3 major takeaways from the combine’s DB workouts

Steve Palazzolo shares his evaluation from the final day of the NFL scouting combine.

| 9 months ago
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

3 major takeaways from the combine’s DB workouts


Day 4 of the NFL combine concludes with the defensive backs — always a position where athleticism can blind evaluators during the process. It certainly helps to see quality 40 times and change of direction skills from the defensive backs, but corners still have to play with great technique and safeties are useless unless they read the play and take proper angles.

Perhaps most important, just like any position, we’d like to see players that “play fast” on tape also run fast on the track. A number of players did just that. Here are the top takeaways from the defensive back workouts:

William Jackson III is a first-round caliber player

Just as we highlighted earlier, Jackson III may be the best cornerback in the entire draft, and we felt that way before he ran a 4.37 40 at six-foot, 189 pounds. We expected him to run well as the big corner has fantastic movement skills on film, whether in a straight line or when changing direction. He posted the second-highest coverage grade in the draft class last season at +17.3, and perhaps most impressive, there is room to grow to his game. He’s inconsistent in press, from both a physicality and technique standpoint, so he hasn’t yet reached his potential. Given Jackson’s current production, combined with his size and athleticism, he may just develop into the best corner in the draft a few years down the road.

Jalen Ramsey has all of the necessary tools to be the best player in the draft

Jackson has to answer to Ramsey, however, who proved his worth as a top-five caliber pick. He ran the seventh-fastest 40 at 4.41 to go with the top vertical and broad jumps among defensive backs. This backs up what we’ve seen from Ramsey the last few years as he has the deep speed to play outside cornerback, but also the lower body explosion and length to compress the field as a short zone player. Given this all-around skillset, Ramsey could develop into the draft’s best player if he can continue to take advantage of a size/speed combination that allows for growth in man coverage. I still think his best fit is as a versatile chess piece in a diverse defensive scheme, allowing the defense to take advantage of all Ramsey has to offer.

Eli Apple also helped himself, now he just has to find the ball

With a 40 time at 4.40 at 6-1, Apple also showed the size and speed that the NFL is looking for in their press man corners. He may be the best in the class from a press standpoint, playing sticky coverage but still surrendering catches as he doesn’t always find the ball in the air and has proven susceptible to back-shoulder throws. While it may be anecdotal, this is the same issue that Buffalo Bills rookie CB Ronald Darby had coming out of Florida State last year, and he went on to improve in this area on his way to PFF Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The inability to find the ball, along with shoddy open-field tackling, was a big reason Apple posted only the 24th-best coverage grades in the draft class, though he may excel if given an opportunity to play pure press man coverage in the right system.

 

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • shaunhan murray

    Mwahaha my plan is working, Apple is rising , Ramsey solidifying, and Jackson cracking, now the steelers just left VH3 come to them and my very predictable plan is coming to a beautiful end.But seriously how predictable is this stuff, like is there a betting line I can take advantage of

    • Tim Edell

      Go back to playing Madden Junior!! Hargreaves wont be around when the Steelers pick.

      • shaunhan murray

        Is it hard to see a situation where player X is a smaller less athletic version of Y and X had a down year now Y was on Nat winning team and X got beaten up by Great WR ☆ and ☆ is now..wait . Anyway with possibly 4 CB drafted in the 1st it isnt hard to see the least athletic smallest one falling to pick 25 I think.Im just spitballin here we all know the Steelers will take a LB in the 1st as they always do and will say things such as BPA and were happy with Antwon Blake, im not complaining but just a bit annoyed.

        • shaunhan murray

          I can dream right? Plus there is this anti VH3 vibe I get from this combine.Like a Marcus Peters deal with Trae Waynes blowing everyone away with his 40 and his slower then Henry Anderson shuttle times

        • Tim Edell

          Vernon Hargreaves is definitely not lacking in athletic ability in telation to those other CBs. Even though he ran a 4.50 40 his broad jump (10 foot 10) and 39 inch vertical was very impressive. He is the best pure cover corner in this draft with phenomenal foot quickness who shouldnt last past the top 15 IMO.

          • shaunhan murray

            Well its relative, compared to the other top tier guys.Im just visualizating the scenario

          • Mike J.

            After watching Vernon play at the end of last season, I can’t get very enthused at the thought of my Bucs’ drafting him. He wasn’t even the best CB on the Florida team.Tampa Bay is said to be ”lukewarm” on him.

  • TorreyAnderson

    Easy to sing William Jackson’s praises after the Combine here. You claim you always had him ranked as possibly the best CB in the draft, but if that’s the case why isn’t he in your 2016 PFF 1st Round Mock Drafts, which are essentially quasi PFF Big Boards?

    Just looking for consistency here.