Cornerback is the final position group that I will preview for the National Scouting Combine. It's not as deep as it has been in recent years, but there are plenty of intriguing players with a wide variety of skill sets. Here's who you need to be watching when they take the field a week from Monday.
This is the player who I feel is at the top of the class coming into the event.
Greedy Williams, LSU
There's been plenty written about Andraez "Greedy" Williams, who appears to be the consensus choice as the top cover corner in this class. Williams sure looks the part at 6-2 and just over 180 pounds. A long corner who can run will always get a long look in the scouting process. There are a lot of things to like about Williams. The main concerns I have are his ability to find the ball late downfield and his ability to defend the run. Still, he possesses all of the physical tools of a shutdown corner. Williams' flashes are really, really impressive.
This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Kendall Sheffield, Ohio State
Cornerback is a position where you almost NEED to be an excellent athlete to succeed. You can overcome it with the right skill set, but if you're a bad athlete, you'll likely struggle to play as a starting-caliber player in the NFL.
With that in mind, there are a bunch of players who would qualify for this category. Jamel Dean from Auburn has some insane reported test times. Isaiah Johnson from Houston is a converted wide receiver who I expect to break 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. Byron Murphy from Washington should test very well, as should Trayvon Mullen from Clemson. The guy that I'm going with, however, is Sheffield, a former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide who transferred to Junior College, ended up with Ohio State, and started 17 games in two years on the gridiron while also ripping up the track.
Last year, the junior cover man broke a 23-year-old record for the 60-meter dash (running a blazing 6.66 seconds). That athleticism transfers to the field. Sheffield's speed and quickness on the perimeter first stood out to me while studying Denzel Ward in preparation for last year's draft. More people will be talking about Sheffield 10 days from now.
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!
Deandre Baker, Georgia
Baker is a very likable player on film because of his instincts and route recognition in coverage to go along with his competitive streak. A scrappy player who always finds himself around the football, Baker's a bit undersized and I'm not sure that he'll test like a top-shelf athlete. We'll see how he does on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium, but keep in mind that Baker's game isn't based off his feet. It's more about his brain and his heart. I won't drop him if he doesn't break 4.50 in the 40-yard dash. The Jim Thorpe Award winner can play for my team any day.
This is the player who I expect to see test better than most in the media believe they will perform based off of current projections.
Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
Listed at 6-3, 208 pounds, Williams has rare size for the cornerback spot and he uses that size to his advantage on the field. Williams is a bully who uses his length and strength early in the down to disrupt the timing of receivers on their releases. I enjoyed watching Williams go up and fight for the football in the air. He can be a bit more consistent finding it late downfield, but he has the length to disrupt at the catch point. One thing that stood out to me while watching Williams, however, was that he ran much better than I thought he would considering his frame. I don't know if the former high school track star will run in the low 4.40 range in the 40-yard dash. It wouldn't shock me at all if he ran faster than people think and he's viewed as a "winner" after cornerback drills have concluded.
Will Kill The Drills
This is the player who may or may not be a great athlete, but he will look the best in the position-specific drills after the athletic portion of the workout.
Byron Murphy, Washington
Murphy is a player who I can't wait to study even more film of because I really liked what I've seen so far. While he's a bit skinny at 182 pounds, the redshirt sophomore corner is very light on his feet but he's got a mean streak to boot. I watched him come downhill and lay out receivers in the flat on numerous occasions. He was an opportunistic player who posted great production in just 20 starts for the Huskies. Murphy has to prove that he's big enough and strong enough to play 16 games on the outside, but the play personality and athletic traits are very, very intriguing. I expect him to look very smooth in drills with the athleticism and range to get out and make plays on the football out on the turf in Indy.
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.
Jamel Dean, Auburn
I could have easily named Dean as the Workout Warrior, but digging into his history, the biggest thing for him will be the medical check. Dean committed to Ohio State in 2013, his junior of high school. He ripped up his knee that season, tearing his ACL and his meniscus. He made it through his senior season, but re-tore the meniscus in the same knee before an all-star game. When he arrived on campus shortly after that, the medical staff would not clear him, so he was forced to transfer.
After seeking a second opinion, he was cleared to play later that summer and ended up at Auburn, where he was forced to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Ready to go and installed as a starter for the 2016 season, Dean suffered a third knee injury, and he was sidelined for the entire year. He rehabbed, bounced back, and started 22 games in his final two years on campus. The question for this physically gifted press corner is will the knee be an issue for him moving forward?
