The NFL Combine ended with defensive backs—corners and safeties. We look at the key storylines coming out of Indianapolis after the last day of combine workouts.
Defensive Backs a Step Behind the Field.
The secondary, and cornerbacks in particular, often put in some of the most explosive performances in the combine, particularly in drills like the 40 yard dash.
In 2014, this was not the case, with only one cornerback posting a time in the top 10% of performers, and only three in the top 20%. The stats were similar for safeties, one in the top 10% and four in the top 20%.
It perhaps has less to do with these players themselves, and more to do with the way the rest of the field has moved forward, but given how much value teams place on 40 yard dash times, it could lead to an overall de-valuation in the defensive backs pool, as a whole.
No Clear Top Pick Amongst Cornerbacks.
The combine is often useful for setting the draft order, at least in terms of the top picks. It is rare for no-one to break away from the pack and cement themselves at the head of the class, yet in 2014, that is exactly what has happened.
Coming into the combine, there were three or four players who could conceivably come off the board during the first round, but with no clear consensus about who the top prospect would be. Coming out of the combine, not much has changed.
There is simply no consensus top pick, no guaranteed star in this years draft.
Coming out of the combine, Justin GIlbert perhaps did most to help his cause. He led the group in 40 yard dash time, and had a solid performance all around, helped move him up a hand full of spots on most people’s boards, and some now believe him to lead the pack as a borderline top 10 pick.
However several still have Darqueze Dennard edging out Gilbert, in spite of doing very little during his combine to improve his stock—the consensus is that his film was strong enough for teams to ignore anything but a disastrous combine performance would be enough to see him selected in, or around, the top ten.
Relatively strong performances by Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett could see both men move ahead of Gilbert and Dennard on some teams big boards too, if they were impressed by them in their interviews and film study.
Predicting which of these four players will be selected first is going to stay difficult right up to draft day.
2014 Safety Class Deep, But Not Elite.
The 2014 draft class is very deep across the board, but largely lacking in immediate, guaranteed starters. Nowhere is this clearer that at the safety position.
Coming out of the combine, there are probably 8-10 safeties who could be drafted in the second to fifth round, that could, at least theoretically, make an impact as rookies.
Injuries have hurt the stock of several key players, but assuming that they can come back from these, there is no reason to assume that they cannot become NFL starters.
What the 2014 safety pool lacks, however, is elite prospects, guaranteed starters.
Safeties tend to be less highly valued than other positions to begin with, but in 2014, there is simply no one that is yet a guaranteed first round talent, and even those second rounder’s are no sure thing.
The leading two candidates are currently Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor. Both have the potential to break the first round, and both were good in the combine, running near identical 40 yard dash times.
Neither clearly pulled ahead of the other during the combine, and neither is a consensus first round pick.
Clinton-Dix is perhaps the better prospect of the two, but his draft stock was severely hurt when he was handed an indefinite suspension for breaking team rules—reportedly, he accepted an unauthorised loan from a team assistant. Though he was reinstated just days later, the lapse in judgement will undoubtedly be something teams need to consider.
He is also coming off a knee surgery which may concern teams about his durability, though he seemed not to be limited by it during the combine.
For Pryor, the concerns range primarily with his play style. He is considered reckless and undisciplined by some, due to his aggressive and hard-hitting nature, and somewhat unprepared for an NFL style defense. Teams may be concerned that he will result in a lot of avoidable penalties, and runs the risk of permanent, career ending injury on most plays unless he can be reigned in.
Both players have a lot of upside, and plenty of raw talent, but neither player is as NFL ready as recent first round picks like Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Eric Reid or Kenny Vaccaro.
Both have a real chance to make a splash in the NFL, but will need to demonstrate more before they are considered elite prospects.