2017 NFL Draft: Defensive Backs

Scroll down for safeties. It’s a deep class for both cornerbacks and safeties. Exceptionally so.

Full Ratings available here:

https://sethburn.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/2017-nfl-draft-ratings/

Cornerbacks

Marshon Lattimore: Such an incredible talent. He has everything your looking for. He’s fluid, fast, with great anticipation and spacial recognition. In terms of pure talent he’s the best cornerback prospect I’ve seen in a long time. However, he’s battled hamstring injuries for years, and the demands of the NFL are a lot harsher than those of high school or college. I have less doubt about his ability to cover in the NFL than any other cornerback in the class, but can he stay on the field. It’s a major red flag, and one that would probably scare me away from taking him in the top six.

Marlon Humphrey: Incredible athlete. Very good in press coverage. His play weakens the further downfield he has to work. He has the Alabama disease where he loses his place when he gets spun around (seriously, watch the film. LSU worked him like that). His reaction time isn’t great, so he’s going to require some coaching/experience to get up to speed in the NFL.

Gareon Conley: Allegations just broke about a possible sexual assault. It won’t be resolved before the draft. He’s has elite top-end speed, paired with great explosion. He shut down some #1 receivers cold. However, others repeatedly worked him on the first cut. It was weird to watch. He had so much trust in his ability to catch up that he got lax/sloppy. Or maybe his reflexes are bollocks. Whatever the case may be, that’s not going to work in the NFL and will be the first thing his team will have to coach out of him. He’s going to fall in the draft. No idea how far.

Tre’Davious White: The most experienced cornerback in the draft. He’s a proven commodity who has handled every type of receiver/route. If he were a few inches taller, he’d have been a first round pick in last year’s draft. I love his tape and would be happy to see him end up in NY. Oh, one other thing: I know he can be a serviceable punt returner, but I hate risking injury on special teams. Their are plenty of fifth rounders who can hang around the bottom of your roster and return punts/kicks.

Teez Tabor: I admit this one is a bit of a personal taste for me. Tabor is a physical cornerback who is comfortable attacking the line of scrimmage. I was surprised at his poor bench press numbers from the combine. He’s had issues with missed tackles, but those were mostly from being juked or taking a bad angle. There’s little evidence that he has the range to handle deep coverage and may end up being moved to free safety. He’s a natural ballhawk so it would make some sense.

Sidney Jones: Coming off of an Achilles tear. He’ll likely start the season on the PUP list. It’s unclear what kind of player he’ll be when he comes back. He was solid in coverage, but lacked physicality, even by cornerback standards. I’d pass on him.

Adoree Jackson: Incredible film. Dude could fly. So good on special teams that I might override my better instincts and put him back there. He made so called “burners” look bad when they tried to beat him deep. The flaw? He’s not great at the day job. He doesn’t have great instincts or reaction speed. Sure, once he realizes where you are going, he’ll beat you there, but there is still that window in between where you are wide open. Can that be improved with better coaching/more practice? Yes, to a degree. Some of that is innate. On the other hand, he showed an ability and willingness to cover anyone on any route, inside or outside. He has outstanding potential and I might be willing to reach a bit for him if my staff felt they could correct his flaws.

Quincy Wilson: Dominated mediocre receivers. Got schooled by the greats. That makes for a tough NFL profile, but there is some good news. A lot of his problems were based off of poor technique, which can be fixed. The athletic gifts are all there. I expect him to be a quality cornerback in a few years, but I don’t see the upside to justify early selection.

Desmond King: Is it me, or all the top four-year cornerbacks under six feet tall? King is a hair short of 5-10. He might be the best pure nickel cornerback in the draft. How high you value that depends on your defensive scheme. Above average ball recognition skills leads to a fair amount of interceptions, so he might eventually have a future as a safety.

Chidobe Awuzie: I like him either as a zone cornerback or a safety. He’s athletic enough to play any position you ask of him, but his man-to-man skills are a bit lacking. In particularly, physical receivers push him around. He can beat less physical receivers with press coverage off the line, but he gets into trouble downfield if he misses the initial contact. Very prone to penalties, which is another reason I prefer him playing off in zone coverage.

Kevin King: A great combine may have moved him up a round. Nice speed, but didn’t show up on film. Actually, the film was kind of terrible, which made the combine a head scratcher. Is there a lot of untapped talent here, or is he just an athlete who isn’t great at football? And then there are the nagging injuries. He stayed healthy last season, but they’ve been an issue throughout his career. Finally, he’s a converted safety. He doesn’t really have the physicality to play safety in the NFL, so it’s going to be cornerback or bust for him. I’d pass.

