INDIANAPOLIS – Athleticism is at a premium in NFL secondaries, particularly at the cornerback spot. One could easily argue that no position is affected more by good and bad workouts than that one. Who will stand out in this deep class of cover corners? It's going to be fun to watch! Use this preview as a cheat sheet for today's action (2 PM on NFL Network) to understand which drills are most important throughout the workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. For a full explanation of each category, jump down to the bottom of the piece.
Top of the heap: Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
We've seen a bunch of cornerbacks go high in drafts in recent years, and we've seen Ohio State put a ton of talented cover men into the NFL, but a guy that could be at the top of both lists is Okudah, who really presents the total package. Long, competitive, quick, fast and versatile, the junior has all of the traits to step in and be a big-time player on the outside from Day One.
Workout warrior: C.J. Henderson, Florida
As gifted as Okudah is, Henderson is right there with him. The junior Gator has an impressive frame and is an absolute blur on the football field with lightning-quick feet, outstanding top-end speed to run with anyone, and easy change of direction ability that puts him on the mark with pretty much anyone he'll line up against. Some will question his tackling, but from an athleticism standpoint he's going to be tough to top.
Off the radar: Javelin Guidry, Utah
This was a very close call for me, as there are a number of corners who I expect to really shine during athletic testing that people aren't really discussing. Whether it's Noah Igbinoghene from Auburn or Troy Pride JR from Notre Dame or Josiah Scott from Michigan State, there are a handful of diamonds in the rough here, but it's hard not to go with Guidry. The senior actually won state titles in the 100-meter in TWO different states (California and Texas), with his California time of 10.13 being the fastest in the state history. The explosive corner is viewed as one of the fastest players in the entire draft, regardless of position, and transitions to being a nickel corner in the NFL.
Stopwatch shocker: Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
Dantzler is a long, rangy corner at 6-2, 185 pounds, and at that size people are going to discount his athleticism. You won't get that from me though. The former big-time track athlete in high school (who won state titles in the long jump) moves extremely well for his size and should test well across the board. Most importantly, that athleticism shows up on film. Dantzler has some of the highest upside of any corner in the class.
Will kill the drills: Jeff Gladney, TCU
Gladney is on the smaller side, and there are conflicting thoughts on what his speed will look like in Indianapolis, but one thing you can't question with this kid is his competitiveness. He's going 100 miles per hour as soon as he laces up his cleats, no matter who is on the other side of him, and he's got fireworks in those cleats that give him extremely quick feet. He'll look great in position-specific drills and, oh, he can find the ball downfield as well.
Trust the tape: Trevon Diggs, Alabama
A lot of people are going to be honed in on the Alabama corner when he's running the 40-yard dash to get a sense of exactly what his speed is, but to be honest, he is one of the few that, as long as he doesn't bomb the drill, should be okay regardless. Diggs is a physically-imposing corner with outstanding ball skills. He's a former receiver who hasn't been playing the position long, so his best football may be ahead of him, and he comes from an NFL family as his brother, Stefon, has been a standout receiver for the Vikings for the last handful of years.
Most productive college player: Amik Robertson, Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech has consistently churned out quality NFL talent, and Robertson appears to be next in line. The junior picked off an astounding 14 passes in three seasons down south to go along with 34 pass breakups. His consistent production on the football, and cat-like reflexes, make him a very interesting candidate to start at the next level, though at his 5'9, 183-pound frame, it may require a slide to the inside.
One-year wonder: Michael Ojemudia, Iowa
There aren't many one-year starters at the cornerback spot in this year's class, but the senior from the Hawkeyes is as close as they come, as this was his only season as a full-time, 13-game starter. Ojemudia actually played linebacker in high school, where he was asked to basically just run around and hit people. He had to learn how to play in the secondary in college and turned into a sound zone corner by the end of his career.
Best pro comparison: Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
Anyone who digs into the background of Igbinoghene will know why he will be one of the 'risers' coming out of Indianapolis. A great track athlete in high school who is the son of, not just one but, two Olympic athletes, the converted wide receiver has the physicality and athletic tools to make it as a starter in the NFL. The big question is his ability to find the ball downfield, which was the same question for the similarly built former first-round pick Marlon Humphrey when he was coming out of Alabama. Humphrey has since turned into a very good starter for the Baltimore Ravens.
