The final day of workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine is always the defensive backs. The defensive backs, especially the corners, usually have the most speed at any Combine. Such was the case Tuesday, including a few guys who were relatively unknown to the public.
Brandon Dixon – Northwest Missouri State
While Division II players aren’t always well known, scouts surely know about them. Annually, it seems there is at least one top prospect from Northwest Missouri State. Last year, defensive end David Bass was their top player and he went on to have a very solid rookie year with the Chicago Bears. This year, corner Brandon Dixon is the man.
Dixon jumped out right away, running the 40 in 4.41, which was one of the faster official times among the corners. That, alone, will get him a lot of attention over the next 6-8 weeks.
Phillip Gaines – Rice
Rice has never been known as a school that develops defensive backs, but with tall corners being wanted by most teams, Gaines will become a hot commodity come draft day. Gaines had one of the stronger overall workouts among the corners. He has excellent size at 6003 – 193 with 31 7/8” arms. There is nothing he didn’t do well in Indy. He ran the 40 in 4.38, his 3-cone was a blistering 6.62, and his 20-yard shuttle was 4.04. He needs to improve his upper body strength. He did 11 reps of 225, which means he has a sub 300 pound bench press.
Kendall James – Maine
I did tape work on James in October, and he was consistently the best defensive player on a good Maine team. At 5’10 – 180, I thought that he had the potential to be an eventual starter in the NFL or, at worst, a good nickel corner. His workout numbers were very good. He ran the 40 in 4.44, had a 39” vertical jump and a 6.81 3-cone. Those are all elite numbers.
Regardless of how good his workout was, there are two things that will hurt him on draft day. He lacks upper body strength (nine reps), and he has short arms (29.5”). Coaches will look at that and feel he may need a year of development on the practice squad.
The Top Corners
Going into the Combine, my top rated corners were Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State, Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State, Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech, and Jason Verrett from TCU. None of these guys disappointed with their workouts.
Dennard came in at 5107 – 191 and ran a 4.50. He showed strength (15 reps) and quickness. The only cause for concern was his hips. They looked a little tight on a couple of the position drills. That is something that doesn’t show on tape.
Justin Gilbert has the whole package. He has size (6001 – 202), speed (4.37), and overall athleticism. He ran the 3-cone in 6.92 and had a 10’6” long jump and 35.5” vertical. He is the odds-on-favorite to be the first corner drafted.
Like Gilbert, Kyle Fuller has all the tools to work with. He has very good corner size (5116 – 190), long arms (32 7/8) and excellent athleticism. His overall numbers were as good as any corner. His 40 speed was 4.49, his 3-cone was 6.90, and his jumps were outstanding (38.5” and 10’8”). Fuller is a very smooth athlete and should get drafted in the first or early second round.
TCU’s Verrett has outstanding tape, but his lack of height may hurt him. Verrett measured 5094 – 189 with 30.5” arms. Some clubs, regardless of how strong the tape, won’t draft a corner shorter than 5’10″. I find that ridiculous, but I have seen it happen numerous times. They hold to their standards.
Verrett’s workout was excellent. His 40 time was 4.38, his jumps were 39’’ and 10’8” and his 3–cone was 6.69. To go along with excellent tape and outstanding workout numbers, Verrett is extremely competitive. He goes 100% snap-to-whistle every play. If a club eliminates him because of a half an inch, that is poor scouting
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe