Sunday is my favorite day of the NFL Combine, and it’s also the most important. I’ve gone on record stating that, on average, defensive backs are the best athletes on the field. That title is necessary in the NFL because REACTING to athleticism requires even more size, speed, strength, explosion, and agility than the initiation from the offensive player. More so than at any position, a lack of athleticism in the defensive backfield can doom the probability of a player having a meaningful impact in the professional space. Luckily, there was no shortage of athletes showing off on Sunday afternoon. Let’s take a look at a few of them...
Javelin Guidry CB (Utah)
The person who takes the top spot at the 40-yard dash on the day the defensive backs run always turns heads, and Guidry is no exception. With a 4.29-second time along with 21 bench-press reps, the Utah corner confirmed the speed evaluators saw on film and generated positive buzz to help offset his 5’9” and sub-200-lb frame. He lived up to his first name.
CJ Henderson CB (Florida)
Where Henderson goes in the draft (on day one most likely) will show viewers which teams value tackling as an essential trait in their corners. Although that trait is lacking from Henderson on film, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, put up 20 bench press reps, and posted 37.5” and 127” distances in the vertical and broad jumps respectively. Henderson showed natural fluidity and level hips in on-field drills to go with the athleticism and he has a great shot at being the second corner taken in this draft.
Tanner Muse S (Clemson)
The buzz was still reverberating in Lucas Oil Stadium from yesterday’s Isaiah Simmons show, but his teammate Tanner Muse put on his own show today. Muse ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at 227 lbs, tallied 20 bench reps, jumped 34.5” in the vertical along with 124” in the broad jump. On the field, that athleticism wasn’t just for linear speed, with the uninitiated observers being sent back to the tape to realize that the defensive success of Clemson in 2019-2020 wasn’t just a result of their do-it-all LB. Muse could very easily be a stud Will linebacker in a 4-3 defense and could have his name called earlier than expected come April.
Antoine Winfield Jr. S (Minnesota)
We know he has the genetics. My personal favorite Buffalo Bills cornerback of all time has bestowed the football world with a gift in the form of his son, who looked predictably smooth and fluid in on-field drills. He tested even better than some had hoped, running a 4.45 40-yard dash, jumping vertically 36” and horizontally 124”. Analysts knew he had the instincts to play in the NFL and now they have the athleticism box checked for Winfield.
Jeff Gladney CB (TCU)
One of my pre-Combine defensive draft crushes is not just a try-hard press coverage irritant. He showed on Sunday he has the athleticism to continue annoying wide receivers even after making the transition to football on Sundays, running 4.48 seconds in the 40, benching 225 lbs 17 times, jumping 37.5” in the vertical, and posting a 124” broad jump. Oftentimes physical college corners can slip in the draft due to poor athletic testing (see Norman, Josh), but Gladny has solidified himself as a top 50 pick come April.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan for Buffalo Rumblings. You can follow me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and for more on Gladny and my other defensive pre-Combine draft coverages, see the most recent episode of “The Nick & Nolan Show”.