The 2014 NFL Draft combine wrapped up today as the defensive backs took the field to participate in various drills. While there are a lot of first-round prospects in this year’s defensive back class, NFL coaches likely had their eye on the two top defensive backs in the 2014 draft class: former Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
Both Gilbert and Dennard are surefire locks to be first-round picks come May. The question that many scouts and experts have been trying to answer is who will be the first cornerback taken in this year’s draft?
Both possess impressive ball skills and have shown versatility throughout their college careers. Gilbert has shown his various abilities to defend in both man and zone coverage and has the speed to cover anyone in the country. He has also shown versatility by returning kickoffs and punts for the Cowboys, 11 of which were returned for touchdowns over the course of his four-year career. Like Gilbert, Dennard showed the ability to lock down any receiver in the country with his strength and speed combination. Rarely was he ever targeted last year, but when he was, quarterbacks regretted it. He had four interceptions in his senior year which was impressive given the limited amount of times he was thrown at. Both players have the ability to cut the field in half which could pose a real problem for quarterbacks.
At the combine, Gilbert ran a 4.37 official 40-yard dash time, which was best among all defensive backs. Dennard ran a 4.51, which is also impressive. In the bench press, Gilbert showed off his strength by putting up 20 reps compared to Dennard’s 15. Both looked good in the positional drills as well.
While the combine isn’t a perfect indicator of future success, it does provide coaches and GMs with a better idea of who ranks where. Gilbert and Dennard both have their pro days in the upcoming months to further display themselves and to prove who is worthy of the top cornerback spot in this year’s class.