Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.
29. Georgia CB Deandre Baker
5-foot-11, 193 pounds
Key stat: Deandre Baker didn’t surrender a touchdown in coverage his final two years, a streak that ran since the 2016 season.
The skinny: Perhaps better known at one point for his track exploits in high school, Baker generated late interest in the recruiting process and he signed with Georgia over Texas, despite a late-night tweet (later deleted) hours before Signing Day appeared to indicate he was headed to the Longhorns. But Baker became a Bulldog and got his feet wet with action in 11 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams.
Baker’s career took off as a sophomore, starting seven of his 12 games played. He made his presence felt with two interceptions and other big plays, making a touchdown-saving strip on former Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd (prompting coach Kirby Smart to call Baker “one of the top five athletes on the team") and breaking up a pass in the end zone on TCU’s final drive in UGA’s Liberty Bowl victory. In 2017, Baker led the team in pass breakups (nine) and ranked second in interceptions (three) in being named second team all-SEC. One of those INTs came against Alabama in the college football championship game.
After opting not to declare for the 2018 NFL draft, Baker was named first-team AP All-America and won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back, as a senior. He intercepted two passes and led the Bulldogs with 10 pass breakups. Baker skipped Georgia’s Sugar Bowl game to prepare for the draft, and he also declined an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. At the NFL scouting combine, he opted only to run the 40-yard dash and do the broad jump and bench press, completing the other testing drills at Georgia’s pro day.
Baker will turn 22 years old in September.
Upside: Baker shows some toughness to his game despite lacking ideal size. He will throw his body around as a tackler and run supporter and has a zeal and a knack for press coverage. Highly competitive and confident — and has a history of making big plays in big moments. Wanted to face the best of the best and often did so in the SEC on a weekly basis, taking on wideouts of all shapes and sizes. Wasn’t beat deep often the past two seasons — most of the catches he allowed were in front of him.
Not totally scheme-dependent — should be able to fit most man and zone systems and has good experience outside and in the slot. Has great instincts and recognition skills and can be seen making film-study INTs and pass breakups where Baker breaks on the ball before the receiver can. (Even though Baker didn’t make the interception here, this is a good example of that in 2017 at Notre Dame, starting at about the 1:00 mark.)
Very aggressive and usually knows when to pounce. Gets his hands on receivers and isn’t afraid of a hand fight. Possesses very good quickness to close fast. Shows good fluidity in his backpedal and will put his foot in the ground and change directions in a jiffy. Stays nice and tight in his coverage more often than not but also will bait quarterbacks by sagging off. Playmaking skills appeared improved over time. According to Pro Football Focus, Baker allowed a passer rating of only 40.2 in coverage last season.
Downside: Size is an issue, and bigger receivers were able to body Baker at times. His lack of height and length will hurt more on back-shoulder fades and jump balls. Also lacks top-end speed and can give up a step against true burners and top-end route runners. Most weeks in the league he’ll be matched up with someone bigger and/or faster than he is. Not nearly as effective in off-man coverage, allowing too much cushion and losing phase with receivers more easily.
Aggressiveness also works against him. Will bite on double moves and get jumpy on routes. Gets his hands on receivers and keeps them there – even well past the five yards allowed. Could quickly earn a reputation with NFL referees as a grabber and holder, and Baker sometimes doesn’t even try to hide it. Dropped some catchable interceptions the past few seasons and will need to fine-tune his hands a bit. Can be a showboat and nearly cost his teams points with a boneheaded fumble (on his own doing) after an interception against Missouri.
Did Georgia's Deandre Baker drop this early? pic.twitter.com/jaqmXWV9gq
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 8, 2018
Baker has rubbed NFL teams the wrong way with his attitude. Appeared unprepared mentally and physically for the NFL scouting combine testing and interview process, and it showed in his on-field work with subpar numbers and poor positional drills. Confidence in interviews bordered on arrogance, and some teams worry whether Baker will be highly coachable. He’s already said that “Deion [Sanders] was the best to do it before me.” Skipped out on opportunity to showcase himself at the Senior Bowl, believing he was a first-round lock.
7. Several went back to the tape on #Georgia CB Deandre Baker after the combine. Some concern about his speed and drill work. Once considered a potential high first round #NFL draft pick who seems to be slipping a bit in the process.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 19, 2019
Best-suited destination: We see Baker fitting best in either a press-man or cover-2 system where the cornerbacks are asked to get physical with the receivers and reroute them off the line. His playmaking and confidence could add some juice to a secondary, but Baker’s sliding draft stock might roll him out of Round 1 now. We believe he could fit with teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints.
Fun fact: Baker was an all-American sprinter at Miami Northwestern Senior High (Fla.) and ran the second leg of the 4X400 relay. It’s also the same high school that produced NFL standouts such as Amari Cooper, Lavonte David and Teddy Bridgewater. While in high school, Bridgewater coined the acronym GUMP — Great Under Major Pressure – and it’s something Baker has tried to carry on through college.
They said it: “He likes to play by his guidelines, kind of high maintenance. Great when the lights are on and the game starts, but he had a reputation of [moving to the beat of] his own drummer.” — AFC southeast area scout
Player comp: Josh Norman.
Expected draft range: Late first round to early second round.
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