The final day of NFL combine workouts took place Tuesday and resulted in some of the slowest times among defensive backs in memory. The times seemed to affect everyone, including Malcolm Jenkins, the nation’s top cornerback prospect who might be forced to make a switch to free safety. Here’s the National Football Post’s report on the combine’s final day:
(Note: Times were obtained from sources inside the stadium who observed workouts.)
• The story of the day was the disappointing performance of Ohio State corner (or perhaps we should say free safety) Malcolm Jenkins, who was unable to prove he has the type of deep speed to run with NFL receivers. Jenkins, who ran a 4.55 in the 40, reminds me of former first-round corner Antrel Rolle, who was forced to move to safety after struggling with his lack of second gear. I think Jenkins has the same type of skill set and will be viewed more as a free safety or Cover-2 corner.
• We learned that safeties Kevin Akins (Boston College), Kevin Ellison (USC) and Nic Harris (Oklahoma) will need to switch to outside linebacker at the next level. All three ran in the 4.75-4.85 range and lack the straight-line speed to cover the deep half. Akins has experience playing linebacker at B.C., and Harris had begun to transition to outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl. Ellison looked stiff in position drills and will need to play in the box at the next level.
• One safety who stood out was David Bruton of Notre Dame. Bruton ran one of the best 40 times of the day (4.46) and also was among the top performers in the bench press, three-cone drill and broad jump. He displayed much better fluidity in and out of his breaks than given credit for and could move up in a very weak safety class.
• Don’t buy into the hype surrounding Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis and his “great” time and performance. Davis ran a 4.45, which was considered a bit disappointing among scouts. He also looked raw and leggy during workouts and needs to significantly improve his footwork. He lacks any kind of compactness when he turns to run and struggles transitioning out of his breaks.
• Another prospect who failed to live up to expectations was South Carolina product Emanuel Cook, who clocked in at 4.61 and didn’t exhibit any kind of second gear. He’s slow-footed and doesn’t display the burst or first step you want to see from the safety position.
• One safety who did impress was FS/CB tweener Sherrod Martin (Troy). I’m undecided whether Martin is best suited to play corner or safety, but he displayed some of the most fluid hips at the combine, and his straight-line speed (4.52) is more than adequate for either position. I may move him toward the top end of my free safety class in the coming weeks. Either way, he looks like a solid third-round pick.
• Two of my favorite corners in this year’s draft, Asher Allen (Georgia) and Darius Butler (Connecticut), had impressive performances. Allen ran in the low 4.5 range and displayed excellent foot quickness and balance during position drills. Butler ran in the mid-4.4 range and was explosive in and out of his breaks. He displayed the kind of closing speed that scouts crave. Both corners are moving up draft boards and have the ability to become very good players at the next level.
• TCU strong safety Stephen Hodge opened some eyes with an impressive 4.48 40 time at 6-feet, 234 pounds. However, he proved he’s simply a straight-line athlete after struggling with his footwork, fluidity and balance during position drills. A move to linebacker may be in the cards for Hodge at the next level.
• Oregon State's Brandon Hughes finished the day with one of the fastest 40 times among cornerbacks, running a 4.39. But he pretty much looked like a track guy during position drills. He showcased raw footwork and lacked balance when asked to flip his hips. You see this every year at the corner position as NFL teams draft players more for their straight-line speed than their natural football abilities. Hughes fits into that category.
• One of the more puzzling performances of the day belonged to San Jose State corner Coye Francies. Francies ran a 4.60 but looked explosive during workouts and displayed the burst to consistently close on the ball. Similar to what I said about track-star corners rising in the draft because of their straight-line speed, corners can fall because of slow 40 times. Francies has the natural football talent and game speed to make plays at the next level, but his stock will likely take a hit because of this time.
• Clemson safeties Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons didn’t have the kind of workouts their media hype advertised. Clemons ran well (4.41), but he’s long in his back-pedal and struggles flipping his hips down the field. He isn’t a real stop-start athlete and has a tendency to stop moving his feet. On the other hand, Hamlin doesn’t even have the good 40 time to hang his hat on (4.6). He struggled with his footwork and looked very leggy during position drills. I don’t see either of them warranting more than a mid-/late-round pick.
• Finally, Kevin Barnes, the corner from Maryland, had a good performance considering he’s seeing his first real action since injuring his left shoulder in October. Barnes was timed as low as 4.42 and looked very explosive and smooth during his workout. He’s someone who should move up draft boards in the coming weeks and could regain his spot as a potential second-rounder with a strong pro day.
The National Football Post (www.nationalfootballpost.com) is a unique and premier online source of quality and credible news, information and insight about all sides of football featuring professionals with experience in all facets of the NFL.