The 2009 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up Tuesday, and those looking for a big ending were largely disappointed. Much was made of defensive backs holding seven of the 10 fastest 40 times this decade, but this year’s crop was, in a word, slow. Clemson’s Chris Clemons posted the best time among all defensive backs, but his 4.41 clocking wouldn’t have cracked the top five wideouts. Worse, Clemons isn’t even a corner; he’s a safety, and one projected to go on Day Two at that.
Let’s start with the corners. Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins, the top cornerback on most boards, did little to quell talk that he’ll need to move to safety at the pro level. His unofficial 4.53 was slower than expected and may knock him out of the Top 10 despite his body of work with the Buckeyes. Illinois’ Vontae Davis couldn’t match brother Vernon’s 40 time, but at least his 4.49 cracked the top five at his position.
That wasn’t the case for Vanderbilt’s D.J. Moore, who at 5-9 probably needed a time faster than his unofficial 4.54 to ensure a spot in the first round. The same can be said for Wake Forest’s Alphonso Smith, whose unofficial 4.50 was a bit faster but, again, might not be enough to offset the widely-held view that 5-9 is too short for a first-round corner.
Sean Smith’s unofficial 4.47 was bumped at least five-hundredths on the official scoresheet, but the 6-4, 214-pound Utah corner has size on his size and was likely fast enough to hold his Day One grade and perhaps sneak into the first round. Darius Butler’s unofficial 4.45 was also officially downgraded, but he looked smooth in drills and posted a 43-inch vertical and 11-2 broad jump.
The corners who did impress on Tuesday were largely Day Two guys. Ohio State’s Donald Washington topped the field with a 45-inch vertical and an 11-3 broad jump, while the fastest official 40 times belonged to Nicholls State’s Lardarius Webb (4.46), Oregon State’s Brandon Hughes (4.50), San Jose State’s Christopher Owens (4.51), and Maryland’s Kevin Barnes (4.52).
Unlike their cornerback brethren, the safeties ran mostly as expected. Notre Dame’s David Bruton helped his cause with a 4.46 clocking, though stiffness in the drills suggests that, initially at least, he’ll be primarily a special teams contributor. Chip Vaughn’s 4.51 should help him get off the board within shouting distance of his Wake Forest teammate Alphonso Smith, while Troy’s Sherrod Martin (4.52) and Marshall’s C.J. Spillman (4.50) did nothing to hurt their draft stock. The top safeties on most boards, Oregon’s Patrick Chung and Western Michigan’s Louis Delmas, posted unofficial times of 4.47 and 4.49 respectively and shouldn’t see their stock suffer, either.
While slower corners were being looked at as safeties, a trio of safeties were slow enough as to warrant consideration as linebackers. Not that this would be a bad move; Cato June came out of Michigan State as a safety and found a home as a Cover-2 linebacker. Oklahoma’s Nic Harris (unofficially 4.78 in the 40) was actually worked as a linebacker at the Senior Bowl before suffering an injury and missing the game, and at 6-2 and 234 pounds that transition shouldn’t be difficult. USC’s Kevin Ellison (unofficially 4.82) demonstrated the strength to make the move to linebacker with a position-leading 32 reps on the bench press, and at 6-1, 227 he’s within range of the transition as well. Boston College’s Kevin Akins (unofficially 4.83) is a little lighter at 218 pounds, but his 6-2 frame could hold more weight and he’s played in the box before so the move wouldn’t be a shock.
Ultimately, the biggest stories coming out of the 2009 NFL Combine weren’t necessarily jaw-dropping performances—Darrius Heyward-Bey’s 4.3 40 notwithstanding—but more who wasn’t there or didn’t work out. It will be interesting to see how that factors into each team’s decision-making process over the next two months leading up to the 2009 draft.