By Jared Stanger
And now, the headlining performer of the 2017 NFL Draft…defensive backs.
Arriving in Indianapolis last on Friday, with field testing on Monday March 6th, this year’s combined class of cornerbacks and safeties is soo loaded that, whether it was coincidence or not, it deserves the title of headliner. This is pure candy.
I don’t have concrete facts to back it up, but on eye test, this looks like the biggest class of CB’s I can remember. Not by volume…by height. I think I counted 22 unique CB in the combine that are preemptively listed over 6’0″, including six over 6’2″.
Although, currently, I only count a few that have been recorded with 32″ arms from the all-star game weigh-ins (Rasul Douglas, Marquez White, Treston Decoud, Brian Allen). A lot of the big names weren’t at the all-star games, though (Lattimore, Tabor, Humphrey, Jones, Tankersley, King, Conley, Wilson, Witherspoon, etc). Additionally, some that were at the all-star games may get Combine arm length bumps.
In terms of testing; there are so many guys that could really pop. It’s tough to predict a top 5 SPARQ group. Marlon Humphrey is a track guy that has fantastic make-up speed on tape. Adoree Jackson should run fast, but his lack of weight might bring down his SPARQ. I’m reading reports of lesser-known Shaquill Griffin running really good times, but I’ve only seen one game of him (from 2015). Fabian Moreau is a pretty athletic guy.
But I’ve got my money on my hometown dude: Kevin King. Jumps for days, exceptional agility, and I think people are comatose to what his true 40 speed is. I think Kev makes the most money at the combine for his position.
I don’t get the sense that the Florida CB’s or guys like Douglas and Tankersley are blazers. But a fast 40 isn’t always prerequisite for a Seattle CB. Richard Sherman ran a 4.60 at the combine, and later lowered it to a 4.53 at his pro day. Tye Smith was a 4.60 and then a 4.56. Byron Maxwell was a 4.52. Tharold Simon was a 4.51 and then a 4.47. If you’re looking for benchmarks; try to note the guys under 4.55 with a 10’04” broad jump…cross-reference with 32″ arms…and triple-check back to the game tape.
Keep those numbers in mind especially when all of the Pac12 corners test. Decoud, Allen, Witherspoon, Moreau, and King. Also because, though I think Seattle might go CB earlier than ever this year, they might also stick to historical pattern of 4th round back. King may not last that long, but the other four might. Those names could also qualify for the back end of a double-dip (two scoops of CB in one draft).
I don’t have a great sense for the athleticism tiers in this safety class. I know Jamal Adams and Budda Baker are both up there. I think Marcus Williams might run the fastest 40 of the group. Malik Hooker has to be up there, too. And I like John Johnson’s overall athleticism as a sleeper.
But there’s a whole gaggle more that I have no real sense for. Justin Evans, Josh Jones, Shalom Luani, Montae Nicholson, Tedric Thompson, Xavier Woods. I don’t think I’ve seen any one flash more than another…I don’t think any have ever embarassed themselves looking slow/unathletic. This is probably the best example of a position group where guys will legitimately be “breaking ties” with their athleticism. This will definitely be the combine testing that sends me back to the tape on the most individual players.