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Combine Stock Watch: DBs

Posted Feb 26, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason takes a look at the notable performers Tuesday's workouts.

INDIANAPOLIS --Bigger has become better, but it's not everything for defensive backs. Speed, the ability to quickly change directions and fluidity matters, as well.

But with bigger receivers comes a demand for bigger, rangier cornerbacks. But those that have the right blend of size and speed are coveted, and demand outstrips supply by a considerable margin.

"No, and especially a lot of them that can run and do that," said Executive Vice President and General Manager John Elway. "And I'll say that when the bigger corners cover up -- guys are not as open against big guys as they are against little guys, even though they're in the same spot. 

"So if I'm a little guy covering you or a big guy covering you, to a quarterback, they're going to look more covered on the big guy."

And that's why, beyond the film, teams will study the times and measurements from the Combine closely the next few weeks. Even an eighth of an inch could be the tiebreaker between two otherwise equal defensive backs.

One cornerback who enhanced his chances was Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. Not only did he post the best 40-yard dash time (4.37 seconds) among defensive backs, but the 6-foot cornerback also had the second-longest arms of any cornerback at the Combine (33 1/8 inches). 

Another was Ohio State's Bradley Roby. His 40 time (4.39 seconds) was an eyelash behind Gilbert's, and his short shuttle (4.04 seconds) was sixth-best at the Combine. His arms were 1 5/8 inches shorter than Gilbert's, but he compensated with three extra inches in vertical jump (38.5 inches to Gilbert's 35.5).

Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling is also another player whose ranginess and reach will draw interest. His 6-foot-3 frame is accentuated by his 33 1/8-inch arms, and helps make up for 40-yard speed that was average among defensive backs (4.52 seconds, 21st of 48 defensive backs who ran Tuesday). Dowling noted Sunday that teams have talked to him about playing cornerback, and felt he could handle the role, given his work in cover-zero schemes used by WKU last year.

Dowling, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Batiste and Utah's Keith McGill were the tallest defensive backs at the Combine, at 6-foot-3. McGill had the longest arms of the group (and the entire defensive back class), at 33 1/4 inches. McGill also had a comparable 40 time to Dowling (4.51 seconds), but Jean-Batiste had arms that were nearly an inch shorter than McGill's and a 40-time that was a tenth of a second slower, placing him 34th of 48 defensive backs.

Bigger has become better, but it's not everything for defensive backs. Speed, the ability to quickly change directions and fluidity matters, as well.

But with bigger receivers comes a demand for bigger, rangier cornerbacks. But those that have the right blend of size and speed are coveted, and demand outstrips supply by a considerable margin.

"No, and especially a lot of them that can run and do that," said Executive Vice President and General Manager John Elway. "And I'll say that when the bigger corners cover up -- guys are not as open against big guys as they are against little guys, even though they're in the same spot. 

"So if I'm a little guy covering you or a big guy covering you, to a quarterback, they're going to look more covered on the big guy."

And that's why, beyond the film, teams will study the times and measurements from the Combine closely the next few weeks. Even an eighth of an inch could be the tiebreaker between two otherwise equal defensive backs.

One cornerback who enhanced his chances was Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. Not only did he post the best 40-yard dash time (4.37 seconds) among defensive backs, but the 6-foot cornerback also had the second-longest arms of any cornerback at the Combine (33 1/8 inches). 

Another was Ohio State's Bradley Roby. His 40 time (4.39 seconds) was an eyelash behind Gilbert's, and his short shuttle (4.04 seconds) was sixth-best at the Combine. His arms were 1 5/8 inches shorter than Gilbert's, but he compensated with three extra inches in vertical jump (38.5 inches to Gilbert's 35.5).

Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling is also another player whose ranginess and reach will draw interest. His 6-foot-3 frame is accentuated by his 33 1/8-inch arms, and helps make up for 40-yard speed that was average among defensive backs (4.52 seconds, 21st of 48 defensive backs who ran Tuesday). Dowling noted Sunday that teams have talked to him about playing cornerback, and felt he could handle the role, given his work in cover-zero schemes used by WKU last year.

Dowling, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Batiste and Utah's Keith McGill were the tallest defensive backs at the Combine, at 6-foot-3. McGill had the longest arms of the group (and the entire defensive back class), at 33 1/4 inches. McGill also had a comparable 40 time to Dowling (4.51 seconds), but Jean-Batiste had arms that were nearly an inch shorter than McGill's and a 40-time that was a tenth of a second slower, placing him 34th of 48 defensive backs.