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For the weeks leading up to the NFL Combine event (late Feb.), I go through preview tape of all the prospects attending/invited and give a quick reaction grade and a few sentences on what I’m seeing – a quick guide, of sorts, of what we’re focusing on watching at the event.
It’s a quick eye-test reaction, and grading/scouting typed in pencil. The NFL Combine measurables can/do change things radically for some of the prospects…there’s always a nice (or disappointing) surprise or ten.
After the 2019 NFL Combine results are in, we can load all the results into our computer scouting models to marry up with our performance analytics -- and then start our detailed studies on the top prospects and computer-model sleepers at each position.
Every day for the two weeks leading up to the 2019 NFL Combine we will release another positional preview of the prospects, ranked by our early grades applied.
Today’s group: CB prospects
Tomorrow’s planned group: SAF prospects
2019 NFL Combine Scouting Preview/Ranking: CB
CB Rashad Fenton, So. Carolina (5’11/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-
Not a fan. Stiff mover side-to-side. Plays hard, moves OK straight-ahead, too stiff in his agility…worried he’ll get torched in NFL training camps.
CB Mark Fields, Clemson (5’11”/180) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-
12 games played last two seasons. Didn’t show much on tape. Questions on his commitment to the game, in a video piece I saw a clip of. Watching him in an interview…his personality doesn’t help his case. Too many good prospects to waste time here at this point.
CB Justin Layne, Michigan St. (6’2”/185) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-
Very thin-framed, almost sickly thin. Frame doesn’t look like it can add much weight either. Has height/reach but was pretty weak in staying up with NFL prospect WRs in the Big Ten. Wasn’t a fan of his preview.
CB Jamel Dean, Auburn (6’2”/208) *Preview Scouting Grade = D-
Could not be less impressed. Has the size, but the tape I watched…lackadaisical in coverage, uninterested in hitting, and generally sloppy. No thanks. Has the tools to be an NFL defender but I saw no heart or skill (on an NFL level) at all.
CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson (6’0”/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = D
Not a fan. Plays way off the WRs most times, and when he is up closer off the snap he is already backpedaling to drop back. That’s usually a confidence thing or covering up for a lack of speed. I don’t like when it I see it. He’s not for me.
CB Kris Boyd, Texas (6’0”/195) *Preview Scouting Grade = D
Long arms, long legs…long strides. Seemed like his length/stride was costing time for Boyd to make cuts covering better WRs because his long legs didn’t move as fast to get him up to speed in a hurry. Can move when he gets going/runs straight, but maybe a risk covering the agile workers in the NFL. Has the size, but the coverage nuisances looked problematic for the next level.
CB Sean Bunting, C. Michigan (6’0”/181) *Preview Scouting Grade = D
Has the speed-agility to cover, but watching him against better/major conference WRs, he was out-physical-ed often. He’s a bit thin-framed. Not overwhelming speed. Maybe a fringe NFL DB?
CB Alijah Holder, Stanford (6’1”/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+/C-
Looks more like an NFL safety or floater CB/SAF utility guy. Solid tackler. Plays tough. ‘OK’ in coverage. Looks a bit stiff chasing guys across the middle…like he’ll be a beat too slow to be a top NFL CB. His Combine numbers could change my mind; could be an optical illusion.
CB Saivion Smith, Alabama (6’1”/200) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+
He’s solid enough, I guess. I feel like if he wasn’t an Alabama corner, he might not be invited to the Combine. Has NFL size. Low-end NFL athleticism from the looks of things. Not much of a tackler but will give an effort towards it at least. The preview tape didn’t do much for me.
CB Corey Ballentine, Washburn (6’0”/204) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+/C-
I’m not sure why Ballentine is listed as a CB prospect on the NFL website. He seems like a sure-fire Safety prospect. He was the Small College Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and earned a Senior Bowl invite, but I didn’t see anything to get excited about during Senior Bowl week, but I didn’t spend a ton of time on him either. He plays at such a low level it’s hard to judge his tape. Doesn’t jump off the screen at me…and didn’t in Mobile.
CB Hamp Cheevers, Boston College (5’10”/180) *Preview Scouting Grade = D+/C-
He had 7 picks in 2018…he can cover, but he’s so small that he was susceptible to bigger WRs having their way at times. Kelvin Harmon had no real issues with Cheevers. Scrappy, could make it someday as a slot cover guy, maybe.
CB David Long, Michigan (5’10”/195) *Preview Scouting Grade = C-
Not much to look at, physically…smaller, but muscular. Then you watch him play/cover and you start to get won over. Very good cover skills, tough. Might be a decent slot corner. Not super-fast but seems to stay with his guy without issue.
