Positional Breakdown: Defensive Backfield

Positional Breakdown: Defensive Backfield

Heading into the heart of the 2013 off-season, the Browns will look to address weaknesses due to poor performance through free agency and the NFL Draft.

As new Browns Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton sifts through film of last year's defense, he'll likely identify poor performances in the defensive backfield as a weakness that must be addressed. The unit, as a whole, was very underwhelming in pass defense last season, as opposing teams seemingly threw the ball where they wanted, as often as they wanted, with little disruption from the Browns defense.

Heading into the heart of the 2013 off-season, the Browns will look to address this weakness through free agency and the NFL Draft. The first step in their plans is likely to find a new running mate for Joe Haden. Other major holes include the starting free safety spot and nickel corner, as well as depth all-around.

This year's draft class of cornerbacks can be described as both deep and top heavy. Alabama's Dee Milliner and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes are both widely regarded as Top 15 prospects and likely Day 1 starters next season. After those two, the drop off is significant to the next grouping, where players like Washington's Desmond Trufant, North Carolina State's David Amerson and Connecticut's Blidi Wreh-Wilson are trying to establish themselves as 1st Round material. There's no guarantee that any of those three opens 2013 as a starter, but each possesses unique physical skills and ideal size to garner optimistic expectations.

Name

School

Class

HT

WT

40 time

Cone

Vertical

Arm Length

Projection

1.

Dee Milliner

Alabama

JR

6'0

201

4.37

6.95

36"

32"

Top 10

2.

Xavier Rhodes

Florida State

rJR

6'2

210

4.43

-

40 ½"

33 3/4"

Top 15

3.

Desmond Trufant

Washington

SR

6'0

190

4.38

-

37 ½"

31 1/4"

1st

4.

David Amerson

North Carolina State

JR

6'1

205

4.44

-

35 ½"

32 5/8"

1st-2nd

5.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson

Connecticut

rSR

6'1

195

4.53

6.97

36"

32"

2nd

6.

Logan Ryan

Rutgers

rJR

5'11

191

4.56

6.69

32 ½"

31 3/8"

2nd

7.

Johnthan Banks

Mississippi State

SR

6'2

185

4.61

6.97

34"

33 7/8"

2nd

8.

Darius Slay

Mississippi State

SR

6'0

192

4.36

6.90

35 ½"

32 1/4"

2nd-3rd

9.

Robert Alford

Southeastern Louisiana

rSR

5'10

188

4.39

6.89

40"

32"

2nd-3rd

10.

Jamar Taylor

Boise State

rSR

5'11

192

4.39

6.82

35"

30 3/4"

3rd

11.

B.W. Webb

William & Mary

rSR

5'10

184

4.51

6.82

40 ½"

30 1/4"

3rd

12.

Dwayne Gratz

Connecticut

rSR

5"11

201

4.47

6.70

38"

32 1/8"

3rd-4th

13.

Tyrann Mathieu

Louisiana State

JR

5'9

186

4.50

6.87

34"

31 1/8"

3rd-4th

14.

Leon McFadden

San Diego State

SR

5'10

193

4.54

6.81

34 ½"

32 3/8"

4th

15.

Jordan Poyer

Oregon State

SR

6'0

191

4.54

6.87

30 ½"

31 3/4"

4th

16.

Adrian Bushell

Maryland

rSR

5'9

186

4.58

6.92

33"

32"

4th

17.

Tharold Simon

Louisiana State

JR

6'2

202

4.51

-

34"

33 3/4"

4th-5th

18.

Terry Hawthorne

Illinois

SR

6'0

195

4.44

-

35 ½"

31 1/4'

5th

19.

Brandon McGee

Miami

SR

5'11

193

4.40

6.71

33 ½"

32"

5th

20.

Khalid Wooten

Nevada

rSR

5'11

210

4.53

6.95

33 ½"

32 3/4"

5th-6th

21.

Sanders Commings

Georgia

rSR

6'0

216

4.41

7.10

34 ½"

32"

5th-6th

22.

Micah Hyde

Iowa

SR

6'0

197

4.56

6.78

33"

31 1/2"

5th-6th

23.

Johnny Adams

Michigan State

rSR

5'10

185

4.44

-

-

31 1/4"

6th

24.

Nickell Roby

Southern California

JR

5'7

169

4.53

6.74

37 ½"

29 3/4"

6th

25.

Marc Anthony

California

rSR

5'11

196

4.63

6.74

35"

32 1/8"

6th

The Browns forfeited their 2nd Round pick for the rights to receiver Josh Gordon, so their likely target range for a project in the defensive backfield will come in the 3rd-4th round. There should be several enticing talents available, including players like Boise State's Jamar Taylor, Connecticut's Dwayne Gratz and William & Mary's BW Webb. Each of them possess impressive quickness and drive on the ball, and all three can likely start their careers comfortably in the nickel.

