The 2023 NFL Combine is fully underway, and on Friday, the defensive backs will have their on-field drills televised. As is tradition, one group began by running the 40-yard dash, then shifted into position drills, while another group completed agility drills and measured jumps.
While the measurable numbers from the skill drills are slowly being released, let’s take a close look at the cornerbacks who stood out.
Stayed at the top of the class
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon, 6-foot-1 1/2, 197
4.38 (40) 41.4 inch (vertical jump) 11-foot-1 (broad jump)
One of the big winners on Friday, he came in with top-10 expectations and he met those. Everything looked easy. Power steps, quick feet, fluid movement, explosion out of breaks, was powerful in his movements, high pointed the ball and showed natural hands. Gonzalez looked sharp regardless of the drill.
Christian Gonzalez writing a W pic.twitter.com/K0LLzl1aIG— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 3, 2023
Brian Branch, NB, Alabama, 6-foot-0, 190, 4.58 (40)
Don’t get discouraged by Branch’s 40 time, this is more than acceptable for the role he plays. Plus his instincts help him get to his target on time, every time. In drills, Branch was near perfect. He followed the drills to a tee, and stayed straight on the line, illustrating his elite balance. His backpedal was easy and strong, and he opened his hips up with ease. He went through the drills at full speed, showed great lateral burst, and had terrific ball skills.
Brian Branch gauntlet: Right down the pipe. pic.twitter.com/NHksVAF2GY— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 3, 2023
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State, 6-foot-1, 166, 4.35 (40)
Forbes is significantly underweight with very skinny legs, but he ran like the wind and was a monster in drills. With six pick-sixes to his name, his elite ball location skills were on display all day. His movements were elongated because of his length, but he is an easy mover and it afforded him the ability to gain ground quickly. I’d like to see him shorten up his stride in his backpedal but he never let his length impede his performance, even in the drills designed for smaller defensive backs.
Clark Phillips III, NB, Utah, 5-foot-9, 184, 4.51 (40)
The height, weight, and speed combination says he is probably a nickel only in the NFL, but he is a Day 1 starter and looked tremendous in on-field drills. His balance kept him right on the line in drills, he gained speed quickly with fast feet and powerful steps, was solid in ball location, and had soft hands when securing the ball. Phillips was under control all day and should have solidified his stock early on Day 2.
Jakorian Bennett, NB, Maryland, 5-foot-11, 188, 4.30 (40) 40.5 inch (vertical) 11-foot-1 (broad)
My expectations were low for Bennett heading into the Combine but he was awfully impressive on Friday. As a nickelback, the “W-drill” is arguably the most significant and he was excellent in it, almost second nature. He was smooth when moving laterally, he was able to cut and drive with power, and showed nice acceleration. I thought he was a bit stiff when needing to run for long periods, but if he’s a nickel, that’s not a major concern.
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, NB, TCU, 5-foot-8, 178, 4.41 (40)
Undersized but he moved with ease, showing off his balance to stay on the line in drills. He looked very comfortable in tight spaces, and was smooth when moving laterally, showing a terrific ability to settle, then burst to his target.
DJ Turner, NB/CB, Michigan (5-foot-11 1/4, 178) ran a blistering 4.26 40-yard-dash on his first run and that was the end of his day. He opted to run his on-field drills at Michigan’s pro day.
Joey Porter, CB, Penn State (6-foot-2 1/2, 193) ran a 4.46 40 then shut it down for the day.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland (6-foot-0, 197) ran an impressive 4.35 40, jumped out of the building (vertical: 42 inches, broad: 11-foot-4), and did well in drills. He drifted a bit, but his speed translated, and his foot-in-the-ground cuts were good.
Deonte Banks making it look pretty easy today. pic.twitter.com/PoHZa7hRqb— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 3, 2023
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia (6-foot-2, 207) ran an expected 4.36 40, but he looked slower in the on-field drills. In his backpedal, he was slow and stiff in transition, but when he was able to turn and run, he easily gained ground when working in-phase. Hands checked a positive box as well.
Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami (6-foot-0, 198) has a very solid 4.45 40 and showed smooth lateral movement in drills. His short choppy feet played well in short spaces, and he clearly trusts his hands.
Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State (6-foot-3, 198) ran a 4.53 40, which at his size is a solid number. He is very long and plays tall, which helps when playing outside, but hurt him in inside drills. He was slow in the “W-drill” and had trouble dropping weight when he cuts, but he does have solid bursts out of breaks.