The NFL combine has saved its best for last as today the defensive backs took the field in Indianapolis.
On the schedule it reads as Groups 10 and 11, but on the field it is a show unlike any other at the combine.
While the NFL scouting combine is a good way to get a handle on a player’s athletic prowess, it means little in regards to his football ability. However, for defensive backs, athletic skill is the bread and butter of the position.
Yes, you have to have the ability and technique to play at the next level, but you’d better believe that there aren’t any NFL corners running a 4.6 in the 40 yard dash that are lining up face to face with Terrell Owens.
Brian Billick said it the best during the NFL Network coverage of the combine today when he plainly stated that, “Corners who can’t run become safeties and safeties who can’t run become linebackers”.
They are the athletic freaks of the sports world. Most of them are of average height and slight in build. Yet when they are evaluated at the combine, their sub 4.5s and their 42″ verticals can mean the difference between collecting an NFL check or returning to their hometowns to sell insurance. If you keep in mind that 2 time NBA Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson was a cornerback at the University of Washington, then you’ll get an idea of the type of talent we’re talking about.
For Groups 10 and 11, all the drills they ran through had a very direct connection to what they’ll be paid to do on Sundays. Jason Smith of Baylor ran a 5.22 in the 40 on Saturday. A respectable time for an offensive tackle, but in the long run it means little in his ability to keep a blood thirsty defensive end off of his franchise quarterback. However, Donald Washington of Ohio State, and his 45″ vertical, makes for quite a weapon against a Kurt Warner Hail Mary being hurled towards Larry Fitzgerald with the game on the line.
To truly understand this, simply follow the paths that Malcolm Jenkins and Vontae Davis will take to the NFL. Both are regarded as the best cornerbacks in the draft and both went out and conducted the drills in Indianapolis today.
Davis breezed through two 4.4 second 40s that will cement his first round status, while Jenkins strained to run a 4.5 and will most likely become a safety now. Jenkins will still be a first rounder but the difference, down the road, could be getting a Brian Dawkins payday or a Nnamdi Asomugha life changing contract.
I don’t put much stock in the NFL Combine, if it were that important then every first round draft pick would eventually end up in Canton and the rest of the rounds would be filled with journeymen. In the long run, only a man’s desire and determination, and not his number of reps on the bench press, will decide his football future. But if you’re willing to pay to see Hugh Jackman pretend to have super human powers on the big screen, then why not log on to NFL.com and watch, for free, the closest thing we have to real life X-Men.