March 01, 2011
The 2011 scouting combine ended with defensive backs going through their paces with some blazingly fast performances on the Lucas Oil Stadium field. An incredible 17 different cornerbacks ran official 40-yard dashes in under 4.5 seconds, and Miami's DeMarcus Van Dyke led the group with a 4.28.
However, the transition and man-coverage drills proved what any coach or scout will tell you: a player who runs a 4.5 with the right angles will get to the ball quicker than a 4.3 demon who can't keep his body under control and doesn't understand route complexity.
Van Dyke got a lot slower when asked to turn and run; he was all over the place when transitioning and flipping his hips. Others with much slower times came out of the drills with better evaluations because of their ability to master those actions that best represented actual on-field acumen. Here are the defensive backs who impressed the most ... and a few who didn't.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU -- The top guy in the Shutdown 40 series came to the combine with momentum based on the knowledge that most experts (and probably most teams) had him as the best player in the 2011 draft class. He bolstered his stock Tuesday after running a 4.34 40-yard dash (the second-fastest time among cornerbacks), tied for third in the shuttle and looked good in the agility drills. The one concern was that he came off the stance a bit high and wide on some drills, but a return to his game tape will confirm that Peterson is the one truly debit-free player in the class of 2011.
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska -- Hopefully, the show Amukamara put on at Lucas Oil put all that "he needs to move to safety" talk to bed forever. It's becoming more and more clear that he's a shutdown corner in the making. He placed in the top five of just about every drill, ran a 4.43 40, and looked great in most agility and drop-back drills. A tightly built athlete with the ability to run and hit at elite levels, Amukamara shouldn't surprise if he goes in the top 10 overall.
Brandon Harris, CB, Miami -- Harris was by far the smoothest player in all the drills. He kept his body low and quick, exhibited excellent hip-turn and kept wasted movement to a minimum. You generally want a better time than 4.52 from a guy standing 5-feet-10 and weighing 190 pounds, but Harris eliminated those concerns with the way he looked on the field.
Curtis Brown, CB, Texas -- Brown impressed at the Senior Bowl as well, but he really put on a show in Indy. The 40 time of 4.53 was a bit high, but his 39½-inch vertical jump, which led all cornerbacks, was a precursor to the agility he showed on the field. Like Harris, Brown was fluid in his transitions and excellent when catching the ball. Brown has been a bit under the radar, but that could be changing soon.
Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina -- Not only did Culliver run the best time of any free safety (4.40), but he did a great job in the transition drill -- he cramped up at first, shook it off, and made a great diving catch as he dropped back to one side and ran to the thrown ball. He also paced the field in the vertical jump, important for a safety.
Ahmad Black, SS, Florida -- Black impressed in college, but it's difficult to know what to do with a 5-foot 10, 184-pound safety who runs a 4.78 40 on what looked to be a fast pitch. Every draft sees tweeners who aren't quick enough to be nickel corners, and they aren't big enough to be safeties. Black has a lot of talent, but when he takes those skills to the NFL, he'll have to be an outside-the-box player to prove to teams that he fits in.
Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia -- Dowling impressed by running a 4.46 40, despite pulling up at the end, but the reason he pulled up will be a problem for NFL evaluators. He tweaked his right hamstring and had to sit out many of the drills. When you add that to the knee, ankle and hamstring injuries he played through in 2010, Dowling's going to be dinged in the evaluations process.
Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina -- Burney looked great at the Senior Bowl, picking off just about anything that came into his area, but that didn't transfer to the scouting combine. He looked labored in the drills, ran a 4.75 40, and couldn't keep his body under control in tight spaces.
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