Possibly the position group scrutinized the most my 49ers scouts and coaches was the defensive backs. With the looming free agency of starting free safety Dashon Goldson, questions surrounding the future at corner, and overall need for quality safety depth, it's easy to see the 49ers taking 2-3 defensive backs in this year’s draft.
If there was ever a draft to have needs in the secondary this is it. There is likely to be quality and value available in every round at every position. Let’s take a look at some who stood out at the Combine. Check out NFL.com Combine Tracker for all the results from each position group.
Several corners really performed well in yesterday’s workouts. The top three corners: Dee Milliner, Alabama; Xavier Rhodes, Florida State; and Desmond Trufant, Washington all did well for the most part and likely solidified themselves in the first round.
Others that stood out include:
Jamar Taylor, Boise State: Taylor was a top performer at corner in the forty with a 4.39, the bench with 22 reps, and the 20 yard shuttle with a 4.06. He impressed with his technique and footwork and may have entered the conversation of first round pick. He certainly solidified himself as a top 5 corner.
Tyrann Mathieu, LSU: Admittedly I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mathieu’s draft prospects. I’m warming up to him after a solid Combine performance. His official forty time was only a 4.5 but Mathieu looked faster during drills. His footwork and technique were better than expected after missing an entire year of football. Also exhibited the ball skills we've come to expect with the Honey Badger. Likely went from late round prospect to legit mid-round pick.
David Amerson, NC State: I love Amerson’s size. At 6-1, 205lbs he has the physical make-up desired for lock-down corner. Amerson coupled that size with a 4.44 forty time and showed solid footwork in drills. He likely made a major move up draft boards yesterday.
A lot of Niners fans wanted to see how possible first round pick Johnathan Cyprien would do at the Combine. Unfortunately, Cyprien pulled out of the workouts after doctors diagnosed him with a strained hamstring. We’ll have to wait until Florida International’s pro day on March 8th to see Cyprien at work.
Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse: Thomas absolutely dominated the combine. He was one of the best performers in just about every single workout including 28 reps in the bench press an eye-popping 40.5" vertical. His quickness and power impressed scouts, as did his ‘bounce-ability’ during a post 4.4 forty stumble.
Matt Elam, Florida: I’m critical of Elam’s coverage skills, comparing him to current strong safety Donte Whitner. Like Whitner, Elam is a fearless run defender but takes too many chances and is likely to get burned in the passing game. Elam checked in at just about 5-9 but made up for his short stature with solid workouts and even better performance in the individual drills. He might have scouts reconsidering his ability in coverage.
Eric Reid, LSU: Reid likely solidified himself as a first round pick as he took advantage of Texas safety, Kenny Vaccaro’s average performance. Reid was a top performer in the forty (4.53), the vertical jump (40.5"), and the broad jump (134"). He also looked good during drills with solid hips and footwork. I would list him as the top strong safety and Vaccaro as to free safety although both could by hybrids.