CB Montre Hartage, Northwestern (5’11”/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = C
Solid cover corner. I thought I’d see better tape based on some hype I read ahead. He’s solid enough in coverage, didn’t ‘wow’ me. He has good closing speed and will hit ball carriers. He almost feels like a safety more than a corner, but he can cover.
CB Byron Murphy, Washington (5’11”/182) *Preview Scouting Grade = C
I saw that he was highly rated before I settled into watch preview tape, and I was ready to be dazzled…but I wasn’t. Not at all. Murphy has that annoying thing I hate with CBs…either playing way off the ball or backpedaling to fall back deep right before the snap. You won’t beat them deep, because they’re already back there…but you can destroy them with short/stop routes all game…occasionally they’ll guess one of those right and jump a route and look good for a pick – but they give up a lot more in front of them, too easily than they do making plays. Not a great size either.
CB Davante Davis, Texas (6’1”/205) *Preview Scouting Grade = C
Good feet, nice size, really plays with technique along with the athletic skills. QBs seemed to be staying away from him, which is a nice sign in scouting him. His Combine times could kick him up to a ‘B’ grade, easily.
CB Blessuan Austin, Rutgers (6’1”/195) *Preview Scouting Grade = C
Had a bright future after his breakout 2016 season, but an ACL tear and then complications with that the following year has limited him to five game appearances the past two seasons. He might be a ‘B’ talent or better but the injury red flag. Fantastic physique, great work in the weight room and willing hitter. Could be a sleeper…or a frustrating knee problem has hampered him. His Combine will be interesting to say the least.
CB Jordan Brown, So Dakota State (6’0”/195) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+
Has the ‘look’ (size and movements) of an NFL starting CB. Hard to get a full feel because of playing FCS QBs and WRs, but I think I see NFL fluidity in coverage and is a willing enough tackler.
CB Xavier Crawford, C. Michigan (6’0”/180) *Preview Scouting Grade = C/C+
Solid cover guy. Was promising at Oregon State in 2016…70 tackles, 10 passes defended as a redshirt freshman. Had back injuries in 2017 and missed much of the season. Was a graduate transfer immediate to CMU. He’s smart, tough, and athletic enough. Sleeper/grinder prospect for the NFL. Might be great in the slot.
CB Jordan Miller, Washington (6’1”/180) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+/B-
Pretty solid cover corner…he’s just a natural play-the-WR cover corner. Not much for tackling. Gets beat occasionally, but usually has his nose in the play/on the throw going his way. He has NFL skills…not sure if a starter or rotational DB for the NFL. Skills are here.
CB Amani Orewariye, Penn State (6’0”/200) *Preview Scouting Grade = C+/B-
Tough, physical CB. Looks like solid enough speed/agility, but his gift is his physical play and nose for the ball. Wiry/thin frame might be a minor turn off for the NFL.
CB Derrick Baity, Kentucky (6’1”/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = B
Thin frame, thin legs, but very quick…nice burst. With a 6’1”+ (maybe) length with the nice pop in his legs…he’s a very nice cover corner prospect. Mirrors nicely. Can run with WRs. Can tackle, but usually focuses on coverage. The tape I watched – the QBs stayed away from this side at all costs. Very solid prospect.
CB Ryan Pulley, Arkansas (5’11”/198) *Preview Scouting Grade = B
Really nice cover skills. Will go step-for-step deep or is fine coming up close and pressing a WR/knocking them off their route. He just locked up some WRs and wouldn’t let them get past their first step off the snap. Scrappy, athletic, good identification skills…might be even better than my initial grade.
CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple (6’1”/190) *Preview Scouting Grade = B
The CB the NFL Network pushed the most on the TV coverage of Senior Bowl practice, but every other time they did he’d then get beaten by a WR in a drill. He’s fine, but his hype may be ahead of his talent right now.
Great feet. Nice mirror technique. Can really shift/change direction adeptly as needed. Looks a little inexperienced, lost at times but a lot of raw, physical tools are there.
CB Ken Webster, Ole Miss (5’11”/194) *Preview Scouting Grade = B
I really like his game. A very physical corner, could be a safety if need be…but you want him at CB. He has nice cover skills, good acceleration/mirroring of WRs. He’s going to be a sound NFL player with upside on his physicality.
CB Mike Jackson, Miami (6’1”/205) *Preview Scouting Grade = B
Really great build for the NFL. He’s a tough/physical corner who looks like a strong safety. Played pretty well in coverage on the tape I saw. Some lapses/lost account of where the ball was but wasn’t bad. Made smart plays with his hands to distract the WR when he did get turned around. If he has NFL+ speed, and I’m not sure he does, he could be a top 100 prospect for sure.
