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Several Stand Out Among DB Class At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 27, 2013 – 7:39 am

The bad news for NFL defensive coordinators is that the wide receivers put on an impressive display during their on-field work out Sunday at the 2013 Scouting Combine. The good news for NFL defensive coordinators is that the men who will become responsible for covering those wide receivers – the defensive backs – also put on an impressive display during their work out at the Combine on Tuesday.

From Dee Milliner cementing his status as the class’ top cornerback, to Desmond Trufant following up a solid Senior Bowl week with a solid Combine performance, to several lesser-known players putting themselves on the map, the outstanding performances were abundant.

Let’s take a look at some of the individuals who stood out during the DB on-field workout on Tuesday…

CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)
Milliner was thought to be the top cornerback heading into the Combine, and his performance in Indianapolis all but eliminated any doubt of that. He answered any questions regarding his speed by registering the 2nd-fastest 40-yard dash time, and then he was solid-not-sensational in the on-field drill work. He appeared to fight the ball and struggle with drops at times, but overall it was a solid day for Milliner. Here’s how NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks described Milliner’s day: “Milliner displayed outstanding footwork and movement skills in the positional drills. He smoothly executed transitions and turns in space, showing excellent balance and body control. Thought he struggled handling the ball, but those concerns can be assuaged at Alabama’s pro day next month.”

CB Desmond Trufant (Washington)
The younger brother of two NFL players, Trufant was perhaps the best cornerback at the Senior Bowl last month and he was also a top performer at the Combine within his position group. He finished with the 3rd-fastest 40-yard dash, the 2nd-best 20-yard shuttle time and he also put up impressive numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.

CB Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana)
One of my favorite players at the Senior Bowl, Alford had a quiet-but-good Combine performance. He had the 4th-best 40-yard dash time and broad jump, was 3rd among all cornerbacks in the bench press and was one of just seven players with a vertical leap of 40+ inches. Here’s part of the NFL.com scouting report on Alford: “His willingness to press, compete for balls downfield, and support the run –- as well as fair size, overall athleticism, and potential return ability will make him a highly sought-after player.”

CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida State)
Had Milliner struggled in Indianapolis, Rhodes stood the best chance to leap-frog him as this class’ top cornerback. As it turns out, Milliner is fortunate to have performed so well because Rhodes did in fact impress at the Combine. Rhodes, a 3-year starter at Florida State, has great size at 6-1, 210 pounds, and he’s known as an excellent press-coverage corner who excels in man-to-man situations. But he also proved his has movement skills and explosive ability to go with it. Rhodes’ 40-time was sufficient to eliminate concerns about his speed, his vertical leap was tied for 1st among all defensive backs and his broad jump was 5th-best among his group.

CB Tyrann Mathieu (LSU)
I wrote about him on Tuesday evening. Click here to read that report. If you don’t want to do that, the bottom line on Mathieu’s Combine performance is that he was one of the day’s top performers. He was solid-not-sensational in the timed and measured activities, but he was indeed sensational during the position-specific drills. He displayed a confidence and a swagger that reminds you he was at one time arguably the best defensive player in college football, which makes teams’ opinions of his interview performance even more important. Here’s what Brooks said of Mathieu: “[He] created some positive momentum with his standout performance at the combine…Not only was his (40-yard dash) time adequate for the position, it indicated that he is a more explosive athlete than most expected him to be after watching him on tape. Mathieu also surprised scouts with his solid footwork and fundamentals in positional drills.”

CB Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State) and S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)
On the flip side of the 4 standout performers mentioned above, we have Banks and Vaccaro. Banks came into the Combine looking to establish himself as the top cornerback, but his 40-time was not impressive and he wasn’t sharp in the position-specific drills. Brooks said of Banks: “Although Banks still has an opportunity to make amends at his pro day in a few weeks, he will certainly see his stock dip a little after the combine.” As for Vaccaro, the favorite to be the first safety taken in the draft, he didn’t reinforce the notion that many have of him being a versatile safety with corner-type cover skills. As Brooks says, he’ll need to produce better timed results to make teams feel comfortable applying a 1st-round grade to him.


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