2010 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Backs
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This class of defensive backs is headlined by it’s safeties, without question. The biggest names: Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, and along with CB Joe Haden, Taylor Mays. However, if you were just grading the strength of the class on it’s safeties, this would be a pretty weak class.
What brings the defensive backs group up past par is both the strength and the depth of the cornerbacks. There is a seemingly limitless number of guys who someone somewhere thinks could be a starter type on their NFL team. This over-supply is going to cause a bunch of quality players at the position to drop into the middle rounds. Meanwhile, after the big name safeties go in the first two rounds, it could be a few rounds until the 6th or 7th rated safeties start to fly off the board.
This list is meant to preview the starting caliber prospects from the defensive backs class
Class Strength: Good
1. Joe Haden, CB, Florida The best player in this defensive backs class, a corner who is big and physical. He lacks the great ball skills of the elite safeties on this list, but he’s the one guy in the class I feel comfortable in saying he will be a shutdown player.
2. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee Berry just isn’t the kind of transcendental player that Ed Reed is, but his physical abilities fall in the “elite” category, and with good structure around him, no one should be surprised to see him develop into the best safety in this class.
3. Earl Thomas, S, Texas Thomas isn’t the physical marvel that Berry is, and he’s probably even more raw coming out of Texas, but his scouting upside is probably all that much higher than Berry’s is. It’s worth nothing that rarely, if ever, will a player achieve his ultimate upside: he’ll probably sit just a cut below Berry in safety hierarchy, but is probably more flexible in where he can line up. The best analogy is a timely one: he’s the Trent Williams to Berry’s Russell Okung.
4. Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers Rarely defined cover skills for a young player, and is probably a better raw man-to-man corner than Haden. McCourty is flying up boards at all the right times.
5. Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State Right now, he’s more fast than crafty, but the best projections I have seen have him being both fast and great at the next level. He’s another man-coverage alternative to the more balanced Haden.
6. Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama Jackson is probably a zone cover corner first and foremost, but those skills would have him in the first round. He plays better on film than his INT production suggests, which is usually a good thing, but also could be partly a product of the Bama defense.
7. Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest Ghee is more talented than productive, and is probably not as strong a prospect as Alphonso Smith was last year coming out of the same defense, but there is a lot of relevant, NFL-type coverage skills here that you can’t get later on in the draft.
8. Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State He would be too talented to go lower than the 2nd round if not for character issues. In my opinion, he’s a second round value: a late first (no. 1 type) CB talent who has his value depressed because of concerns about work ethic. In reality, he might be around on the third day, because of those concerns.
9. Nate Allen, S, USF About as rangy and cagey a deep safety that will be found after the first round. Allen is probably the best value in the entire class. His skills as a safety are comparable to Cox’ as a corner (position value considered in these rankings), but he comes without the baggage.
10. Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State Robinson is probably the last of the corners with man coverage ability, at least those who can match up against the highly paid go-to receivers. Robinson probably got beaten too often for someone of his age and physical abilities at the college level to project him as more than a no. 2 CB, but second corners are becoming more and more valuable as passing games get more advanced.
11. Taylor Mays, S, USC If Mays were an excellent run defender, he could make up for some of the issues he has in pass recognition, but he’s very undisciplined on film looking to land the big hit. He IS a freak and CAN be the enforcer in an NFL defense, and I think some teams might be able to get first round value out of him.
12. Jerome Murphy, CB, USF Ranked a little lower because he’s not an aggressive player, and I don’t know if his frame can hold up though an NFL season, but he’s fast, agile, has the speed to chase, and can make quarterbacks pay for poorly thrown balls.
13. Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech Burnett projects as a league average starter at safety. He is a player who will make the plays that are there to be made, and generally (but not always) plays inside his skill set. The kind of player that has a greater impact at the end of the season then one a week to week basis.
14. Chad Jones, S, LSU His value goes up considerably if he can transition from in-the-box enforcer to a deeper NFL-type safety. The skill set is not the question, his career path at LSU, great potential, struggling in his first year as a starter, making clear improvements as a junior, and then leaving his senior year — and a baseball career with the Astros — on the table to play pro football. That career path is the big question.
15. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana of PA Probably the latest I have an early career (2010 or 11) starter going in this class. The whole idea of the NFL combine is to put a guy like Owusu-Ansah on a level playing field with the Division I stars and compare them: and he grades out well. He can return punts as well, although there’s no combine test that will level the playing field for that aspect of football.
16. Reshad Jones, S, Georgia Projects as a long time contributor as the 4th piece of an established secondary. He’s raw, and a little undisciplined with his footwork, but brings excellent ball skills to the safety position, and can probably cover slot receivers early in his career. His size hurts his ability to match up against diverse offenses, but he can still run with anyone he will be asked to cover.
17. Javier Arenas, CB/PR, Alabama Arenas, brother of Gilbert, is as good with the ball in his hands as any DB in this class, which matters not just on punt returns, but also on interception returns. His abilities on special teams are going to keep him out of a starting lineup earlier in his career, but I like his ability to develop as a cover player over the long term, and not be a liability in coverage when his return skills start to go.
18. Chris Cook, CB, Virginia Cook is the biggest corner in this class, but he doesn’t play as physical at the line as he needs to in order to be successful with his skill set. His fundamentals aren’t what you’d like to see for a corner without elite athleticism. His size is a great asset, however, and as a developmental prospect, he makes a lot of sense in the middle rounds.
19. Myron Lewis, S, Vanderbilt Myron Lewis is a fast rising prospect who could easily be placed with the corners. As a corner, his skill set profiles as a career backup, but at safety, I think you have a smart player who could be a developmental starter due to ideal size and speed. A realistic timetable is about three years.
20. Robert Johnson, S, Utah Johnson could play either strong safety or free safety in the pros, and could adapt quite well to the position. He comes with the ability to get up near the line and take out the running back, drop in man coverage on the tight end, or drop deep and play centerfield. He’s rangy enough to play in a cover two scheme, but just barely, and it wouldn’t be a great use of his skill set. I like him in the deep middle of a defense, personally.
21. Syd’Quan Thompson, CB, California Ultimately, he’s just a zone corner at the next level who won’t be able to run downfield with the NFL’s best players, but I think he could be the surprise of the draft with his 2010 impact. I think Thompson is refined enough to get on the field right away and contribute as a rookie…and make a difference while he’s at it.
22. Patrick Stoudamire, CB, Western Illinois He’s really far beneath the radar right now, but in my opinion, he’s shown just as strong this offseason as Owunu-Ansah. Scouts must not like a flaw that they see on tape or something. I may be naive, but I have Stoudamire as a third round value at corner, and eventually, a no. 2 or a no. 3 in the NFL.
23. Darrell Stuckey, S, Kansas Stuckey was a big-time prospect coming into the year, and then spent the 2009 season chasing RBs and TEs all over the field in the mess that was the Kansas defense. This is probably good thing for teams: a corrective measure on his draft stock, but I still have him projected as a starting NFL strong safety based off what he was able to accomplish in 2007-08.
24. Kam Chancellor, S, Virginia Tech Chancellor showed the ability to succeed at free safety for the Hokies this season, which in my book, is what he needed to show this year in order to (barely) hold a starters projection in the NFL. He’ll be tried at the position he played in 2007 and 2008, closer to the line of scrimmage, but you could risk a top 100 pick on his skill set, and expect to get a flexible starting NFL safety.