NFL Combine 2013: Defensive back drills

Joe Robbins

The speed turn drill will be one of the most important for defensive backs at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.

Defensive backs at the 2013 NFL Combine will go through the same standard battery of drills as everyone else to help determine their value at the next level. The 40-yard dash, the bench press, the three-cone drill, etc. are all used across positions to measure whether a player has the physical capabilities to compete in the NFL. The speed turn drill, however, is unique to defensive backs.

Mike Mayock of the NFL Network breaks down the drill for a series of videos that has produced for the Combine. The drill tests about every facet of a defensive back's job in coverage. Athletes start in back pedal, then break toward the quarterback when the position coach gives a signal. At the next signal, the defensive back turns and runs down the sideline with his eyes back at the quarterback, as if covering a wide receiver in man-to-man coverage.

About 20 yards down the field, the quarterback unloads the football and the defensive back has to make a play.

The drill gives scouts a chance to see how quickly and fluidly a defensive back can turn and run in coverage. Perhaps just as importantly, scouts see how well a defensive back is able to look back and locate a football in mid air. Finally, scouts are hoping to see that the defensive back can actually catch the dang thing. All of this is easier said than done, obviously.

Keep an eye out for the speed turn drill when the defensive backs finally take the field in Indianapolis (they are the last position group to work out at the ombine). There may not be a more complete example of a player's speed, agility and skill.


The defensive backs are all part of Group 9 or Group 10 and arrive in Indianapolis on Saturday to start the process of registration, hospital pre-exams and X-rays before getting started on some interviews. On Sunday, defensive backs will go through medical examinations and be made available to the media. On Monday, the two groups will go through some psychological tests and perform the bench press. Finally, on Tuesday, defensive backs will go through the position drills as outlined above.

Players to watch:

The 2013 NFL Draft has a decent crop of defensive backs. Alabama's Dee Milliner and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes. The rest of the group is tough to rank. Rutgers' Logan Ryan, Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, Washington's Demond Trufant and Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks are all in the mix to be the next cornerback off the board.

In terms of safeties, Kenny Vaccaro of Texas has separated himself from the pack a bit, but the options go deeper than the versatile Longhorn defensive back. LSU's Eric Reid, Florida's Matt Elam and Florida International's Johnathan Cyprien should all be off the board by the end of the second round. Here are come other defensive backs to watch:

- Phillip Thomas, Safety, Fresno State

- Tony Jefferson, Safety, Oklahoma

- Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Cornerback, UConn

- David Amerson, Cornerback, North Carolina State

- Will Davis, Cornerback Utah State

Defensive backs have taken on increased importance in today's NFL, which puts an emphasis on the passing game. Cornerbacks need to prove they can turn and run with receivers down field, and safeties need to have the versatility to patrol centerfield and come up to cover tight ends in man coverage.

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