The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. On Monday, the defensive backs took the field to do their best to impress scouts and NFL front offices.
The biggest storyline coming into the day was the battle for supremacy at cornerback, where LSU's Greedy Williams, Georgia's Deandre Baker and Washington's Byron Murphy all could make a case for being ranked No. 1 at their position. All three had very different days, with Williams blazing to a sub-4.4 40 but having to end his day early, while Murphy looked like the best player on the field during DB drills.
LSU's Greedy Williams ran a strong 4.37 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, a time that tied him for second at the cornerback position. With that speed at that length, he's an easy one to fall in love with. But he wasn't that impressive in the pedal-and-react, had to restart in the next drill multiple times and then said he was done for the day due to cramping.
Georgia's Deandre Baker was a bit of a disappointment in the 40 but his official time of 4.52 seconds was slightly better than the unofficial number. He started well in his drill on the pedal-and-react, didn't stand out in later drills but showed his great ball skills by looking like a receiver running the gauntlet. He could have worked his way into the top 10 with a great day, but seems more likely to fall out of Round 1 altogether than going that high.
Washington's Byron Murphy also didn't blaze on the 40 with a 4.55-second time, but he showed in the drills why many people think he's the top guy in the class. He showed great footwork ability to transition on the pedal-and-react and the W drills, but also flashed strong hands every time the ball was in the air. As long as you don't expect him to stay with burners deep, he has everything you want at the position.
Temple's Rock Ya-Sin didn't have any wow moments on the day, but every drill was solid after he ran a 4.51 40. He particularly looked good running the W drill, showing good transition out of his backpedal in a drill that many of these corners seemed to struggle with. I think he's probably worked himself into being the best of the second tier at corner, and it wouldn't surprise me if a team picked him over Baker based on what we saw today.
Michigan's David Long kicked off the day with a good 4.45 40 then did a good job running through the drills, starting with displaying great form getting back on the pedal-and-react drill. He didn't always hustle through the end of the drill like someone I'm going to highlight later, but he did a good job with the ball in the air. His ability makes up for his smaller size.
Michigan State's Justin Layne had a consistently strong day. After putting up a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, he showed a smoothness running the drills that many of the other corners didn't have. At his size and good length, he should be able to run with most receivers and could emerge as a starter early on even if he isn't taken with a high pick.
South Carolina's Rashad Fenton isn't one of the big names at the position, but he really stood out by giving max effort through the end of every drill, something that wasn't consistently happening on Monday. That's the type of thing that's going to make special teams coaches take note, and it's a way to carve out a role in the NFL. He also showed solid hands and good burst out of his break. I'd use a Day 3 pick on him, no question.
Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram is considered a box safety with his physicality and excellence defending the run, but I think he did a good job dropping back and flipping his hips in drills, showing more versatility than anticipated. Keanu Neal is an obvious comp, but where the Atlanta safety ran a 4.62 40 at the combine, Abram checked in with an impressive 4.45. He comes out of the event a winner and should be in the mix for the first safety off the board.
Virginia's Juan Thornhill blew the doors off the athletic testing, running a 4.42 40 but more impressively putting up 44 inches on the vertical and an 11-foot-9 broad jump, both numbers easily the best at safety. He skipped his second 40 but was back out there in drills, looking great with his footwork. I wouldn't be surprised if someone took him to play him at cornerback with how well he tested.
Florida's Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had himself a good combine, running the 40 in 4.48 seconds at 210 pounds. He showed well in his rerun of the pedal-and-react drill and again on the next drill, but didn't really listen to the signals to flip his hips on one drill and just sped through it. He's not a Round 1 pick, but teams will definitely be interested on Day 2, probably in the free safety role.
Maryland's Darnell Savage Jr. is a smaller safety option who can really fly. He ran a 4.36 40 that was third best among all defensive backs and also put up a 39.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-6 broad jump. At his size and speed, he could be a nice option as a slot corner for a team.
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