The 2011 NFL Combine wraps up today with the cornerback drills. For 49ers fans this could be a particularly big day as the cornerbacks will be going through the various drills. You can watch the defensive backs run their drills on NFL Network or through nfl.com's live camera. The 40-yard dashes will happen at 9am and 10:30am, with positional drills scheduled for 10am and 11:30am.
Two names connected fairly frequently with the 49ers over the last few weeks are LSU CB Patrick Peterson and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. The 49ers have a need at cornerback and Peterson and Amukamara represent the top two options at the position. Peterson and Amukamara both spoke with the press this weekend. Peterson indicated he feels he's fluid enough to stick as a cornerback, rather than potentially move to safety as some have projected. Amukamara was quite confident as he indicated he felt he was the better cornerback as compared to Peterson.
Today's drills will really drive home the cornerback pecking order particularly as it applies to those two. Although the 40-yard dash isn't some big indicator of success, combining it with performance in the other drills would likely be enough to secure top billing for Patrick Peterson. If he runs a sub-4.3 40 and does a solid job (doesn't even have to be great) in the positional drills, Peterson will be the first cornerback taken. He could be average at best in the positional drills and he would still likely be the first corner taken.
As to those positional drills? Well, Mike Mayock breaks them down for you at NFL.com's Combine page. One of the primary drills is what Mayock calls the Speed-Turn Drill. In this drill the defensive back is sent backpedaling 5-10 yards and then brought back towards the coach. As the defensive back is coming back towards the coach, the DB is then given a specific direction towards which he is expected to make a "speed turn." It's apparently meant to simulate the idea of a double move so a DB can show they can turn and go upfield with a wide receiver. At around the 15-20 yard mark, the defensive back is expected to turn back towards the quarterback and locate and catch the football.
There have been some question marks about whether Patrick Peterson is a bit too stiff in the hips and some have said he'll end up as a safety at the NFL level. While this drill won't tell us even close to the entire story about Patrick Peterson, it does give us one more bit of info. Additionally, his performance in the three-cone drill and shuttle run. In the three-cone drill a player has to show he can change directions at high speed. It might not be traditional directional moves of a corner, but it at least simulates lateral movements. The same holds true for the shuttle run.
These measurements aren't the be-all, end-all of a player's draft stock (as much as some folks might indicate otherwise). However, in this world of instantaneous analysis, a strong Combine performance today would secure draft positioning for both Peterson and Amukamara. For Peterson it would likely mean a top seven draft slot. For Amukamara, it could get him in the top ten, if not higher.