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2023 NFL Scouting Combine: Standouts from cornerback drills

Riley Moss, NFL Draft, Scouting Combine, 40 Time
Riley Moss, NFL Scouting Combine, Getty Images

The cornerback class is shining at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — We all remember gym class in elementary school, when being the fastest kid in the class was the greatest mark of respect.

Ironically, 300-plus of the top NFL draft prospects now gather at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with that very same goal: be the fastest kid in the class.

The combine is in full swing, and on Friday, the defensive backs had their chance to showcase their on-field drills to NFL teams.

While the New York Jets may have their starting corner duo locked in for the foreseeable future, it’s always a good idea to scout the prospects anyway and maybe identify some solid day 2 or 3 targets.

These are some of the standout performances from the cornerback group at the combine.

Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Gonzalez entered the week with a strong case for being the top corner in this year’s draft class — let’s just say he very much looked the part.

At 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, Gonzalez ran a blazing 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, while also posting an impressive 41.5-inch vertical and just-over-11-foot broad jump.

In positional drills, he showed textbook fluidity on the field.

Gonzalez looked every bit the part of a top-10 draft pick on Friday. The Oregon corner is neck and neck with Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon for CB1, but with the latter not participating in drills due to a hamstring injury, don’t be shocked if Gonzalez has overtaken him with this performance.

While Gang Green isn’t exactly in the market for this class’s CB1, it’s at least worth paying attention to who the top performers are all the same. Gonzalez will hear his name called early in April.

D.J. Turner, Michigan

I’ll keep this one nice and basic: if you run one of the fastest 40-yard dashes in combine history, you’re going to turn some heads.

Potentially one of the biggest winners of the combine thus far, Michigan’s D.J. Turner put on an absolute show on Friday, posting an absurd 4.26 — the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash time ever recorded at the combine.

Scouts will undoubtedly be returning to Turner’s film, as he didn’t look quite that fast on tape, but the time he ran is the time he ran. He even opted not to give it a second attempt.

The 5-foot-11, 178-pound Turner finished the day with a 38.5-inch vertical and a hair under 11 feet in the broad jump.

Deonte Banks and Jakorian Bennett, Maryland

Yes, I’m cheating by grouping the Maryland corners together, but I had to include both.

Deonte Banks just may have run and jumped his way into the first round, while Jakorian Bennett proved himself more than just a second fiddle.

Banks was supposed to be the Maryland cornerback headliner (and likely still was overall), but Bennett had a little something to say about it. He recorded a 4.30 in the 40-yard dash, putting him second only to Turner.

The 6-foot, 197-pound Banks ran a 4.35 (92nd percentile) with a 42-inch vertical (97th percentile) and 11-foot-4 broad jump (98th percentile). Those numbers, paired with his 32-inch arms, constitute a first-round talent at the position.

Banks entered the week projected to test phenomenally, and boy did he deliver.

Riley Moss, Iowa

Riley Moss performed admirably on his 23rd birthday, running a 4.45, posting a 39-inch vertical, and a 10-foot-7 broad jump.

This inclusion is less about those specific numbers, though, as much as the eye test. I was pleasantly surprised watching Moss in his on-field drills today — he showed seriously impressive short-area movement skills and burst.

Curious, I looked at what he recorded in his 10-yard split — a generally good indicator of a player’s acceleration and raw movement skills — and as it turns out, he ran a 1.48-second split, which was tied for the second-quickest of any player at the 2023 combine so far.

Moss had a decorated five-year career at Iowa, highlighted by first-team All-American honors and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in 2021.

Accolades like that aren’t unusual for an Iowa defensive back, but what makes Moss unusual for his position is his skin color. There hasn’t been a White player who started at cornerback for an NFL team since Jason Sehorn in 2002 — Moss addressed this during his podium session:

“Obviously I look different,” he told reporters. “I don’t play different. I’m obviously one of one. But at the same time it doesn’t really affect me. Sometimes, teams will see me out there and they’ll throw the ball towards my way. Absolutely. Let’s go. Throw me the ball. So, I think it works out in my advantage.”

Ian Roddy is on Twitter @IanRoddy_

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