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Five under-the-radar draft defensive backs you should know

Posted Apr 14, 2017

Louisiana Tech's Xavier Woods is one of a slew of playmakers among this year's DB class who could bring outstanding draft value.


The Broncos don't have gaping holes in the secondary, but in a pass-intensive league, you're always looking to refresh the depth and talent in the defensive backfield. This year offers an opportunity to reinforce the "No-Fly Zone," as there is plenty of talent down into the undrafted ranks -- including these five players:

CB CHIDOBE AWUZIE, COLORADO

HEIGHT: 5-11 - WEIGHT: 202
ARM LENGTH: 30 5/8 inches - HAND SIZE: 8 1/2 inches
40: 4.43 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 16 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.34 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.96 seconds

Awuzie's teammate, Ahkello Witherspoon, is also a stellar prospect, but the explosive Awuzie could sneak into the first round after posting outstanding junior and senior seasons in which he racked up 19 tackles for losses and 27 passes defensed.

Athletic and explosive, Awuzie dazzled onlookers at CU's Pro Day with an astonishing 39.5-inch vertical jump that was five inches better than what he posted at the Combine.

S DESMOND KING, IOWA

HEIGHT: 5-10 - WEIGHT: 201
ARM LENGTH: 31 1/8 inches - HAND SIZE: 9 5/8 inches
40: 4.55 seconds
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.18 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.67 seconds

King's measurables aren't going to elicit any "Wow" reactions from teams, but his film reveals a tough, intelligent player who clearly does his work in film study, based on how he seems to know exactly how a play will go before it happens.

His ability to stay one step ahead of the quarterbacks he faced led to an outstanding junior season in which he tied a school single-season record with eight interceptions. He added three more last season and also broke up 31 passes in the last two years.

S TEDRIC THOMPSON, COLORADO

HEIGHT: 6-0 - WEIGHT: 204
ARM LENGTH: 30 1/4 inches - HAND SIZE: 8 3/4 inches
40: 4.60 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 17 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.36 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 7.11 seconds

A three-year starter, Thompson always seemed to be around the football. He broke up 37 passes the last two years, including an FBS-high 25 last season. His career average of one pass defensed per game is the second-best in this year's safety class, behind Lorenzo Jerome of St. Francis (Pa.).

Thompson has a long stride and fast reaction time, so he can cover a lot of territory, which led to his penchant for making plays on the ball. He has a little bit of Darian Stewart in him. If Thompson makes the same kind of steady year-to-year improvement as Stewart, he'll be a Day 3 steal.

S WESTON STEELHAMMER, AIR FORCE

HEIGHT: 6-1 - WEIGHT: 189
ARM LENGTH: 30 1/4 inches - HAND SIZE: 8 3/4 inches
40: 4.76 seconds
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.34 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.96 seconds

One of my favorite players to watch in college football the last few years, Steelhammer has the mentality and instincts for the position -- and the perfect surname for the job. If he was 10 pounds heavier, he would almost certainly be a Day 3 pick, because he makes up for his lack of straight-line speed by taking perfect angles.

That allowed him to average 0.54 plays behind the line of scrimmage (sacks and tackles for losses) throughout his career at Air Force. Only Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was better -- and that was because he worked at linebacker.

Steelhammer's small frame and slow 40 time will likely lead some teams to cross him off their lists completely. However, his high football I.Q. and ability to play with controlled aggression will get him into someone's camp, and it would be no surprise if he quickly became a special-teams standout.

S XAVIER WOODS, LOUISIANA TECH

HEIGHT: 5-11 - WEIGHT: 197
ARM LENGTH: 30 3/8 inches - HAND SIZE: 9 3/8 inches
40: 4.52 seconds - BENCH PRESS: 19 reps
SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.13 seconds - THREE-CONE DRILL: 6.72 seconds

As with the other safeties, Woods always seems to be around the football. A four-year starter for the Bulldogs, Woods ranks among the top 10 safeties in this year's class in passes defensed per game, interception rate and plays that resulted in losses (sacks and tackles for losses).

Woods is versatile, which fits the template of what teams want. Louisiana Tech moved him all around the defense, including some work as an inside cornerback working against slot receivers.