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3 Winners, 3 Losers from Monday’s NFL Combine

The defensive backs group took the field in the final day of the combine and some players saw their stock plummet, while a few jumped into the limelight.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerbacks and safeties (and one “linebacker”) took the field on Monday to measure in front of all 32 teams in the hopes of increasing their draft stock and impressing teams enough they’re willing to take a bigger risk on them than the teams picking later. We once again looked at player measurements with their Relative Athletic Scores (RAS), and gauged who had a good day and who had a poor one. While cornerback shares a similar draft and success rate as the other skill positions (Pro Bowlers rate above 5.00 on a rate of three-to=one against those who rate below), there isn’t a clear correlation for either safety position and draft status or NFL success. As such, I can only really show a safety as a winner or loser if it is a significant win or loss.

Big Winners

Obi Melifonwu, SS, Connecticut

It isn’t easy to score among the elites at any position. When Byron Jones set a world record, he was a barely known corner from UConn that posted the best combine by a corner in two decades. Obi Melifonwu came into the combine with potential first-round buzz and came close to matching Jones’ numbers. His current RAS beats Jones (Jones would finish his measurements at his pro day) and his combine will be the talk of every draft room in the NFL. It’s no longer first-round buzz, it’s first-round placement. A matter of where in the first round he goes rather than if he goes there. Jones also posted a 4.4 flat at nearly 6-foot-4, something that’s rare even for guys six inches shorter.

Kevin King, CB, Washington

There have been whispers of Kevin King making a run at the first round. Often overshadowed by his more famous teammate, King posted the sixth-best RAS for a corner since 1999. At 6-foot-3, he’s one of the biggest corners coming into the NFL, playing in the NFL or to have ever existed which would be enough for most teams to be taking a look. Posting a 3.89 short shuttle and 6.56 cone time would be amazing if King were 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, but as it is, he is more than three inches bigger than the average corner and a solid 200 pounds. King may have even leapfrogged Sidney Jones (more later) into late first-round consideration... once the knee jerk “OMG he’s top 10!” cries subside.

Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Another “Number Two” corner in this draft that doesn’t get enough buzz, Gareon Conley played second fiddle to the super athletic and technically sound Marshon Lattimore. Had Lattimore not left the combine with injury late in the day, it might be that Conley stayed in that shadow, but instead we get to bask in his elite performance without his teammates performance standing taller. Gareon Conley is an elite athlete in his own right and while he’s been in first-round consideration before, that is almost always talked down when there is a higher rated corner on the same team. Conley’s combine put his name very firmly back into that conversation and it’s of note to Detroit Lions fans since Conley has been mocked here almost as often as Lattimore.

Big Losers

Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Coming into the combine, Teez Tabor was viewed as a click and close type of corner, an explosive athlete who could cover a great distance to a receiver before the ball even arrived. There were some questions about his long speed and if he could cover receivers down the field, but these were mostly ignored due to promising tape. Posting abysmal explosiveness numbers at the combine did nothing to endear teams to the idea of Tabor in the first round and when you throw in a poor showing on both of his 40-yard dashes, you end up with a disappointing day overall. Tabor’s agent may need to do some rebranding before the draft to convince teams he’s still worth taking a shot on, and it’s almost a certainty he will retest these drills at his pro day to try and improve his numbers.

Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

One of the better slot corner prospects in the draft, Jourdan Lewis did not appear to be an elite athlete on tape. His change of direction can be top notch at times, but it’s inconsistent, while his explosiveness and ability to high-point have always been a concern. With just below average speed, Lewis is going to have to get creative to sell himself to teams even as a kick returner. His choice to skip the agility drills deprived teams of the opportunity to see an area he ought to have excelled. There was some first-round buzz in some circles for Jourdan Lewis but it’s doubtful that continues after a poor combine showing.

Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

One of the top cornerbacks in the draft, the very top for some, Sidney Jones had some concerns over his stiffness transitioning and changing direction. Those concerns came up at the combine where he performed poorly in agility drills, but more concerning was his below average vertical. His 40 time almost assures that his splits will pull his overall RAS over 5.00, but this is a player many expected to be an above average athlete easily, not an above average athlete barely. Jones is not likely to lose much draft stock considering his size, length and speed, but failing to answer the concerns that many had about his game will not earn him any new fans in draft rooms.