The 2014 NFL Combine wrapped up Tuesday with perhaps the most intriguing day of competition. Several of the top prospects at both safety and cornerback had impressive days. The defensive back group was right up there with the wide receiver group in terms of ‘wow' factor. Both groups had a number of guys that looked great and performed even better.
Overall, this draft is playing out to be one of the deepest in years. At least on paper.
Defensively, the new deepest positions are without a doubt corner and safety. That's good news if you're a 49ers fan as both figure to be positions of need in the 2014 draft.
Here is a look at a few defensive prospects that stood out.
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State - Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day came from Gilbert who was the top CB performer in the forty yard dash (4.37) and the bench press (20 reps). Gilbert also turned in a solid vertical jump at 35.5". Not only did he impress in the workouts, Gilbert also earned checkmarks in the size department. He came in at 6'0, 202 lbs with long 33 1/8" arms. He's an athlete still refining his cornerback skills but he probably punched his ticket as the first cornerback off the board come May.
CB Jason Verrett, TCU - Verret has quickly become a 49er fan favorite on Twitter. Despite his size (only 5-9, 189lbs), Verrett turned in one of the biggest performances of the combine. His 4.38 forty time was just a tick slower the Gilberts and his 39" vertical jump (coupled with his natural ball skills) erased any doubt about Verrett's size. According to MockDraftable.com Verrett was at least in the 82nd percentile of in every single combine workout that he competed in.
S Deone Bucannon, Washington State - Bucannon was one of only five safeties to run a sub 4.5 forty in Indianapolis. At 6-1, 211lbs with 32 3/8" arms, Bucannon was one of the better built safeties at the combine. But he didn't just look the part, Bucannon took advantage of the workouts to display his freakish athletic ability a probably solidify a second round draft status. He also turned in top five performances in the bench (19 reps), vertical jump (36.5"), and broad jump 125".
DL Caraun Reid, Princeton - There were a handful of defensive linemen that stole the show this week including Jadeveon Clowney and Aaron Donald. But Reid isn't a defensive end or a natural 3-tech tackle. He checked in at 6-3,302lbs and then proceeded to run a 4.91 forty with a 1.69 second 10-yard split. That's movin' for a man that size! There were some questions surrounding his explosiveness with an average broad jump and less than stellar performances in the vertical (26.5") and bench press (just 7 reps) but Reid showed better than average burst and quickness in the other drills to be an effective piece in the mid to late rounds.
DL Dominique Easley, Florida - Easley is a guy I was high on heading into the combine. Coming off two ACL much wasn't expected of him this early. His tape shows power, speed, and relentlessness. To his credit he turned a solid bench press workout with 26 reps. So, how can a guy we know would be limited heading into the combine be in the loser category? According to Yahoo!'s Eric Edholm, one team that interviewed Easley referred to him as "distracted" and "immature". Yikes!
DL Will Sutton, Arizona State - Sutton was a guy most had pegged as a future first rounder after his 2012 season at ASU. Instead he returned to ASU overweight and really underperformed in 2013 compared to 2012. He still managed to win the Pac-12 defensive player of the year award. Despite that Sutton turned in an average performance at the Senior Bowl and again this week at the combine. He did lose some weight but still posted a slow 5.36 forty and 7.93 in the 3-cone drill. He ranked near the bottom in just about every measureable at the combine. His stock is falling fast.
LB/DE Dee Ford, Auburn - Ford's stock was soaring after a great finish to the 2013 season and a strong Senior Bowl. The borderline first rounder was advised not to compete after medical records were flagged for a 2011 procedure for a herniated disk thereby stalling his momentum. Even worse, the news came just a day after Ford called out possible number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. In an interview on SirusXM Ford said:
"I'm better [than Clowney]. Let's put it like this. People like to talk about size all the time. Size is pretty much overrated in my eyes. You can look at guys like Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller. These are 6-2 guys and under. People are just looking at the fact that [Clowney] is a physical specimen. Honestly if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market basically."
With the impressive crop of defensive backs this year I wouldn't be surprised to see the 49ers draft three players in the secondary - two corners and a safety.