CB Iman Marshall-Lewis (6’0”/205) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+
I thought Marshall was the best cover corner in all the drills all Senior Bowl week. The most consistent. Smart cover corner. Not the most athletic, but savvy, plays the man and the ball well. Better football player than what measurables might say. Very good, sound prospect.
CB Greedy Williams, LSU (6’2”/180) *Preview Scouting Grade = B/B+
I see that he is good, but I kept waiting to see something special with all the hype…I didn’t see it. He’s good…confident…bordering a bit on being a ‘diva’ corner. I just think there are better athletes, better built corners, cover guys with better feet and mirroring ability…and they’ll be available much later in the draft. Williams is a reach as the universal top CB prospect.
CB Derrek Thomas, Baylor (6’3”/196) *Preview Scouting Grade = B/B+
Really nice size/length. Was a WR originally for Temple, converted to CB in 2016. Made an impact at corner right away. Got hurt in 2017 and lost much of his season. Transferred to Baylor in 2018 and looked good. He’s what the NFL is looking for…long and instinctual. He’s a smart kid too, listening to him in interviews. If he tests well at the Combine, his draft stock is going to soar.
CB Julian Love, Notre Dame (5’11”/191) *Preview Scouting Grade = B/B+
Love his cover skills (36 PDs the past two seasons)…he just has an instinct for playing the WR/the route, and he has terrific closing speed on incoming passes. What he has cannot be taught. He has decent enough size for the NFL and is a willing tackler (60+ tackles each season the last two seasons). Really like his game and what he’ll bring to an NFL defense.
CB Jamal Peters, Miss State (6’2”/217) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+
Size and attitude of a safety but moved to corner and looked very comfortable there in the preview tape I saw. Every time I watched him off the snap, he’s usually on his WR like a shadow. Impressive…impressive for his size. A dual prospect in that he could be a legit safety if teams don’t work him at CB. Impressive athletic specimen.
CB Blace Brown, Troy (6’0”/185) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+/A-
Really liked this tape. Plays bigger than listed size. A very good tackler, almost like a safety playing CB. Really nice, fluid movement in coverage. Reminded me of a better Marcus Peters – plays way off the WR but closes fast. Played/covered D.J. Chark well in a 2017 Troy upset over LSU. Really impressive first impression here.
CB Joejuan Williams, Vandy (6’2”/208) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+/A-
Perfect size, great physique, and has the speed-agility tools…plus, he has good cover skills…and he’s tough. I really like his game a lot. I watched Joejuan Williams’ tape after watching Greedy Williams tape…no contest for me, I’d take Joejuan as the best ‘Williams’ CB in the draft.
CB Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky (6’3”/205) *Preview Scouting Grade = B+/A-
At their best, I thought Lonnie Johnson displayed the most ‘high-end’ attributes and skills of all the CBs at the Senior Bowl. Iman Marshall was more consistent, but Johnson had more ‘wow’ moments for me. The size, the skill…I’m still with Johnson as best in class here.
Love his skill set and size but love his football instincts and toughness even more. Can run with/cover WRs down the field but will also keep an eye on running plays and screens and race in to snuff them out. A tall corner prospect with athleticism to cover but will also play/tackle like a safety as needed. He could be a safety in the NFL for sure but he’s a legit corner, starter in the NFL at a glance. A lot to love here.
CB Kendall Sheffield, Ohio State (6’0”/193) *Preview Scouting Grade = A-
As good a feet as I’ve seen in this CB class. He rarely is separated from who he’s covering. Has great mirroring skills. Has a toughness to tackle. Great hand movement to knock passes away from WRs who got their hands on it. He has it all. Started at Alabama, had to then go JUCO for a year then to Ohio State. Really impressed here.
CB Deandre Baker, Georgia (5’11”/185) *Preview Scouting Grade = A-
Just a great cover guy…great instincts and break on passes. Will probably run a 4.4s 40-time, maybe in the 4.3s. You wish he was a little bigger is about the only complaint.
CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston (6’3”/200) *Preview Scouting Grade = A-
Legit. I have more DBs to watch, but halfway through the list…if there’s a better CB prospect than this, then what a year for CBs this draft.
Stellar speed – has to be a 4.4 runner if not 4.3s. He caught so many runners from behind with a huge head start for the runner…I’m thinking his speed hype is very real. In coverage, he closes so fast and has a long 6’2”-6’3”+ body with reach. A near perfectly constructed corner. Has everything you want, on tape (preview).