NFL Scouting Combine Report-Day Four
Written by Curt Popejoy on 03/03/2012
Sorry for being a little tardy to the party on my breakdown of what I saw on the final day of the NFL Scouting Combine. Seems like this time of year there isn’t enough time to do everything. But I am not one to shirk my responsibility, so read on and get a feel for where I stand on the performances of the defensive backs.
First let me talk on safetys. When I say this I mean the guys who came to the combine as college safety and who will be safetys in the NFL. I honestly think in 5 years, the best players playing safety from this class are currently cornerbacks.
But first the pure safetys. There were some big, strong, fit young men at this combine. That didn’t sounds weird did it? What I meant was the top safetys in this draft are big, they are strong and they are fast. But they are also stiff. I didn’t see a single top tier safety who worked out at the combine as a coverage type who could line up with an athletic TE and cover them man to man. I see a lot of guys who can chase down backs, make big hits, blitz, and probably do alright in zone. Guys like Harrison Smith, Brandon Taylor, and George Iloka look like big physical SS types who will put a hat on someone. But they are not elite FS prospects. They one guy who some claim are, Mark Barron didn’t work out, so his skill set by comparison remains to be seen. In a league that continues to covet the pass more and more, I wonder about the roles of these big run stopping safetys.
But hope is not lost. 2 cornerbacks in this draft have stood out to me all year as potential top flight free safetys. First is Dre Kirkpatrick. He has a ton of NFL potential, but I just think with his build and cornerback instincts, you could play him as a pure coverage safety almost like a nickel corner in base defense and play strong man against tight ends and slot receivers. The other player I really like is Jamel l Fleming. Not quite as physically imposing as Kirkpatrick, Fleming is one of the most consistent and well rounded players in the defensive secondary in this draft. But he’s not exceptional in any area. But he’s experienced in man and zone defense and has excellent hands. I say play him at nickel corner for a year or so and slide him to FS and never look back.
At cornerback, things were up and down. Guys like Mo Claiborne, Janoris Jenkins and Stephon Gilmore were great going in, and now they are still great. Gilmore is probably better on a zone team, and Claiborne and Jenkins can play anywhere. Josh Robinson is super duper fast and could end up being the Stanford Routt of this draft. There was a kid there names Justin Bethel from Presbyterian who looked really good in drills. Tragically getting to watch a Presbyterian game is all but impossible on television, so I’ll just leave it at that.
On the downside, Cliff Harris looked lost. At one point in the year, I thought Harris could end up in the 2nd round, but he hasn’t impressed me in games, and he really didn’t impress me at the combine. But in honesty among the top corners, most did little to hurt their stock, but didn’t do much to move the meter the other way as well.
A final quick note. Every year you hear about guys who didn’t get their shot in the college for whatever reason and when they get to the NFL they turn it on. Rob Brooks is that guy this year. Look out.
Last Edited: 03/03/2012