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2024 NFL Scouting Combine Cheat Sheet: Defensive Back

Kamren Kinchens of Miami
Kamren Kinchens of Miami

Athleticism is at a premium in NFL secondaries, whether that's at cornerback or at safety, but particularly the former. One could easily argue that no position is affected more by good and bad workouts than at cornerback. Who will stand out in this deep class? It's going to be fun to watch!

Workout Warriors

These are the players who analysts expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout:

Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo) – Mitchell first jumped on my radar after an All-American season in 2022 that included a comical four-interception performance against Northern Illinois. In all ways you want a corner to make a play on the football, Mitchell can do it. The film was impressive. Then, last summer, Bruce Feldman released his annual Freaks List column over at The Athletic, with Mitchell cracking the Top 50. Feldman reported that the All-MAC performer would break 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash at 6-feet and nearly 200 pounds. With outstanding height-weight-speed, outstanding ball skills, and a level of confidence that is required to play corner in the league, Mitchell was a fascinating study and easy to love. He went to the Senior Bowl and shined every day in practice, leading many analysts to believe he's bound for the Top 15 in this draft. An expected strong performance in Indianapolis will solidify that.

Terrion Arnold (Alabama) – A two-year starter for Nick Saban at Alabama, Arnold is a fast, twitchy athlete with explosive traits that pop on tape. He showed the ability to run with just about anyone in the SEC at 6-feet, 196 pounds. There aren't any reported numbers on him out there at this point, but my guess is he will be one of the more impressive athletes by the end of the week in the secondary.

Nate Wiggins (Clemson) – It doesn't take long into a study of Wiggins to see that he's an outstanding athlete at the cornerback spot. He's extremely fluid, has lightning-quick feet, and the speed to carry vertical routes with ease. At 6-feet-2, 185 pounds, he has a true press man corner skill set. He looks the part and should be one of the top testers at the cornerback spot.

Kamren Kinchens (Miami) – One of the most explosive safeties in the country, Kinchens is a pure post player with sideline-to-sideline range. The 2022 All-American's speed and ball skills stand out whenever you turn the tape on, and his production backs it up (11 interceptions over the last two seasons). Kinchens should test as one of the most athletic safeties in the draft.

Cam Hart (Notre Dame) – Typically, when you're dealing with a corner of Hart's size (he checked in at 6-foot-3, 204 pounds at the Senior Bowl), you're dealing with a more limited athlete. That does not appear to be the case with the super senior, who made Feldman's Freaks List last summer thanks to a reported 134-inch broad jump and 38-inch vertical leap. While he may look a bit leggy in some of the agility drills, if he jumps out of the gym and explodes out of his stance in the 40, it will do enough to give him one of the top athletic profiles in the cornerback group.

Decamerion Richardson (Mississippi State) – Another impressive physical specimen at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Richardson starred as a sprinter and as a jumper for his high school track team. A two-year starter for the Bulldogs, Richarson's traits will keep him on the radar. I expect he will test well this week.

Tyler Owens (Texas Tech) – A traitsy safety with an outstanding blend of size and speed, Owens (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) started just one season for the Red Raiders, but has been a dynamite special teamer over the course of his career. He made it to Feldman's Freaks List last summer because he was timed at more than 23 MPH by the school's GPS tracking in a game a year ago and he cleared 40 inches in the vertical leap.

Cooper DeJean (Iowa) – DeJean would have been one of the top names on this list, but due to a late-season injury, he's not scheduled to work out this week. Still, he's one of the top athletes in the class, a player who some analysts view as a safety and others as a corner. There's a good chance he can be a Pro Bowl talent at either.

The Drill to Watch

One of my favorite drills for the DBs is 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:

  • 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 any pass that comes their way in coverage.
  • 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, 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.

Here are the players who have a chance to shine in these drills:

Kalen King (Penn State) – King shined on the practice field for Penn State before ever playing a down because of his cat-like quickness, which gave him the ability to get in and out of breaks and mirror routes from receivers on command. A smooth athlete who can find the ball, he should do well in this drill. King was once a first-round pick in mock drafts and a good week in Indy could elevate him back to that status.

