With Darius Slay on the trade block, the Detroit Lions face the possibility of rolling into the 2020 season with a depleted defensive backfield. Even if Slay is to remain a Lion for the foreseeable future, the team needs to secure the cornerback spot across from him, and with free agency still around the corner, they’ve turned to the NFL Combine to search for possible starters and depth pieces.
The 2020 cornerback class boasts one of the best talents of recent years in Jeff Okudah, but he wasn’t the only defensive back turning heads on Sunday. Here are 10 players who helped their draft stock with a strong Combine.
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Jeffrey Okudah is a CB prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Ohio State.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with elite size, good speed, elite explosiveness, at the CB position.https://t.co/NesQn3L5I6 pic.twitter.com/IMHXpXaR1W
As the undisputed top cornerback in the 2020 draft class, teams and evaluators alike are in full on hater mode just trying to find a wrinkle in Jeff Okudah’s game. He certainly didn’t make it easier on anyone, posting an elite RAS with top-tier marks in explosiveness and running a fast 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. Those explosion marks came after he bumped his head and very easily could have shut down his workout without anyone blaming him for looking after his safety during the draft process.
That was just checking boxes, though, as it was the interviews where he really shined. Showing an understanding not only of schematic elements of nearly every team, he exhibited a knowledge of not only every position coach and coordinator for a large variety of teams but of the standing of their cornerback rooms. That level of research bodes well for his football mentality and coachability, an issue the Lions have dealt with in recent years with some of their draft picks. Okudah isn’t a flawless prospect, but he’s very close to one.
CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
One of the more developmental prospects in this class, Henderson has been slotted as a first or second-round pick primarily due to the ridiculous athletic talent he exhibits on the field. After posting some of the best numbers we’ve ever seen, culminating in a tentative 10.00 RAS (on par with Marshon Lattimore and Byron Jones), Henderson absolutely dominated the position drills. Like with the Gators, he was at his best on the move where he could display his fluid hips and ability to quickly accelerate and change his speed as needed. Corners with that level of athletic talent rarely fall out of the first round and barring severe injury or character concerns almost never fall much further than that.
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Jaylon Johnson is a CB prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Utah.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2020
He posted a great #RAS with good size, good speed, good explosiveness, good agility at the CB position.https://t.co/lLZPqw1uXD pic.twitter.com/VuJOtkgXJw
Occasionally you have a prospect who doesn’t have too many elite traits but is so lacking in glaring weaknesses that they are looked upon as a safer prospect. Johnson isn’t one of those, but he does have an athletic profile like that. Posting above average to very good numbers in every drill, Johnson ended up with an elite RAS despite not having a single elite measurement.
Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah
This funny thing happens every year where people forget that track athletes tend to be very fast. There’s always a level of surprise when someone like Javelin Guidry runs a 4.29 and posts an elite RAS. It’s almost like someone who can run the 100 meter in 10.13 seconds can make short work of a shorter distance. With speed that never quits (he also ran the 200 meter in 21.26 seconds), Guidry wowed scouts with speed that looked totally effortless. Guidry only participated in one other drill, the bench press, in which he put up 21 reps (96th percentile), showing that there’s more to him than just those incredible wheels.
A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
A.J. Terrell is a CB prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Clemson.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with great size, elite speed, good explosiveness, at the CB position.https://t.co/9XAAHaMh3F pic.twitter.com/1KIp9zp1DL
A man cover corner with promising on-tape athleticism and size, Terrell needed to check that box that the athleticism matches the tape and he did so very well, posting an elite RAS with elite corner speed. Like I mentioned with Henderson earlier, Terrell matched his athleticism on tape with elite testing, but he also showed that he could show that fluidity throughout on-field drills. He wasn’t able to answer questions about his change of direction skills, having skipped the agility testing, but his on-field work looked promising in that area.
