Tuesday is the on-field workout portion of the Combine for cornerbacks and safeties. Every year the Combine workouts produce players who breakout with sensational performances (studs), players who impress by being as good as advertised (steady) and players who quietly go about their business but don’t garner much acclaim (sleeper).
Here’s a look at one player from each of those categories in the cornerback and safety groups…
CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State): It’s up for debate as to whether Gilbert or Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard is the top cornerback in this class. What won’t be up for debate during Tuesday’s on-field workout is Gilbert’s athleticism. He’s a fluid athlete with exceptional movement skills, and don’t be surprised if his 40-time and vertical leap are among the best of the entire week.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama): It’s Louisville’s Calvin Pryor who sits atop most lists at safety, but watch for Clinton-Dix’s 40-yard dash time to increase his stock in a lot of observers’ eyes. Add to that the fact that Clinton-Dix comes from a NFL factory such as Alabama, and Clinton-Dix is poised to be one of the big winners after Tuesday’s on-field workout.
CB Bennett Jackson (Notre Dame): Jackson played in all 52 games during his Notre Dame career, starting the final 26 and contributing on special teams – he was the team’s special teams player of the year. If Jackson can test well in the on-field drills on Tuesday, teams may be willing to work with this dependable and intangible-rich player’s coachable deficiencies in the NFL.
S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois): Tuesday is a big day for Ward because a solid day during the agility, speed and ball skills drills should solidify is status in many observers’ eyes. Everyone loves Ward’s presence on the field, his ability as a downhill defender and his tackling (300 tackles in three seasons), but some question his ball skills and turn-and-run ability.
CB Deion Belue (Alabama): The second Alabama player to make this list, Belue should test well on the field on Tuesday and if he does a lot of teams may keep their eye on him in the middle-to-late rounds in May. He played Nick Saban’s field corner position at Alabama, is described as competitive and smart, and has the kind of athletic ability that shines during on-field workouts at the Combine.
S Brock Vereen (Minnesota): Some will question Vereen’s size and wonder if he’ll be better off switching to safety. But if Vereen can test well in agility and speed drills, which he likely will, then some teams may fall in love with the raw athleticism and be willing to let him develop physically and technically as a safety in the NFL.