There are a few corners who could wind up changing positions this summer, talents like South Carolina's Sanders Commings and Louisiana State's Tyrann Mathieu, each regarded as a corner by some evaluators, a safety by others. Nevada's Khalid Wooten is a potential candidate for a switch to free safety as well. Wooten works well with his back to the ball as a corner, but he doesn't possess the speed or quickness needed to keep up with receivers at the next level.

This year's safety class is a mixed bag, with Texas free safety Kenny Vaccaro the only prospect likely to be drafted in the First Round. The caliber of free safeties fall off fast after Vaccaro, with LSU's Eric Reid and Fresno State's Phillip Thomas the only other prospects who look like immediate starters. Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson and Georgia's Bacarri Rambo are talented defenders, but each has personal baggage that's likely to hurt their stock. Projects like California (PA) safety Rontez Miles and Tulsa's Dexter McCoil could prove to be late round gems.

Name

School

Class

HT

WT

40 time

Cone

Vertical

Arm Length

Projection

1.

Kenny Vaccaro

Texas

SR

6'0

214

4.63

6.78

38"

32 3/4"

1st

2.

Eric Reid

Louisiana State

JR

6'1

213

4.53

6.99

40 ½"

33 5/8"

1st-2nd

3.

Phillip Thomas

Fresno State

rSR

6'1

208

4.65

-

35"

30 5/8"

2nd

4.

Tony Jefferson

Oklahoma

JR

5'11

213

4.75

-

-

31 5/8"

3rd

5.

Bacarri Rambo

Georgia

rSR

6'1

211

4.56

-

-

31"

3rd

6.

D.J. Swearinger

South Carolina

SR

5'11

208

4.67

6.70

37"

32 3/8"

3rd-4th

7.

Josh Evans

Florida

SR

6'1

207

4.58

6.64

34 ½"

31 7/8"

4th

8.

Rontez Miles

California (PA)

SR

6'0

203

4.62

6.97

36 ½"

32 7/8"

5th

9.

Rashard Hall

Clemson

rSR

6'1

213

4.52

-

-

33"

6th

10.

Dexter McCoil

Tulsa

SR

6'4

218

-

-

-

-

6th-7th

11.

Zeke Motta

Notre Dame

SR

6'2

213

4.83

6.75

35 ½"

31 3/8"

6th-7th

12.

Bradley McDougald

Kansas

SR

6'0

215

4.74

7.07

34 ½"

32 1/2"

6th-7th

13.

Brandan Bishop

North Carolina State

SR

6'1

206

4.62

-

-

29 3/8"

UDFA

14.

Corey Broomfield

Mississippi State

rSR

5'10

180

4.50

-

-

-

UDFA

15.

Jordan Dangerfield

Towson

rSR

5'10

198

-

-

-

-

UDFA

The class of strong safeties offers a lot of potential, but few immediate difference makers. Florida's Matt Elam, Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas and Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien seem to be flip-flopping weekly for the top spot at the position. Georgia's Shawn Williams and USC's T.J. McDonald are solid run stuffers, but each lacks adequate coverage skills to be penciled in as starters. North Carolina State's Earl Wolff is a tempting prospect with ideal size and exceptional test numbers, but he disappears far too often on film. Georgia Southern's J.J. Wilcox and Richmond's Cooper Taylor are two small school prospects with the potential to stick in the league.

Name

School

Class

HT

WT

40 time

Cone

Vertical

Arm Length

Projection

1.

Jonathan Cyprien

Florida International

SR

6'0

217

4.56

-

38 ½"

31 3/4"

2nd

2.

Matt Elam

Florida

JR

5'10

208

4.54

-

35 ½"

32 5/8"

2nd

3.

Shamarko Thomas

Syracuse

SR

5'9

213

4.42

-

40 ½"

31 1/2"

2nd-3rd

4.

Shawn Williams

Georgia

SR

6'0

213

4.46

7.01

36"

30 3/4"

3rd

5.

TJ McDonald

Southern Cal

SR

6'3

219

4.59

6.89

40"

33 1/8"

3rd

6.

Earl Wolff

North Carolina State

rSR

5'11

209

4.44

-

39"

31 1/2"

3rd-4th

7.

Robert Lester

Alabama

SR

6'1

220

4.66

-

33 ½"

32"

4th

8.

JJ Wilcox

Georgia Southern

SR

6'0

213

4.57

7.02

35"

31"

4th

9.

Duke Williams

Nevada

SR

5'11

201

4.41

-

-

31 3/4"

5th

10.

Keelan Johnson

Arizona State

rSR

6'0

209

4.54

6.77

36 ½"

32 1/2"

5th-6th

11.

Cooper Taylor

Richmond

rSR

6'4

229

4.57

-

-

32 1/4"

6th-7th

12.

Jawanza Starling

Southern California

SR

6'1

202

4.64

6.68

36"

32"

6th-7th

13.

Dominick LeGrande

Marshall

rSR

6'2

215

-

-

-

-

UDFA

14.

Drew Frey

Cincinnati

rSR

6'2

202

4.58

-

-

31"

UDFA

15.

Martavius Neloms

Kentucky

SR

6'0

187

4.52

-

-

UDFA

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