On Tuesday the final group of guys took the field in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine - the defensive backs. While I don't think there were too many examples of players whose stock rose or fell sharply on Tuesday, I think there were some things that are worth mentioning as the 2010 combine comes to a close.
And I want to start off by highlighting the talent at the cornerback position...or, rather, the lack thereof. When the presumed top corner in the draft disappoints by running a rather slow 40 time (relatively speaking, of course - he's still faster than me) and a number of corners look completely unimpressive during positional drills, you can't help but love how the Dolphins and their front office addressed their need at corner last year in the draft by taking two of the top corners available. If Vontae Davis was in this draft, he's the best corner available - plain and simple. And Sean Smith isn't too far behind - perhaps a top three corner in the '10 class. So kudos to Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and the Dolphins' scouting team for taking care of their issues at corner at the right time. If I was a team who really needed a corner right now, I'd be feeling a bit uneasy.
Now onto those who both helped and hurt their draft stock - with more of a focus on safeties than corners considering the Dolphins don't really have a need at cornerback.
Earl Thomas, S - I have always liked Thomas. But truth be told, I wasn't sold on him as a potential target at #12 because I just wasn't sure he was worth that high of a pick. However I'm starting to come around. Thomas put up very good numbers in the various tests. He measured in at 5'10, 208 - putting those internet rumors of Earl being just over 5'8 to rest. He then showed he's plenty fast to play free safety by running a 4.49 in the 40. He also looked very good in the positional drills, showing the athleticism many expected to see out of this talented safety.I like what Thomas brings in terms of his ability to cover. He's a true ball-hawking play-maker. I just wish he was a little more consistent with his tackling. But still, his performance in Indy has moved Thomas up to where he could be a potential target with the #12 pick.
Eric Berry, S - As if I could like this kid any more, right? Berry put together some excellent numbers. His 4.47 40 was the second best among all safeties. He then posted a ridiculous 43 inch vertical to go with his 10'10" broad jump. Are those numbers all-world? No. But they confirm what I've been preaching all offseason long - Eric Berry is the best safety prospect since Ed Reed.
T.J. Ward, S - The safety from Oregon showed very well in the positional drills. His 4.55 40 wasn't great but was certainly good enough. A big question about Ward is his ability to change directions and make plays on the ball. But he helped alleviate some of those concerns on Tuesday.
Major Wright, S - The Florida safety surprised with his display of speed (4.48 in the 40). I really like Wright's overall game, too. He might have looked a little stiff in some of the drills. But the game tape doesn't lie - he'll be good value in the middle rounds for some team.
Darrell Stuckey, S - This safety out of Kansas is going to start climbing draft boards after his solid day on Tuesday. He ran a 4.48 40 and leaped just under 40 inches in the vertical. His positional drills, though, is what opened eyes. He looked technically very sound and displayed impressive footwork. He's now squarely in the day two talk (rounds 2-3).
Devin McCourty, CB - The kid from Rutgers (RU, baby) showed very well on Tuesday. His 4.48 was solid and better than some expected. He looked athletic and fundamentally sound in his positional drills. And word has it he interviewed very well, saying he'd not only love the chance to play special teams as a return man in the NFL but also would like to be on the kick and punt coverage teams. Coaches love to hear that stuff. He's a borderline first rounder with a ton of upside.
Taylor Mays, S - I must be crazy, right? How can a 230 pound guy who was "unofficially" timed in the 4.2s in his 40 yard dash (his "official" 40 was 4.43 - still the best figure among all defenders), posted a 41 inch vertical leap, and put up 225 pounds 24 times hurt himself at the combine? Simple - he continues to look lost in positional drills. He looked slow changing directions and back-pedaling and had scouts continuing to question Taylor's ability to play safety in the NFL. He's just not good in coverage and that explains how a player so fast can have just 2 total interceptions in his last three seasons at USC. Mays is destined to be an eventual outside linebacker in the NFL - much in the mold of a guy like Thomas Davis.
Joe Haden, CB - The presumed top corner in the 2010 class ran very poorly in the 40 (4.58 officially). But speed was never his problem in college so I'm not overly worried here. He did show well in the drills, showing good footwork and the ability to change direction with ease. But bad 40 times hurt corners - it's just how the draft goes. Malcolm Jenkins was a top 10 pick last year until his disappointing 40. So it'll be interesting to see if Haden just fell out of the top 10 to 15 picks.
Myron Rolle, S - Rolle might score a 45 or better on the Wonderlic test. But his pedestrian 4.67 40 is not going to cut it. Slow safeties kill defensive backfields. But Rolle is an easy kid to root for so I'll be pulling for him and hoping he bounces back at his Pro Day. But as it stands now, Rolle is a day three pick with hope fading that he squeaks into day two.
Chad Jones, S - At 6'3, 230, his 4.56 40 was actually a pleasant surprise. But what he has in straight-line speed doesn't make up for his inability to change directions quickly. He has poor fundamentals and the positional drills showed that. He also had to be spoken to a couple of times by the coaches running the drills because it seemed like Jones was having some issues understanding the drills. That's not good. Jones may be lucky to go in round three now.