Cameron Sutton: Small hands. Poor tackler. But his coverage skills… so good. He’s been described as a film rat and it shows. He’s very hard to beat with your initial move. He isn’t a good enough athlete to grab early, but he’ll be a solid #2 or nickel cornerback for years in the NFL.

Cordrea Tankersley: Looks the part, but the athleticism is lacking. Great at press coverage. Earned a reputation as a DPI machine. He was a key part on a great team, but… I don’t like what I see in terms of transitioning to the next level. It looks like he’ll go in the second round, which isn’t where I’d take him.

Fabian Moreau: Look, I want him to become a star for one reason and one reason only: So I can make jokes about The Island of Dr. Moreau. He actually has star potential, but the film was always disappointing. He’s coming off of pectoral surgery, and had a major foot injury in 2015. He might never be a productive NFL player. Or he’ll return healthy and provide first-round value well into the future. If healthy, he has tremendous power and explosiveness. A true boom-bust pick.

Safeties:

Jamal Adams: Prototype box safety. Handled tight ends, slot receivers, running backs. Doesn’t have elite speed, but that’s the only ding in an otherwise flawless package. Pretty much the highest floor imaginable. Erased a mediocre combine with an exceptional pro day. Great reaction time. After Garrett, he might be the least likely player in the draft to bust.

Malik Hooker: More upside than any defensive back in the draft, including Adams and Lattimore. He’s the free safety coaches dream of. Thing is, he only played one year of high school football and started one year in college. The questions about his commitment to football are serious. While he has great vision, he isn’t an elite athlete. Hooker is a conundrum. He reacts incredibly fast, which leads him to having great range. Will that translate to the NFL when the game speeds up? As much as I love his potential, the concerns are equally great. Also, coming off of a hip injury. Might not be 100% to start the season. Making the right call on Hooker could save a coach’s job. He’s going to go early, and might be a star, or a bust. My instinct: Look elsewhere. I don’t trust Hooker.

Jabrill Peppers: A safety/OLB/nickel hybrid. Those aren’t rare so much as this might be the first I’ve ever seen. Oh, and he can play running back or wildcat QB. I love his tackling skills and think he might be best as a strong safety. Then again, if he can handle the OLB job, that gives your defense a burst of speed that might not otherwise be available. His versatility is incredible and will test the coaching staff to get the most out of him.

Budda Baker: Jumps off the film. So many great moments. He had a mediocre combine and doesn’t really look the part of an NFL safety. He’s not a true ballhawk, but may be an excellent nickel/dime cornerback in an era where that’s part of the base defense. He’s going to be a nice value pick. The fact is, he’s the right player entering the league at the right time.

Obi Melifonwu: Best combine of any player in the draft. It was “Holy shit” all around. A true superfreak athlete. But the film… so many missed plays. If his film was as good as his combine, it would be him and Garrett going 1-2 in some order. Can NFL coaches fix him? Honestly, the ceiling here is so absurdly high that someone is going to roll the dice early. If he heard his name called late on day one I’d understand. The ceiling is that high. Lot of work left to do though.

Marcus Williams: A solid athlete with excellent film. Williams is a bit of a FS/CB hybrid. He might want to bulk up a bit to play safety, or stay at his current weight and work as a #2 CB. The knock on him is that he’s a poor tackler. I’m not sure that’s quite fair, but I agree some more power would pay off dividends, especially if he’s asked to attack the line of scrimmage. A solid player who should be a good pro.

Marcus Maye: What he lacks in coverage skills he makes up for with absurdly good tackling technique. He forces fumbles at an incredible rate because he has excellent hand-eye coordination. One you notice it on film you keep looking for it. Some guys hit like a true. He hits where it hurts. I love him in space. Probably better as a free safety than inside the box, but he’s versatile enough to handle either role.

Justin Evans: Hits like a truck. Not built like a truck. I have no idea how he’s stayed healthy, but I’d be worried the streak is due to end. He can play cornerback or safety. Not necessarily a great fit at either position. Has this weird trait where he’s really good at navigating past blockers, and then whiffing on the tackle. If coaches can get him to eschew the big hits and just focus on making the tackle his stats will improve. I don’t think I’d grab him in the first two rounds though.

Josh Jones: A true safety/linebacker hybrid. He doesn’t have the coverage skills to be a true safety, and isn’t quite strong enough to be a true OLB. Still, that’s not a problem. There’s lots of room now for a player who can cover tight ends and attack the line of scrimmage, and he can do both. I expect him to be a solid pro.

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