Antoine Winfield Jr., FS, Minnesota
Winfield’s football pedigree is unquestioned as the son of one of the best slot corners in the history of football. His speed and overall athletic profile along with medical concerns from multiple college injuries were a bit more worrisome problems that needed addressing. For the former, Winfield not only put up good speed testing but great numbers, posting a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and overall good numbers in explosion drills.
A devastating playmaker on the field, Winfield looked the part during on-field drills every time he was out there. His medicals remain a concern and are the only thing that could keep him from being a Day 2 pick, where his tape and testing would easily lock him in at worst.
Jeremy Chinn, SS, Southern Illinois
Jeremy Chinn is a FS prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Southern Illinois.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with elite size, great speed, elite explosiveness, at the FS position.https://t.co/dF7ggmVrYo pic.twitter.com/N7eyDLWYeQ
So let’s say you’re an Isaiah Simmons fan, but the Lions opt to go with Jeff Okudah or land Chase Young with their first pick. You really want that versatile SS/LB type that you can move around your formation to line up against different personnel for different packages. Enter Jeremy Chinn and his 9.99 RAS. Elite size, elite speed, and elite explosion for a safety, Chinn isn’t afraid to come up and hit a ball carrier in the chest on every single play. Chinn would play a similar role to Tracy Walker which would free the now third-year safety to patrol the back end of the defense with his excellent range and open up the underneath players to do some more interesting things.
L’Jarius Sneed, FS, Louisiana Tech
A steady playmaker for the Bulldogs, Sneed picked up six interceptions and 12 pass breakups over the past two seasons. He wasn’t expected to blow up the Combine, but there was buzz immediately after the event finished after he put up the numbers that he did. Landing a RAS in the mid-9 range, Sneed ran a blazing 4.37 and jumped out of the gym with a 41 inch vertical and 10’11” broad jump. As one of the largest defensive backs in this class at 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, those types of numbers have to make coaches and general managers very happy for his future prospects.
Kyle Dugger, FS, Lenoir-Rhyne
Kyle Dugger is a FS prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Lenoir-Rhyne.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 2, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with great size, great speed, elite explosiveness, at the FS position.https://t.co/Z1ovg8ALXG pic.twitter.com/RM6d5rW1vc
Fans of this small-school safety have been warning about the kind of workout he was poised to put on for quite a while, but it’s still surprising to see a player from such a relatively unknown school walk onto the biggest stage of his career and put up a 42” vertical and 11’ broad jump on his way to a top-tier RAS.
Athletic testing aside, Dugger is a smooth-moving head hunter on the field, flowing all over the field from a variety of assignments and making life difficult in a league where he’s clearly head and shoulders above the players he’s facing. The jump to the NFL is a huge one, so it’s tough to slot him in the upcoming draft, but he’s firmly in Day 2 consideration unless someone can give me a viable reason he shouldn’t be.
Tanner Muse, SS, Clemson
His on-field play and a perceived lack of speed at safety led many to believe that Muse was destined for a linebacker move in the NFL. After putting up one of the best overall Combine performances of all time (a 9.97 RAS), that line of thinking could be turned completely on its head.
On the one hand, posting ridiculous explosion numbers and 4.41 speed is enough to show that you can hang athletically on the back end. On the other, imagine throwing that level of athlete at linebacker and letting him roll with tight ends or patrol your flats. Muse launched himself into a much larger discussion about the evolution of the NFL with his Combine performance, and it can only help his draft prospects.
Again, so, so many
The 2020 NFL Combine has now concluded, and there were a ton of questions answered throughout. This year felt more special than season’s past (this is my eighth year covering the event) in that very few players under-performed in the areas they needed to. Nearly all of the defensive backs met or exceeded expectations on Day 4. One could argue that Jeff Gladney of TCU hurt his stock with a very poor cone time, similar to Derrick Brown the day before, but Gladney needed to show he was fast and explosive and he did those things just fine, so I’m not sure how much that last drill hurts him. Overall, this is the most exciting draft season I’ve covered and I can’t wait to share it all with you!