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.
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.
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