The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up Tuesday with the defensive backs on display. The Combine’s largest group came in all shapes and sizes, with the 40 time (as usual) the marquee event—but plenty of emphasis placed on the positional drills as well.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is considered one of the top defensive backs in this draft, and he put an exclamation point next to his draft stock with the top 40 time of all defensive backs, officially clocking a 4.37—particularly impressive when you consider that at 6-feet and 202 pounds he’s bigger than most of his peers as well. Gilbert looked smooth in the positional drills as well, and if the battle to be the first corner off the board was between Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard, you have to give Gilbert the edge in this skirmish.
Dennard, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the top defensive back in college last year, was a bit slower at 4.51. However, the Michigan State product is known more for his physicality than his speed, so other than maybe dipping him a tick behind Gilbert the 40 didn’t ding Dennard’s draft stock.
Ohio State’s Bradley Roby (4.39), TCU’s Jason Verrett (4.38), and Rice’s Phillip Gaines (4.38) joined Gilbert sub-4.4 in the 40—and giving teams looking for speed in the secondary options, perhaps as early as Round 1. And with the copycat NFL following the Seahawks’ lead of bigger defensive backs, guys like Utah’s Keith McGill (6’3”, 211 pounds, 4.51 in the 40), Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6’2”, 218, 4.61), and North Carolina State’s Dontae Johnson (6’2”, 200, 4.45) were at least fast enough to stay at the fore of the draft day radar.
As a group the safeties weren’t as fast as the corners—Florida State’s Terrence Brooks led the group at 4.42, followed by Shane Vereen’s brother, Minnesota safety Brock Vereen, at 4.47—but that was to be expected. And the two safeties generally considered at the top of this draft class, Louisville’s Calvin Prior and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, both clocked 4.58 40s.
The final day of the Combine also brings a pair of highlights to NFL Network viewers. The first is hearing Deion Sanders break down the minutiae of the cornerback position. It’s easy to peg Prime Time as an athletic freak—which he was—but listening to him microanalyze the back pedals and hip flips of each prospect provides a glimpse inside the mind of a Hall of Famer.
And of course the Combine isn’t complete until NFLN anchor Rich Eisen runs his 40, in full suit but with custom Under Armour footwear. After being clocked at six seconds flat in his first attempt, Eisen finally broke through with a 5.98 clocking on his second run. And with that, the curtain closes on Indy; now mock draft season begins in earnest, with 10 weeks to fill before Roger Goodell strolls to the podium and puts the Houston Texans on the clock.