The final chapter of the 2010 NFL Combine was written Tuesday as the defensive backs took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. There were several outstanding performances, many of which Eagle fans are likely to take notice of. How will they affect NFL draft boards at cornerback and safety?
The Internet is abuzz after Taylor Mays performance late this morning. The 230-pound safety from USC started his Combine workout by completing 24-reps on the bench press then finished it by running his 40 in times which read in the low 4.3-second range on most stopwatches.
So is Mays streaking up draft boards? To the surprise of many the answer is not necessarily.
The raw athletic ability of Mays was well-known to NFL decision makers before he arrived in Indianapolis. It is his defensive back fundamentals scouts question and Mays had no answer for them on Tuesday.
Despite running like the wind in the 40, when Mays was asked to participate in drills in which he had to backpedal, turn his hips, change direction as well as other basic elements of the safety position, he struggled mightily.
He was slow moving in reverse, off-balance turning around and almost came to a complete stop when he had to go from moving backwards to driving forwards. All skills an NFL defensive back must do efficiently and elements which were successfully completed by other prospects on the field Tuesday.
What does it all mean?
It does not mean that Mays won't be a good player in the NFL. The inability to quickly move sideline-to-sideline or be placed in coverage over the slot receiver, skills today's drills are designed to gauge, means Mays will be limited to the type of systems and packages he can play at the next level.
Some are of the opinion he's a straight-line safety while others think he's better off at outside linebacker. I just don't think Mays is as good an NFL prospect as many are making him out to be.
There were some good performances by cornerbacks and safeties who could be available starting in the second round this April.
T.J. Ward of Oregon delivered more than was expected on Tuesday.
A hard-hitting run defender in college, Ward showed scouts he has the footwork and basic ball skills to be a complete player at the next level, something Mays could not do. Ward could be good value in round three.
Another prospect who was somewhat of a pleasant surprise today was Georgia junior Reshad Jones. The 214-pound safety did not display blinding speed, running right around the 4.55-second area, but did show scouts his ball skills were a little better than they originally thought.
Jones displayed the ability to backpedal in reverse, quickly turn his hips then drive forward in one fluid line. He's a prospect with a great amount of upside yet may need a little time to hone his skills. Any team willing to roll the dice on Jones in round two could end up winners down the road.
As far as the cornerbacks were concerned, several also showed they too will be good value starting in the second frame.
Alabama junior Kareem Jackson was another who came to the Combine and successfully answered many of the questions scouts had about his game.
He ran relatively well (mid 4.4-second area) in the 40 then completed all the drills efficiently. Like Jones, he's another whose best football is ahead of him and a prospect who may need some time to get his feet underneath him.
Kevin Thomas of USC is an intriguing prospect.
The 6-foot, 192-pound cover corner was not considered draft worthy before the 2009 season began yet has shown an ever improving game. He ran well at the Combine, in the low 4.4-second area, and showed enough ball skills to make many believe he's got a place at the next level as a nickel back at the very least.
Then there's Alterraun Verner of UCLA, a cornerback that lacks the great foot speed yet who displayed flawless technique during Tuesday's workout. Verner was quite possibly the smoothest of all the defensive backs on the field in Indianapolis today and could eventually start in the right system for an NFL team.
So ends the 2010 Combine as more than 330 NFL hopefuls head for home after being tested medically, physically and psychologically. But there's no rest for the weary.
Pro days start later this week as general managers, coaches and scouts will once again crisscross the map in search of NFL talent that will be on display at universities around the nation.
-- Posted by Tony Pauline, 10:53 p.m., March 2