D.J. James (Auburn) – James got early playing time at Oregon a few years ago because he is one of the best athletes out there every time he steps on the field. A fast, silky-smooth athlete, James' top-end change of direction abilities will serve him well in this drill, as will his speed to track down throws near the sidelines. He transferred to Auburn a couple of seasons ago and pulled in three picks (including one returned for a touchdown) to go with 18 PBUs; he's no stranger to finding the football.

Evan Williams (Oregon) – From one DB who left Oregon early on to another who came to Eugene late in his career, Williams was a four-year player at Fresno State before joining the Ducks last season. He has the movement skills to excel in a drill like this, and if he can turn in a strong positional workout after a flashy week at the Senior Bowl, it will mean a lot for his draft stock. Williams is a fun, do-it-all safety.

Caelan Carson (Wake Forest) – Carson didn't record an interception in his final two seasons on campus, but he's a bouncy athlete who has a man coverage skill set. He gets in and out of breaks really well. He was made to do well in this drill.

Kool-Aid McKinstry of Alabama
Kool-Aid McKinstry of Alabama

Best Stories

All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unique journey to get to this point? 

Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama) – I've been following the NFL Draft for a long time, and McKinstry has one of the coolest names I've come across. The junior corner, who earned the nickname from his grandmother because of his big, boisterous smile as a baby, is more than just a name, however. At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, McKinstry is a disruptive press corner who can get on top of receivers and engulf them early or shadow them downfield to take away throws at all three levels. An aggressive player who likes to play downhill, he should be one of the first corners off the board in April.

Sione Vaki (Utah) – A true sophomore who was eligible for the NFL Draft because he is more than three years removed from high school after going on an LDS Mission, Vaki is a short, stocky, explosive athlete who is cut from the same cloth as Eagles safety Sydney Brown. A heat-seeking missile, Vaki has some development required on the back end, but that's to be expected considering his lack of experience and the fact that he also played both ways this year. Vaki started 12 games at safety for the Utes this fall while also averaging nearly 10 yards per touch on offense with five touchdowns. Vaki played running back in high school, beginning his career as the blocking fullback for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris before switching schools to get more playing time.

Mike Sainristill (Michigan) – One of the top pure nickel corners in this draft, Sainristill started all 15 games for the National Champions this year, just his second as a full-time player on defense. At 5-foot-10, 182 pounds, Sainristill began his career at wide receiver, catching 37 passes in his first three seasons on campus to go with five touchdowns. A physical, energetic plater, the super senior has been incredibly productive since moving to defense, posting 7 interceptions, 10.5 TFLs, 3 sacks, 13 PBUs, and a pair of forced fumbles in the last two years alone.

Tykee Smith (Georgia) – Another one of the top slot guys in this class, Smith is a Philadelphia native who jumped right into the action for West Virginia back in 2019. After being named third-team All-American as a sophomore, Smith decided to transfer to the Bulldogs, but injuries hampered him for two seasons, limiting him to more of a backup role. In his final season on campus, Smith became a starter, intercepting four passes and proving to be a competitive matchup corner on the inside. Some analysts view him as a potential full-time safety as well.

As the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway, let's take a look back in time at how current Eagles performed during their workouts!

Significant Stats

These are the players of note with a special statistic or measurement that sets them apart from their peers:

Kamari Lassiter (Georgia) – A two-year starter for the Bulldogs, the junior cover man was targeted on just 10.1 percent of his coverage snaps this past season, as teams made a concerted effort to stay away from him in the passing game. Only five corners drafted in the last decade were tested less in their final season on campus, and two of them are some of the best young corners in the game in Patrick Surtain Jr. and Sauce Gardner. The thing to love about Lassiter, however, is that he maximized the opportunities he had when attacked, forcing an incompletion (getting a PBU or an interception) on 26.8 percent of his targets in 2023. Only six of a possible 267 drafted corners in that same 10-year sample had a better number, including three high picks in Denzel Ward, Devon Witherspoon, and Joey Porter Jr. No corner ranked as high in both categories as Lassiter.

