from day 1.
  • avatar


    I'm impressed with Milliner's speed. His tape still doesn't impress me. Don't get me wrong, I'd be happy to have him - but not in the top half of the first round. Despite his 4.61 forty, I still think Banks is a better prospect. I've been wrong before, and I could be wrong now, but that's what I think. Rhodes, not at all surprisingly, was a workout warrior today and looked great in shorts and a tight shirt. Doesn't mean a thing to me. Never liked him at FSU and still don't.
  • avatar


    If he is gonna play safety in the NFL, 2 reps is a problem. If he's going to play CB, who cares? The Bucs would, actually, but most teams in the NFL don't ask for tackling strength out of their corners. He could have put up a 0 and, in my mind, it wouldn't really affect his standing as a prospect. I don't like him or anything, but he shouldn't be any worse off after that bench press showing than he was before. Anyone remember when kevin Durant couldn't do 1 rep on the bench press for the NBA combine? Looks like that sure hurt him.
  • avatar


    He actually put up 4 from what the nfl network was saying
  • avatar


    The honey badger looked to be one of the more fluid athletes at the combine. But 2 reps at 225? That's scary weak. It will be interesting to follow where he ends up and how he plays.
  • avatar

    Pat Kirwan said today (moving the chains) he doesn't like Mathieu as a corner - thinks he's a nickel safety at best - and would place him in the mid rounds of the draft. But surely the Bucs won't go near him anyway after giving up on Talib.
  • avatar


    Yes, he obviously does not hit the weight room and that says a lot about his work ethic. The rumors may be true and a tiger does not change its stripes. He relies only on his natural ability. Bucs...please don't draft this guy!
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