In today's installment of my blog, we come to the end of my preview of the 2014 NFL draft class. In my last preview, I'm going to talk about the top defensive backs who should be available. This class is, along with every level of the defense, a very strong class. It is comprised of four cornerbacks and one safety. Let's take a look.
1.) Bradley Roby, Ohio State University*. Roby is the very definition of a prototypical corner. At 5'11" and 190 lbs, Roby has the size necessary to come up to the line of scrimmage and play phyiscal, man coverage. With a 40 yard dash time of under 4.5, he also possesses the speed necessary to recover when beat or to make a play on the ball when in a zone scheme. In his two years as a starter for the Buckeyes, Roby has tallied 110 tackles, 17 passes broken up, five interceptions, six tackles for a loss and one sack. These numbers illustrate that Roby is an all-around corner, possessing the skills to not only be a great cover corner, but also an ability to come up and make a tackle in the run game or to blitz the quarterback if necessary. This versatility is why Roby is the top rated corner in this draft and should be a top 10 pick.
2.) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon University*. Being only an inch shorter, the same weight, and running a significantly faster 40 time (4.39), it's hard for me not to put Ekpre-Olomu ahead of Roby for the top spot in this draft. His numbers would justify the switch too, with him notching 63 tackles, 16 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and four interceptions in his one season as a starter for the Ducks. The reason I have him here instead of ahead of Roby is that I feel like Roby is a better all-around corner. Ekpre-Olomu needs to work on his zone coverage skills along with working to be stronger and more physical, especially in run support. If he makes significant improvement to these aspects of his game, he could very well take the number 1 spot from Roby.
3.) Jason Verrett, Texas Christian University. I have Verrett rated higher than some other prognosticators (WalterFootball.com, for instance, has him rated their #9 corner), but I like what I have seen from the TCU product. He's got solid height at 5'10" and solid speed, running a sub 5-second 40 yard dash. He also has the production on the field to back up being ranked higher than 9, with 121 tackles, 20 passes broken up, seven interceptions, and a blocked kick. The issue with Verrett for me is his weight, he only weighs 175lbs. If he can get himself into the weight room and become a more physical presence to go along with his speed and instincts, he'll justify me having him in this slot. He is my sleeper at the position.
4.) Loucheiz Purifoy, University of Florida* Purifoy is undoubtedly the most physically gifted cornerback in this class. At 6'1" and 189lbs, Purifoy has nearly unprecedented size for the position, and with a 40 yard dash time of 4.42, he is also one of the fastest guys at the position. That combination gives me pause about having Purifoy so low on this list, but he doesn't have the production necessary for me to justify having him any higher. In his one year as a starter for the Gators, Purifoy amassed 51 tackles, five passes broken up and three forced fumbles. For a corner as physically gifted as Purifoy to not notch even one interception gives me reason to question whether or not he has the hands and ball skills necessary to justify being a top-flight corner.
5.) Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, University of Alabama*. The first, and only, safety to crack my top 5, Clinton-Dix has had an impressive run for the Crimson Tide. In his one year as a starter, Clinton-Dix totaled 37 tackles, five interceptions, four passes broken up, and a forced fumble. That kind of production from a safety is a huge bonus for any defense. Clinton-Dix has wonderful ball skills at the safety position and plays very well in space as a roving defender. Now that Clinton-Dix is the main man in the Crimson Tide secondary, I expect him to show that his production isn't just a product of playing with other great defensive backs. I'm looking for a huge year from Clinton-Dix.
So folks, there you have it. My look into the 2014 NFL draft is officially complete. We'll have to wait until next May (the NFL draft is being moved back several weeks due to a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall during the normal weekend, though there is a lot of talk that this may be a more permanent move in an effort to space out the NFL calendar more and make the league relevant in the month of May) to see if these predictions are anywhere close to coming to fruition. Until then, I had a lot of fun putting these articles together and I hope you had just as much fun reading them. I'm going to be off tomorrow for the Memorial Day holiday, regular posting will resume on Tuesday!
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.