Key results and takeaways for cornerbacks and safeties at 2022 NFL Scouting Combine
After giving up the second-highest opposing passer rating in the NFL last season (103.2), you can be certain that the New York Jets were watching closely when the cornerbacks and safeties took the field at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday.
I previously covered the impressive combine performance of Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner. Here are some of the most intriguing notes regarding what we saw from the rest of the DBs at the combine.
Cornerbacks focused on the 40
It’s worth noting that many of the cornerbacks in Indianapolis only partook in the 40-yard dash. A few did the vertical jump, but the majority of the group skipped the rest of the drills.
Baylor CB Kalon Barnes breaks the 40-yard dash record for DBs
Kalon Barnes of Baylor blazed through the 40-yard dash in 4.23 seconds, setting a new record for defensive backs and coming one-hundredth of a second from tying John Ross’ all-time record.
Barnes is currently ranked as the No. 276 overall prospect on the NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board. This incredible time should shoot him into draftable range.
UTSA CB Tariq Woolen posts the best all-around outing for CBs
Tariq Woolen would have had the new 40-yard dash record for DBs if not for Barnes. Woolen’s 4.26 time now sits at second-best all-time for the position.
Woolen was one of the few cornerbacks who also participated in the vertical jump (Barnes did not participate) and he shined there as well. His 42-inch vertical jump was the best mark of the 10 cornerbacks who participated by 2.5 inches over the closest player. It ranks at the 97th percentile all-time among cornerbacks.
Woolen, who measured at 6-foot-4, is just the second cornerback in combine history who posted a 40 time of 4.3 or better and a vertical jump of 40 inches or better, joining 2019 third-round pick Jamel Dean. Dean has had a solid three-year career so far with the Buccaneers, so he’s good company for Woolen.
NFL Mock Draft Database has Woolen as the No. 92 overall prospect and the No. 11 cornerback.
Sam Houston State CB Zyon McCollum flying under the radar
We cannot allow the performances of Barnes and Woolen to overshadow Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum. His numbers would be getting all of the attention in any other year, but he has unfortunately been the victim of sharing a combine with two historical performers.
McCollum ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 39.5-inch vertical. Currently ranked as the No. 201 overall prospect and No. 24 cornerback prospect at NFL Mock Draft Database, he might have pushed himself up a round on the third day of the draft with his combine display.
Florida CB and top-50 prospect Kaiir Elam shows speed/size combo
Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam, a borderline second-round/first-round prospect (No. 34 on consensus big board), improved his case to be selected in the first round with his performance in the 40-yard dash.
Elam ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds at six feet and 1.5 inches. It’s tied for the ninth-best time in combine history by a cornerback who stands at 6-foot-1 or taller.
Other notable 40 times for cornerbacks
Here are some more 40 times for notable cornerbacks (listed in parentheses is their rank on the NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board):
- Trent McDuffie, Washington (No. 27 OVR, No. 4 CB): 4.44 at 5-foot-11, 193lbs
- Roger McCreary, Auburn (No. 37 OVR, No. 7 CB): 4.50 at 5-foot-11, 190lbs
- Kyler Gordon, Washington (No. 36 OVR, No. 6 CB): 4.52 at 5-foot-11, 194lbs
- Coby Bryant, Cincinnati (No. 79 OVR, No. 9 C B): 4.54 at 6-foot-1, 193lbs
Mixed bag for Notre Dame S and possible top-5 pick Kyle Hamilton
Kyle Hamilton is the No. 5 overall prospect and the No. 1 safety on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board. He is one of the most commonly mocked players to the Jets with the fourth overall pick.
Many in the Jets community – including infamous fan “Teddy”, who pleaded to Robert Saleh not to draft Hamilton – have wondered whether Hamilton warrants a top-five pick. The combine did not do much to either prove or disprove whether Hamilton is worthy of the Jets’ first draft pick.
Before getting to the negatives of Hamilton’s combine appearance, it’s important to note the biggest positive aspect: his size measurements. They were intriguing. He came in at a massive 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. That would make him perhaps the largest safety in the NFL.
Last year, only two NFL safeties played in a regular season game at 6-foot-4 (Jayron Kearse and Israel Mukuamu), and both weighed less than 200 pounds. Just two safeties played at over 225 pounds (Erik Harris and Miles Killebrew at 225 and 222) but both were only 6-foot-2.
While Hamilton’s gargantuan frame was tantalizing, he did not do quite as well as expected in the 40-yard dash.
Hamilton clocked a 4.59 in the 40, tying for the worst mark among the 15 safeties to participate. It only puts him at the 43rd percentile among safeties all-time. Of course, it’s still fairly impressive when you consider his size, but more was expected of Hamilton.
We saw much better numbers from Hamilton in most of the other drills he partook in:
- 38-inch vertical jump (81st percentile among safeties all-time)
- 4.32s 20-yard shuttle (24th percentile)
- 131-inch broad jump (91st percentile)
- 6.90s three-cone (71st percentile)
Altogether, this was a decent combine for Hamilton, but he wasn’t able to establish himself as a unique physical freak, which would have helped him solidify his status as a top-five pick.
Second tier of safety prospects lights it up
Most evaluators agree that the 2022 draft board features a huge talent drop-off after Hamilton at the safety position.
Perhaps that gap will close after the combine, as the next few safeties on the big board enjoyed huge days.
Michigan’s Daxton Hill (No. 31 OVR, No. 2 S), who stands at six feet and 191 pounds, put up outstanding times in the speed drills. Hill timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40, 6.57 seconds in the three-cone, and 4.06 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
The last safety to post a sub-6.6 three-cone time and a sub-4.1 shuttle time and be drafted within the first three rounds was Justin Simmons in 2016. Simmons is now one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Georgia’s Lewis Cine (No. 43 OVR, No. 4 S) ran a 4.37 in the 40 and also led all safeties with a 133-inch broad jump (11 feet and 1 inch). Nine cornerbacks had previously hit a sub-4.37 forty and an 11+ foot broad jump, but he is the first safety to do it.
Interestingly, the Jets’ Brandin Echols is a member of that club. The 2021 sixth-round pick out of Kentucky posted a 4.34 in the forty and had a 136-inch broad jump (though those numbers are from his pro day). Top cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward, and Terrance Newman are also part of the nine-player bunch, in addition to solid cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Marco Wilson. With an arguable six hits out of nine players, that’s an outstanding hit rate.