NFL Draft

2023 NFL Combine: 8 Biggest Takeaways From CB, Safety Workouts

INDIANAPOLIS — Cornerbacks and safeties worked out on Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, with some impressive performances but also a few disappointments. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the day:

What We Learned on Day 2

Rick Spielman’s Day 2 Takeaways

Banks In First-Round Discussion

Maryland’s Deonte Banks (scouting report) checked all the boxes as a cornerback. At 6 feet and 197 pounds, he ran a 4.35-second 40 and had eye-popping jumps (42-inch vertical, 11-foot-2 broad).

When you watch him on tape, he’s a physical cornerback who can play press and off-coverage, and he has very good ball skills.

He needs some technical work, but with the numbers and how he performed on Friday, he might have moved into the first-round conversation. There are a lot of great corners in this draft, but nobody improved their stock more than Banks did.

Ballhawk Forbes Shows Impressive Speed

The other cornerback who really impressed me was Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes (scouting report). At 6-foot-1, he weighed in at only 166 pounds, but he matched Banks’ time in the 40 at 4.35 seconds.

He might be the cornerback with the best ball skills in this draft. When I watched him work out, he reminded me of a cornerback we had in Miami back in the day – Sam Madison, a skinny cornerback at 180 pounds who was twice named first-team All-Pro and finished with 38 career interceptions.

Safety Daniel Scott Opens Eyes

The biggest winner of the safety group for me was Cal’s Daniel Scott. He’s a really good football player but entered Indianapolis this week with questions about his speed. Those were quickly answered as he recorded the second-fastest 40 time among safeties.

He may be better closer to the line of scrimmage than he is in space, but he measured 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds and had excellent numbers across the board, including a near-40-inch vertical. He also had a strong workout.

His performance opened plenty of eyes. After an up-and-down Senior Bowl (that got better as the week went along), he was probably looking at Day 3 in the draft. After Friday, he might have snuck into Day 2.

Slow Safeties Hurt Stock

Two very good football players whose timed speed did not quite live up to expectations were Georgia’s Christopher Smith II (scouting report) and Florida State’s Jammie Robinson (scouting report). Smith ran a 4.62 40, while Robinson posted a 4.59.

When you watch Smith, he’s a better football player than an athlete. He has the instincts and vision to put himself in the right position to make plays. But there will be some concerns with that speed.

When I watched Robinson at Florida State, he appeared athletic. He’s another instinctive player who is more than willing in run support, but he’s small (5-11, 191). I don’t think he plays slow, but that 4.59 will be a red flag for some teams.

I think both safeties were probably Day 2 guys entering the combine, but they left looking more like Day 3 picks with those times.

Mike Tannenbaum’s Day 2 Takeaways

Gonzalez Cream of Cornerback Class

Amid a crowded group of cornerbacks at the top of the draft, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez (scouting report) separated himself from other top players such as Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon (scouting report) and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. (scouting report).

While Witherspoon and Porter elected not to participate in on-field football drills, Gonzalez came out and had an excellent performance.

He’s tall (6-1, 197), long (32-inch arms) and can really run. His 4.38-second 40 time, 41.5-inch vertical and 11-foot-1 broad jump are all excellent numbers, and he proved to teams he’s not one to shy away from competition.

I think he solidified himself as a top-10 pick and the draft’s top cornerback.

Smaller Slot Corners Prove Mettle

Two future NFL slot cornerbacks really stood out as potential Day 1 starters — Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes and TCU’s Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson.

They’re both smaller in stature, with Forbes weighing in at only 166 pounds at 6-foot-1, and Hodges-Tomlinson weighing 178 pounds at a diminutive 5-8. However, both tested extremely well and looked exceptional in drills.

Forbes might have the best ball skills of any cornerback in this draft, returning six of his 11 interceptions for touchdowns in three seasons at MSU.

Teams shouldn’t let the smaller stature of these two prospects deter them from drafting them on Day 2.

Slower DBs Cause for Concern

The pair of Florida safeties, Rashad Torrence II and Trey Dean III, both hurt themselves with slow runs.

If I were considering drafting either of those two, I’d be very concerned that both ran their 40s in the 4.7 range, especially with the way the game is being played nowadays with traditional box safeties becoming more of a thing of the past.

In the modern NFL, teams ask their safeties to be versatile and they have to have range. These guys both showed they don’t necessarily have the range to contribute for most defensive schemes.

Illinois safety Sydney Brown

Sydney Brown’s Rise Continues

The top safety at the event to me was Illinois’ Sydney Brown (scouting report). He had a very good week at the Senior Bowl, and he’ll continue to rise after exceptional testing numbers in the 40 (4.47), vertical (40.5 inches) and broad jump (10-10).

When you watch Brown on tape, you notice a little bit of straight-line stiffness, but I didn’t see that in the on-field drills in Indy. I thought Brown was clearly the best safety out there.

Rick Spielman is a former general manager of the Dolphins and Vikings, and winner of the NFL Executive of the Year award by Pro Football Weekly in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @spielman_rick

Mike Tannenbaum is a former front-office executive for the Jets and Dolphins. Follow him on Twitter at @RealTannenbaum.

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