Most Productive College Player
This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or throughout his entire career.
Julian Love, Notre Dame
No cornerback at this year's Combine has more career ball disruptions (interceptions and pass breakups combined) than Love who had 44. The junior, who posted five interceptions with his 39 pass breakups, is a good athlete with really impressive reaction quickness at the drive phase of the route. From a physical and athletic standpoint, he's one of the more gifted corners in this class. I think he has inside-outside versatility in the NFL. In this case, I think the numbers speak for themselves. Love is a pretty good player.
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 their NFL future through my eyes.
Sean Bunting, Central Michigan
Bunting was one of the first underclassmen to officially declare for this year's NFL Draft, as he made his announcement right as the regular season ended in early December. I had never heard of him, so naturally, I was intrigued. I watched him later that day and, I have to say, I was pretty impressed. A competitive outside corner with all of the traits to be a prototypical press man player on the perimeter, Bunting is a pretty fluid athlete who can run for a big man. I saw definite starting potential on the outside. With his combination of size and movement skills, he reminded me of a player from last year's class in Colorado's Isaiah Oliver, who was a second-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons.
Like Bunting, Oliver was a big kid with surprising athleticism and showed an innate ability to find the ball. I want to watch more of Bunting before I really hammer home that last point on him, but with the way he was built and the way he ran, he really reminded me of Oliver.
Let's face it, all of these players have great stories to tell, but which guy has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in their career? Here's the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
Fifteen months ago, Ya-Sin was an under-the-radar prospect at Presbyterian, wrapping up his second year as a starter and a leader for the small-school program. Things changed quickly, however, as the university announced that it was dropping to a non-scholarship level of football. The decision was made for Ya-Sin to transfer, and coaches at Presbyterian got him hooked up with Geoff Collins, then the head coach at Temple University here in Philadelphia.
Ya-Sin transferred, got to campus in January, and by the end of Training Camp that summer had earned the respect of his teammates and coaches so much that he had earned a single-digit jersey number, which is given to the nine toughest players on the team. I was at Temple when the tradition was instituted, so I can tell you that those numbers are not given out lightly. Ya-Sin had to do a lot to earn that in just a few months on campus.
Ya-Sin was a productive starter for the Owls and earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he continued to impress. A standout wrestler who won two state titles at Southwest Dekalb High School in Decatur, Georgia, Ya-Sin's physicality transfers to the football field. He's a fearless tackler and very competitive at the catch point. Having only played two years of high school football followed by three years at a low level of competition, the arrow is seemingly pointing up on Ya-Sin's future in the sport.
This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a very bright future in the NFL.
Jordan Brown, South Dakota State
A teammate of tight end Dallas Goedert in college, Jordan Brown was one of my favorite corners who I studied leading up to the Senior Bowl. A former wide receiver, the tall, instinctive corner has really good ball skills. I don't expect him to test all that well, but he's a hell of a football player. Brown started 41 games for the Jackrabbits, posting 37 ball disruptions in his career. All of those reps showed up in his senior year, as I thought he read things faster than just about anyone I've studied in the class to date at the corner spot. His Combine workout will be critical for him and his stock.
This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or to the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on in Indianapolis.
Kris Boyd, Texas
Billed by some as a first-round pick during the summer and fall, Boyd may not hear his name go quite that high, but he is still an intriguing prospect. A very competitive corner who goes toe-to-toe with receivers on an every-down basis, the first-team All-Big 12 selection was an effective zone coverage player throughout his career as a three-year starter. His long speed and overall athleticism will be tested in Indianapolis, as that's the big question with him at this point in the process. As a football player, he's tough and instinctive and made some really impressive plays on the ball as well. His connection to the Eagles? The senior corner has a couple of cousins who played in the NFL, one of which is former Eagles Pro Bowl corner Bobby Taylor.
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 for any given position? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
|Hand Size||9 1/8 inches|
|Arm Length||31 1/2 inches|
|Wignspan||75 1/2 inches|
|Unofficial 40 Time||4.46 seconds|
|Official 40 Time||4.50 seconds|
|10-Yard Split||1.56 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||6.90 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.18 seconds|
|Broad Jump||123 inches|
|Vertical Jump||36 inches|
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show 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 the Journey 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.