Tyler Nubin (Minnesota) – One of the top safeties in the draft, Nubin has a chance to be the first one at his position off the board come April because of his well-rounded physical toolbox. Listed 6-foot-2 at nearly 210 pounds, he's a physically imposing prospect with excellent closing burst, change of direction skills, and stopping power as a tackler. The All-American majored in playing from depth, patrolling the middle of the field and flying to the football. He wasn't too shabby when left in coverage either. According to PFF, Nubin allowed a reception on just 34.5 percent of his targets over the course of his career, the best number of any safety drafted in the last decade.

Willie Drew (Virginia State) – One of the top small-school players in the NFL Draft, Drew is a solid athlete with cover skills he was able to put on display last month at the Senior Bowl after a productive career at the D-II level. Drew pulled in 11 interceptions and 39 PBUs over the course of his career, giving him 50 ball disruptions in the last three seasons. There have been 324 corners have been drafted in this decade, and only six have had more disruptions over the course of their career. Drew can find the football.

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" 40-yard dash time? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (based on my own personal research).


Height: 5116 (5'11 3/4")

Weight: 194 pounds

Hand Size: 918 (9 1/8")

Arm Length: 3138 (31 3/8")

Wingspan: 7548 (75 1/2")

Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch): 4.45 seconds

Official 40-Time (Laser): 4.48 seconds

10-Yard Split: 1.54 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 6.94 seconds

Short Shuttle: 4.21 seconds

Broad Jump: 124"

Vertical Jump: 36.5"


Height: 6001 (6' 1/8")

Weight: 205 pounds

Hand Size: 948 (9 1/2")

Arm Length: 3158 (31 5/8")

Wingspan: 7600 (76")

Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch): 4.50 seconds

Official 40-Time (Laser): 4.52 seconds

10-Yard Split: 1.56 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 6.99 seconds

Short Shuttle: 4.26 seconds

Broad Jump: 123"

Vertical Jump: 36"

The Rest of the Pack

Everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order):

Kris Abrams-Draine (Missouri), Daijahn Anthony (Ole Miss), Cole Bishop (Utah), Beau Brade (Maryland), Millard Bradford (TCU), Jarvis Brownlee (Louisville), Javon Bullard (Georgia), Calen Bullock (USC), Jaylon Carlies (Missouri), Ryan Cooper JR (Oregon State), MJ Devonshire (Pitt), Marcellas Dial (South Carolina), Johnny Dixon (Penn State), Renardo Green (Florida State), Kamal Hadden (Tennessee), Dominique Hampton (Washington), Myles Harden (South Dakota), Daquan Hardy (Penn State), Jaden Hicks (Washington State), Khyree Jackson (Oregon), Carlton Johnson (Fresno State), Isaiah Johnson (Syracuse), Elijah Jones (Boston College), Jarrian Jones (Florida State), Jaylen Key (Alabama), Dwight McGlothern (Arkansas), Patrick McMorris (Cal), Max Melton (Rutgers), Malik Mustapha (Wake Forest), Josh Newton (TCU), Kitan Oladapo (Oregon State), Andru Phillips (Kentucky), Deantre Prince (Ole Miss), Nehemiah Pritchett (Auburn), Josh Proctor (Ohio State), Ennis Rakestraw JR (Missouri), Demani Richardson (Texas A&M), Christian Roland-Wallace (USC), Andre Sam (LSU), Jaylin Simpson (Auburn), Chau Smith-Wade (Washington State), Tarheeb Still (Maryland), TJ Tampa (Iowa State), Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (Texas Tech), Ro Torrence (Arizona State), Josh Wallace (Michigan), Ryan Watts (Texas), James Williams (Miami)

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