2018 NFL Combine Preview

2018 NFL Combine Preview: Defensive Backs

The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway in full on Friday, March 2nd. In fact, each timed or on-field drill means something for each position. However, Some drills mean more and some mean less.

For me personally, defensive backs are always the last of the positions I get fully into during my evaluations.

Today we are going to break down the defensive back positions as it relates to the Scouting Combine.


The athletic testing drills are a very important part for rating these pass defenders.

What drills am I focusing on?

40-YARD DASH – Obviously looking for straight-line speed here. Can they run with the speed receivers? Do they have the recovery speed?

VERTICAL LEAP & BROAD JUMP – I lump these two together because they both test a player’s lower body explosiveness.

THREE-CONE DRILL – It is also known as the “L” drill. Thus, testing a player’s lateral agility.

The gauntlet drill is useful to watch for defensive backs. It will show you who is a natural hands catcher and who doesn’t have the ball skills you would like. The backpedal drills are probably the most important to me. It shows you which players look smooth backing up, who can quickly flip their hips, and then attack up the field.


For the players not fortunate enough to play in an All-Star game (mostly underclassmen), official measurements are key. Whether we as fans or analysts like it or not, each of the 32 NFL teams has certain criteria that a player must meet or they will not draft them. Whether it is a height threshold, a weight threshold, or a certain hand size, teams will cross guys off if they don’t meet their numbers.


Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick


Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

Carlton Davis, Auburn

Josh Jackson, Iowa

Jaire Alexander, Louisville

Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

Kevin Toliver, LSU

Mike Hughes, UCF

Levi Wallace, Alabama

Holton Hill, Texas

Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech

Duke Dawson, Florida

Rashad Fant, Indiana

Quenton Meeks, Stanford

M.J. Stewart, North Carolina

Anthony Averett, Alabama

Darius Phillips, Western Michigan

Jamarcus King, South Carolina

Donte Jackson, LSU

Parry Nickerson, Tulane

Danny Johnson, Southern

Chandon Sullivan, Georgia State

D.J. Reed, Kansas State

Isaac Yiadom, Boston College

J.C. Jackson, Maryland

Kamrin Moore, Boston College

Christian Campbell, Penn State

Nick Nelson, Wisconsin

Taron Johnson, Weber State

Avonte Maddox, Pittsburgh

Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech

Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee

Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma

D’Montre Wade, Murray State

Michael Joseph, Dubuque

Tony Brown, Alabama

Dee Delaney, Miami (FL)

Andre Chachere, San Jose State

Davontae Harris, Illinois State

Chris Jones, Nebraska

Henre’ Toliver, Arkansas

Grant Haley, Penn State


If you want to say Minkah Fitzpatrick is a safety, I won’t fight you. I will say he would be my top player at either position. Tarvarus McFadden had a down year this year, but I still feel he has 1st-round potential. Indeed, he needs to show he can run fast. In fact, the depth of this position should be fantastic. Furthermore, Carlton Davis, Josh Jackson, Denzel Ward, and Jaire Alexander are all very close on my board right now. In particular, the athletic drills here could separate them. Also, Isaiah Oliver could solidify himself in the late first-round conversation with a good day.

Additionally, a name that is generating buzz in draft circles that I have not studied yet is Tennessee corner, Rashaan Gaulden. Thus, I am anxious to see him compete. With regards to LSU’s Donte Jackson, he could challenge the Combine forty record of 4.22 seconds set by John Ross a year ago. Jackson ran a 10.22 100-meter dash while running track at LSU. Michael Joseph looked slow to me at the Senior Bowl. I want to know for sure before I completely write him off.

Mike Hughes of UCF has some off-field questions to answer. He was kicked out of North Carolina before going the JUCO route. The same with Holton Hill of Texas. He was suspended and never came back this year.


 Florida State S Derwin James

Derwin James, Florida State

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

Justin Reid, Stanford

Quin Blanding, Virginia

Deshon Elliott, Texas

Kameron Kelly, San Diego State

Armani Watts, Texas A&M

Dane Cruikshank, Arizona

Marcus Allen, Penn State

Kyzir White, West Virginia

Damon Webb, Ohio State

Siran Neal, Jacksonville State

Dominick Sanders, Georgia

Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Jessie Bates, Wake Forest

Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern

Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State

Sean Chandler, Temple

Joshua Kalu, Nebraska

Tracy Walker, LA-Lafayette

Van Smith, Clemson

Max Redfield, Indiana (PA)

Stephen Roberts, Auburn

Troy Apke, Penn State

Marcell Harris, Florida 

Natrell Jamerson, Wisconsin


If you said Derwin James was a corner, I wouldn’t fight you. The only thing separating him from Minkah Fitzpatrick is production. James is a great athlete and I expect him to perform well. I don’t think the safety class is very deep at first glance, but I have to do a lot of work on the position between now and April 15th. Kameron Kelly needs to time well. I question his long speed. If he times well he may be able to play corner. A guy that I think has a chance to elevate his stock is Dane Cruikshank of Arizona.

What defensive backs are you most looking forward to seeing take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium? Let us know in the comments below!

A reminder: The NFL Combine and Pro Days are only a small percentage of the evaluation. In fact, game tape is always the number one factor in prospect evaluation.






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