Combine Watch: Defensive Backs

February 26th, 2013

DJ Swearinger can be an imposing figure at safety

Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor

I know it will be hard for Lions fans to look past Dee Milliner’s 40-yard dash time, but there were some other DBs that performed in Indy who will merit attention from the Lions at various points in the draft. I’ll have a breakdown of the most viable candidates for the #5 tomorrow, and that list is a lot smaller than it was a week ago and it includes Mr. Milliner. He is the only DB on that list.

This summary omits a few players that will go before the Lions pick in the 2nd round(Jamar Taylor, Kenny Vaccaro, Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant) and Tyrann Mathieu, who I am reliably told is not on the Lions draft board.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: Nobody expected Banks to run well as that’s not his game. But 4.61 in the 40 is not pretty, and his 10-yard split time of 1.59 is tied for 2nd worst amongst corners. Weighing in at just 185 despite being a long 6’2” doesn’t bode well either; he’s skinny and that impacts durability, not to mention he’ll have to check big, physical guys like Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson in the NFC North. Banks is a player who did not meet preseason expectations. Perhaps he was overhyped heading into 2012, but the guy I saw, including in person vs. LSU, reminded me a little too much of Prince Amukamara, a tall but soft player with good instincts but lacking in the speed department. My advice to Martin Mayhew is “let him fall”. I suspect Banks will be an adequate starter somewhere in the NFL, but I’m skeptical it would happen in Detroit.

Robert Alford, CB, SE Louisiana: He splashed the big pool in Mobile with a very impressive Senior Bowl week. Since that time I’ve seen two SELA games (SHSU and UT-Martin) and it backed up what I saw in Mobile. The Combine further reinforced it. Alford is a speedy guy with quick reactions and excellent spatial and ball awareness. You want explosive burst? Alford has a 40” vertical and tied for the top broad jump for corners. He strikes me as a more polished, more natural version of Jonte Green, to put it in Lions perspective. I worry a bit about that sort of redundancy, but Alford also brings the dimension of being a dynamic return man. I question if he makes it to the Lions at 67 (I see Alford in the 50-64 range), but if Milliner isn’t the pick at #5 and Alford is still there at that point it would be very hard to argue against Robert Alford.

Dwayne Gratz, CB, UConn: Gratz was one of the most impressive performers in Indy…almost too impressive for his own good. He was not as consistently solid or as physically imposing at UConn as fellow Combine and Senior Bowl attendee Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Gratz did not always display the closing burst of a player with his Combine numbers of 38” vertical jump and 6.70 in the 3-cone drill. He’s the type of corner that likes to bait the QB and aggressively attack the ball, or the ball carrier. Those latter attributes are appealing to the Lions, who are on record as looking for more playmaking ability on the back end. On tape–I’ve seen 6 of his games over two years–I see a 5th rounder for a team with a rangy safety over his top. His Combine numbers probably dictate he comes off the board at least one round before that. If he’s still there in the 5th, Gratz makes some sense.

David Amerson, North Carolina State: He certainly had an interesting ride on Tuesday. Amerson initially timed his first 40 at a blazing 4.33, but that got adjusted to an official 4.44. Regardless, that’s at least a tenth of a second better than expected. Twitter was abuzz with all sorts of snide comments about how good Amerson’s 4.3 speed looked while he chased after receivers that blew past him down the field. His junior season was outstanding, leading the nation in INTs and playing with real swagger. His senior season was a completely different story, starting with both Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter annihilating him deep in the opener against Tennessee. Amerson never really recovered and it was his speed and inability to change direction quickly that were problems. The Combine says those problems are solved, but I’m going to trust the recent tape. Amerson should be a contingency consideration in the 3rd round…as a safety.


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