The final day of the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine features the defensive backs — cornerbacks and safeties — taking the field for their workouts and drills. Beyond the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and other timed drills, the defensive backs also will be run through specific on-field workouts by the NFL coaches in attendance.
One of the top drills for defensive backs is the "speed turn." Players start off facing the coaches, backpedal 5-10 yards, quickly pivot back toward the line of scrimmage and then the coach will throw a hand signal to indicate which direction they should run, simulating man-to-man coverage. This drill is meant to test agility, instincts, timing and hip movement, all crucial skills to be an effective defensive back in the NFL.
After the backpedal and quick pivot, the players are instructed to run about 15-20 yards before they must attempt catching a pass, testing their ball-hawking skills. Defensive backs who have a difficult time tracking the ball in the air will most likely get marked down by scouts, while the best pass catchers will draw interest from teams looking for an extra turnover threat in its secondary.
Players to watch
Jalen Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State): Ramsey is the consensus best defensive back of this year's class, widely expected to be a top-five draft pick. What makes him such an appealing prospect is his versatility, to the point that teams can't decide whether he should play cornerback or safety. The Tyrann Mathieu comparisons are obvious, but Ramsey brings a ton of talent to the table. He has prototypical size (6'1, 202 pounds), incredible speed and a strong physical style. Whichever team drafts him could have a Pro Bowl star for years to come.
Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson): If Ramsey is the top cornerback this year, Alexander is in the running for second-best. One thing that could hold him back is his relative lack of size (5'11, 195 pounds), so he has more to prove on the field than most players in Indianapolis. If teams can get past his size, they should have a quality starter, although it might take him a year or two to develop to his potential.
Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida): Hargreaves has the backpedaling talent to ace the "speed turn" drill. Like Alexander, he also has a smaller body than NFL teams would like, but Hargreaves makes up for it with his ball skills and explosive footwork. He figures to be a first-round pick if he doesn't flub his on-field workouts.