In an effort to get through all of the positions before the draft, I’ll be just shortly naming some of the prospects to watch in this draft class, as well as some potential sleepers and maybe busts. This isn’t nearly as in depth as I’d prefer to go, but for the sake of getting them done, they’ll be pretty concise.
This year’s class of Defensive Backs provides plenty of talent for NFL teams to stock up on while trying to not only compete with the increasing passing tendencies in the league, but also the ever changing rules that have essentially handcuffed defenses. Safety is very middle heavy but lacks the big names at the top, but Cornerback names are abundant and should command plenty of attention in the headlines.
Top CB Prospect: Marcus Peters Washington 6’0” 197
Washington’s defense had 3 All-Americans a year ago, and they could have had 4 if Peters hadn’t quit the team halfway through his senior campaign. He left due to differences with his head coach, however they seem to have mended their issues as Washington allowed Peters to compete at their Pro Day workouts. Peters is an absolutely fantastic athlete, and can stick with anyone one on one. While it gets him in trouble at times, Peters does a great job of watching the Quarterback’s eyes while maintaining a feel for where the receiver he’s covering is. This puts him in a great position to make the best break on the ball that he can. Peters has all of the tools needed to be a great Corner at the next level.
Top S Prospect: Landon Collins Alabama 6’0” 228
Landon Collins was one of Alabama’s better defenders a year ago, and did a good job of leading a team that was lacking the usual firepower on defense to the College Football Playoff. To put it simply, Collins is a truck that plays Safety. He’s as physical as any Safety we’ve seen in the past few years, and is an excellent tackler. Due to his size though, Collins struggles playing center field, and should either be an in-the-box Strong Safety, or almost has to only play in a two-high alignment. There have also been some rumors floating around that Collins could be drafted as a 4-3 Will Linebacker, due to his speed and size. Collins could excel as a Nickel Linebacker, something he may end up playing in the NFL anyways due to his lack of elite deep coverage skills. Collins should be a very solid Safety in the NFL.
Biggest Bust Potential: Jalen Collins LSU 6’1” 203
As is normally the case with this prompt, this has nothing to do with Jalen Collins’ skill level or talent. Collins presents as much upside as any Corner in this class. He’s long, and has good deep speed. He hawked Melvin Gordon in the season opener, so he clearly isn’t lacking in that department. The biggest concern that I, as well as others have with Collins, is that he’s only started 10 career games. He was a one year starter at LSU before declaring, so there just isn’t a huge sample size to see him play. This makes him a bit inexperienced as a player. He’s also a bit tight in the hips, which could impact his ability to cover the elite receivers and athletes in the NFL. Collins will likely be a 1st round pick.
Biggest Sleeper: James Sample Louisville 6’2” 209
Sample was the Louisville Safety that apparently no one knew anything about until the off season because he played next to the Nation’s leader in Interceptions. Sample really started to generate some buzz when people were watching teammate Gerod Holliman’s tape and realizing that Holliman wasn’t as good as everyone thought. Sample is pretty passable in coverage, but he excels in run support and plays physically. He isn’t afraid to hit, and was a major part of a very good Louisville defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sample get picked as one of the top Safeties.
Steven Nelson Oregon State 5’10” 197
One of the most tenacious defenders in this class, regardless of position, Nelson has yet to receive the attention that he probably should. He absolutely shut down Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong, who’s being talked about as a first round pick. Nelson has the skill to play outside, but he also has the quickness to play in the slot and be a stud in that role. Nelson should probably go higher than someone like Byron Jones, but both should be solid NFL players.
Small School Stud: Jaquiski Tartt Samford 6’1” 221
Jaquiski Tartt was a fairly unknown player coming into the season, but he played very well against Auburn, and also played well at the Senior Bowl. He’s got a big frame and plays the run very well, but unlike Landon Collins, Tartt can play center field due to his closing speed. He probably wins as a Strong Safety in the box, a Bernard Pollard type player with better cover skills, but he can also play in a multitude of schemes.
My Defensive Back Rankings:
- Marcus Peters Washington 6’0” 197 Top 15
- Trae Waynes Michigan State 6’0” 186 1st Round
- Kevin Johnson Wake Forest 6’0” 188 1st Round
- Ronald Darby Florida State 5’11” 193 1st Round
- Jalen Collins LSU 6’1” 203 1st-2nd Round
- P.J. Williams Florida State 6’0” 194 1st-2nd Round
- Steven Nelson Oregon State 5’10” 197 2nd Round
- Eric Rowe Utah 6’1” 205 2nd Round
- Byron Jones Connecticut 6’1” 199 2nd Round
- Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon 5’9” 192 2nd-3rd Round
- Landon Collins Alabama 6’0” 228 1st Round
- Quinten Rollins Miami (OH) 5’11” 195 2nd Round
- Damarious Randall Arizona State 5’11” 196 2nd Round
- Jaquiski Tartt Samford 6’1” 221 2nd-3rd Round
- James Sample Louisville 6’2” 209 3rd Round
- Tevin McDonald Eastern Washington 5’11” 195 3rd Round
- Anthony Harris Virginia 6’1” 183 4th Round
- Gerod Holliman Louisville 6’0” 218 4th Round
- Durell Eskridge Syracuse 6’3” 208 4th Round
- Kurtis Drummond Michigan State 6’1” 208 4th Round