The Combine star for the defensive backs was Central Florida's Josh Robinson. He ran the fastest in the 40-yard dash with two unofficial times of 4.31 and 4.29. His official time was 4.33. He also had the longest broad jump at 11-1 and his vertical leap of 38.5 was tied for second. Robinson (5-11, 199) didn't do as well in the field drills and had a few dropped passes. Still, his straight-line speed was an eye-opener, and the workout warrior did his part to stand out from the rest of the defensive backs. Robinson helped give his second-day prospects a boost.
The No. 1 rated defensive back, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne (5-11, 188), was not one of the stars of the Combine. At the same time, he didn't hurt his stock. Claiborne had two unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.56 and 4.47. Those aren't close to elite sprints, but they shouldn't sound off alarm bells. In the field drills, Claiborne really excelled and stood out. He flipped his hips well and was very smooth. Claiborne has excellent length. His natural coverage abilities were obvious. The Combine should cause no change to Claiborne being a top-10 pick.
A potential first-round pick, North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins (5-10, 193) had a solid showing at the Combine. He ran well with an unofficial time of 4.44 in the 40-yard dash. The first 10 yards saw Jenkins run faster than 1.5 seconds. Even more impressive than his Combine run was his field work. He was extremely smooth in his change-of-directions skills. He has quick hips and feet that allow him to turn without taking extra steps. Those are vital skills for any NFL cover corner. Jenkins used the Combine to confirm that he has first-round talent, but his interviews addressing his off-the-field problems were just as, if not more critical for his draft status in being a top-32 pick.
During the defensive backs workout I tweeted that Boise State safety George Iloka is the epitome of high and tight. We previously stated that Iloka could struggle in the field drills, and that was exactly what happened. He has terrible hips and is unable to turn and run. Iloka is very stiff, and his height makes it extremely hard for him to maintain proper bend. He gave reason to believe that he could be a coverage liability.
It wasn't a completely bad Combine for Iloka. He did well in the bench press (20 reps) despite long arms (34 1/2). The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder recorded a time of 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which wasn't a bad time for a big safety. In the pass-driven NFL, Iloka's coverage limitations could easily make him a mid-round pick. In that regard, the Combine exposed his weaknesses and hurt Iloka's stock.
The consensus second-rated cornerback in the 2012 NFL Draft, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick had a strong 40-yard time of 4.43 unofficially. Kirkpatrick (6-2, 186) has good length and looks the part of a starting cornerback.
Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley had an impressive workout on Tuesday. He ran the 40-yard dash at 4.44 and 4.38 unofficially in his two attempts. He also looked very good in the field work. Hosley is agile and quick. His strong movement skills on the field serve as a confirmation for his quality production in college. At this point, he is not even close to a finished product. Hosley (5-10, 178) is undersized and really needs to fill out his frame. He managed 11 reps on the bench press, but did well enough to validate a day-two selection.
An under-the-radar cornerback who had a quality Combine performance was
Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming (5-11, 206), who showed off some serious strength with 23 reps in the bench press. That was second only to Arizona State's Omar Bolden. Fleming followed that up with two solid 40 times at 4.43 and 4.45 unofficially. He was decent in the field work and has some athleticism.
A physical specimen at safety is Notre Dame's Harrison Smith. A day after recording 19 reps on the bench press, Smith logged a strong 40-yard dash at 4.56 seconds. Smith (6-2, 213) performed well in the field work and was smooth in and out of breaks. He moved well for a safety and showed some flexibility to handle free safety duties along with strong safety responsibilities. Smith did enough to confirm a second-round grade.
South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore (6-0, 190-pounds) is a good athlete with size, so it wouldn't be surprising if he had a good Combine. Gilmore ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds unofficially. He moved pretty well in the field drills, but dropped a few interceptions. His Combine performance was indicative of his final collegiate season where Gilmore would flash great ability on occasion, but was inconsistent. Hence, Gilmore is more of a second-round pick, but he has the potential to be something special if he lands with the right coaching staff.
Previously I had written that Montana cornerback/safety Trumaine Johnson would indicate what his pro position would be in the field agility work. After showing some stiffness, Johnson looks like a better fit at safety. He is a little tight in his hips, and that causes him to take an extra step or two when he changes direction. He had a good 40-yard dash time of 4.50. Johnson (6-2, 204) is a quality prospect in a weak safety draft so he should be a second-day selection.
Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward was better than expected, but not overly impressive at the Combine. He started with a respectable 19 reps on the bench press. He clocked 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. He was solid in the drills. It was a quality Combine for a prospect who didn't look like a player who would really excel in some of the specific athletic tests of the Scouting Combine. Hayward (5-11, 192) looks like a solid second-day pick.
McNeese State safety Janzen Jackson, a former Tennessee Volunteer, is a feast-or-famine prospect. He looks great in some drills and a complete mess at other times. Jackson ran the 40-yard dash at 4.57 seconds, unofficially. He also had a disappointing total with only nine reps on the bench press. It was the third-lowest total of any defensive back. Jackson (5-11, 188) did well in the vertical jump and broad jump. He has some physical tools, but needs a good coaching staff to bring out his potential. Plus he will need a team to accept some his baggage, as Jackson has some significant off-the-field problems.
A prospect who had a disappointing Combine was Iowa State cornerback Leonard Johnson. He produced a disappointing 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds, unofficially. He didn't impress in the field work either. It wouldn't be surprising if the Combine causes some teams to downgrade Johnson.
LSU safety Brandon Taylor is a sleeper prospect who is very underrated. He recorded two strong 40-yard dash times of 4.50 and 4.56 seconds. Taylor is a hard hitter who looked fluid in the field work. NFL defenses are looking for hybrid safeties like Taylor who can play both free and strong safety. Taylor (5-11, 209) has that kind of skill set, and don't be surprised if is selected earlier on Draft Day than most project. He's considered to be a mid-rounder, but Taylor's strong Combine should have some teams considering him on the second day.
At the Senior Bowl, Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwight Bentley put himself on the radar with a strong week of practice. He kept up the momentum with an impressive Combine. The 5-foot-10, 182-pounder had one of the best 40 times at 4.37 seconds and a 10-yard split at 1.56. Bentley was did well enough in the field work and could be pushing his way into the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
I don't dislike the Peppers pick for the Dolphins, but if you think he is a safety and not a LB then it won't happen. Jones and Peppers don't make a great coverage combo. The Dolphins are more likely to roll the dice on Nate Allen for the year, who seems a better compliment to Jones than Peppers, who seems a clone. I don't know so much about the guy, but the Dolphins are more likely to go guard or LB than S and most likely to go CB. Well, they will almost assuredly trade down, but that isa different point.