Best story: John Reid, Penn State
Reid saw early playing time as a true freshman and became a long-time contributor in the Nittany Lions' secondary after graduating from St. Joe's Prep in Philadelphia. While he went to high school in the City of Brotherly Love, Reid actually lived in South Jersey, moving from place to place while developing a work ethic that was basically unmatched in State College. An avid gamer who has bounced back from serious injury to play at a high level in the Big Ten, Reid won't view this week as too big a stage. His past has prepared him for this moment.
Small-school standout: Harrison Hand, Temple
A very athletic corner who should perform well in tests, Hand is a transfer from Baylor who grew up in Cherry Hill and decided to move closer to home to conclude his college career. A 'traits' prospect with the makings of a top-end press corner, Hand's final year on North Broad Street was a bit up and down, but the talent is there to be an NFL starter.
Philly connection: Lavert Hill, Michigan
Not only was Hill coached by a defensive staff that includes former Eagles safety Mike Zordich, but he also went to the same high school as current Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox. Hill is a great press corner who excels up at the line of scrimmage. His speed will be put to the test this week, but he brings a lot to the table as a next-level press corner.
Most to prove: Jaylon Johnson, Utah
It was reported on Monday that the star corner from Utah would undergo shoulder surgery after the Combine, and it's not the first time he's gone through a similar procedure. How will that shoulder do during the medical check? That will be big for the junior, who has popped up in multiple mock drafts over the last calendar year as a potential first-round pick.
Position drill to watch
The defensive backs will have a handful of new drills thrown their way this year, and one of my personal favorites is what's called the 'Box' drill, where a player will backpedal, drive forward, come to balance, run back as if he's reacting to a vertical route, then break again to find the football. A couple of things to note in this drill:
1. As always, these drills are designed to put stress on the prospects. After executing a couple of athletic moves on command from a coach on the field, can the player find the ball and finish at the catch point for an interception? This will indicate his comfort in reeling in the ball that comes their way in coverage.
2. Before that point, however, you want to see easy change of direction and body control. Can the prospects execute these movements with good pad level (you don't want to see them standing straight up, leading to wasted movement), light, active feet, and a change in speed on the break. This all speaks to a player's overall athleticism, which is obviously very important when it comes to his ability to stay in a receiver's hip pocket in man-to-man coverage.
|Hand Size||918 (9 1/8")|
|Arm Length||3148 (31 1/2")|
|Wingspan||7548 (75 1/2")|
|Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch)||4.47 seconds|
|Official 40-Time (Laser)||4.50 seconds|
|10-Yard Split||1.56 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||6.90 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.18 seconds|
The rest of the pack
Damon Arnette (Ohio State), Trajan Bandy (Miami), Essang Bassey (Wake Forest), Myles Bryant (Washington), Nevelle Clarke (UCF), Javaris Davis (Auburn), Kristian Fulton (LSU), AJ Green (Oklahoma State), Bryce Hall (Virginia), Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Dane Jackson (Pitt), Lamar Jackson (Nebraska), Bopete Keyes (Tulane), James Pierre (FAU), Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame), Reggie Robinson II (Tulsa), Stanford Samuels (Florida State), Josiah Scott (Michigan State), A.J. Terrell (Clemson), Stantley Thomas-Oliver (FIU), Kindle Vildor (Georgia Southern)
Breakdown of the categories
Top of the heap: This is the player who, based on media projections, is at the top of the class and will likely hear his name called first at his position in April.
Workout warrior: This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Off the radar: This is the player who will come out of nowhere to post great numbers in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Stopwatch shocker: This is the player who I expect to perform better in the athletic tests than most in the media predict.
Will kill the drills: This is the player who will look the best in the position-specific drills following the athletic portion of the workout.
Trust the tape: This is the player who I don't expect to test off the charts and is a better football player than he is an athlete. With that in mind, don't drop him down the board with a subpar workout!
Most productive college player: This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or over the course of his entire career.
One-year wonder: This is the player who performed at a high level in college, but only for a limited time on campus.
Best pro comparison: Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with the easiest picture to paint when looking at his NFL future through my eyes.
Best story: All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in his career? Here's the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
Small-school standout: This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a potentially bright future in the NFL.
Philly connection: This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on.
Most to prove: This is the player who has the most to prove away from the field, whether it's during the interview process, medical examinations, or even the weigh-ins.
Mr. Average: We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks, but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" time in the 40-yard dash? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
The rest of the pack: A list of everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order).
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.