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The DB's: Ward shows ability in Mobile

Tue, Feb 18, 2014

By Phil Savage

2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl Defensive Backs

With the NFL generally regarded as a “passing league," a premium on those defenders that can disrupt the timing and rhythm of an offense are in high demand. The characteristics of the most successful pro defensive backs are man-to-man (MM) cover ability, the ability to play the football in the air and tackling. Here are the top performers in the secondary from the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday practices.

1. #15 Jimmie Ward/Northern Illinois FS      5103/191      31 1-2”Arm/9 1-2” Hand

Jimmie returned home to Mobile and impressed with his aggressive and energetic style of play. His versatility to cover a slot receiver in MM or range from the middle-of-the-field in Zone will elevate his draft stock this spring. Despite his measured size, expect him to add 5-10 lbs. in the next year and contribute right away in some capacity for an NFL team in 2014.

1-ON-1 COVERAGE:      Wins: 5           Losses: 1

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: Jimmie earned first team All-MAC honors after posting 95 total tackles, 10 pass breakups and 7 interceptions as a senior. Prepped at Davidson HS, he blocked three punts as a true freshman in 2010.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Potential Starter/Contributing Backup

2. #23 Jaylen Watkins/ Florida           DC       5113/194      30 5-8” Arm/9 5-8” Hand

Jaylen played mostly safety and Nickel as a senior at Florida, but at the Senior Bowl, took most of his reps as a cornerback. He is controlled and consistent with his hands and feet in press coverage and really understands coverage technique and leverage. Because of his position flexibility, he will bring value to a team by potentially saving a roster spot. Turned some heads with his showing in Mobile, expect to see him as a mid-round “find” for someone in the league.

1-ON-1 PASS COVERAGE:         Wins: 6           Losses: 7

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: This three-year starter finished his UF career with 133 total tackles, 21 pass breakups and 3 interceptions. He played 48 games for the Gators with 28 starts.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Contributing Backup/Potential Starter

3. #2 Nevin Lawson/Utah State          DC       5097/184      31 3-4” Arm/8 7-8” Hand

Nevin earned a trip to the Senior Bowl after his showing at the East-West Shrine. Although undersized, he brings quickness, cover ability and ball skills to the table. His best position will likely be as a Nickel/Slot corner in the NFL, with the importance of that role growing each season. Nevin high-pointed a deep ball interception in the game to culminate his week.

1-ON-1 PASS COVERAGE:        Wins: 7           Losses: 5

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: Nevin earned first team All-Mountain West recognition after recording 56 tackles and 4 interceptions during his senior year. Former teammate and fellow cornerback Will Davis played in the 2013 Reese’s Senior Bowl and was drafted in the 3rd round by the Miami Dolphins.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Contributing Backup/Potential Starter

4. #16 Stanley Jean-Baptiste/Nebraska DC   6023/215      32 3-8” Arm/8 1-2” Hand

The biggest cornerback in the game, Stanley has rare size for the position and really fits as a press/Cover-2 style defender. He can wall off and force receivers around him and then defend the route with his length down the field. Athletic enough to play “off” on some occasions, his sheer presence on the perimeter is noteworthy to an offense. Interesting prospect because he can match up with the size receivers on the outside and in the Red Zone.

1-ON-1 PASS COVERAGE:       Wins: 6           Losses: 4

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: Stanley was named 2nd team All-Big Ten after totaling 41 tackles, 12 pass breakups and 4 interceptions in 2013. He graduated in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Potential Starter (within three seasons)

5. #11 Chris Davis/Auburn                 DC       5096/201      30 1-2” Arm/9 3-8” Hand

Made a name for himself with the “Kick Six” return vs. Alabama, but Chris competed very hard at the Senior Bowl as a cornerback. He showed some quicks, toughs and ball skills throughout the week. Seems a little “segmented” at times in his reads and breaks, but held up well overall as a Nickel and on the edge. Will add value to his resume’ with his willingness to cover and run back punts and kickoffs.

1-ON-1 PASS COVERAGE:         Wins: 8           Losses: 8

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: Chris started for three seasons at Auburn and averaged 18.7 yards on 17 punt returns as a senior. He was 2nd on the team with 74 tackles and chipped in 15 pass breakups as well.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Contributing Backup

Best of the Rest:

#14 Aaron Colvin/Oklahoma           DC       5113/186      31” Arm/9 1-4” Hand

Unfortunately, Aaron suffered a torn ACL during the Wednesday practice in a non-contact pass coverage drill. Prior to the injury, he was having a terrific week because of his athletic ability, feel and instincts for the game. He has already made progress post-surgery and is hopeful of returning to the field during the 2014 season 

#20 Walt Aikens/Liberty                 DC       6005/205      32 1-4” Arm/9 3-8” Hand

One of the more intriguing small-school candidates in the game, put himself on the radar with his combination of size and strength. Has some athletic stiffness, but is very strong at the line-of-scrimmage and appeared to have enough long speed to hang as a corner. As a non-Combine invite, his 40-yard dash time at the Liberty Pro Day will be huge for him.

#4 Marqueston Huff/Wyoming      DC       5110/198      31” Arm/8 1-4” Hand

Marqueston has all the physical qualities NFL teams are looking for when it comes to size and speed. He flashed athletic ability and speed in every practice, but will need to refine his skill set and become more consistent in the future.

#30 Pierre Desir/Lindenwood        DC       6011/195      32 3-4” Arm/9 1-4” Hand

Another small-school prospect with the physical dimensions to pique the NFL’s interest, Pierre has the length to extend and knock away passes on the outside and in the Red Zone. The biggest question on him will be his timed speed, where the Combine will define his ultimate draft value.

#20 Deone Bucannon/Washington State      FS      6007/216  31 3-4” Arm/9 1-2” Hand

Deone has imposing size and an aggressive temperament when supporting the run. The trick for him will be his Combine times matching or exceeding the 4.60 barrier for the safety position.

Phil Savage Phil Savage is the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. He worked 20 years in the NFL as a coach, scout and executive, including two years as the Director of Player Personnel for the Baltimore Ravens and four years as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns.