2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Backs
The top cornerbacks and safeties in the 2013 NFL Draft
By AJ Young - March 25 2013
OG | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S
These draft profiles are designed to provide you with a better insight into the
prospects detailed in our mock drafts and on our 2013 NFL Draft Board:
[Editor’s note: Some of these prospects were covered in our NFL Combine previews,
in which case, the profiles have been updated in light of the Combine]
1. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (4)
A highly productive junior year propelled Milliner into the NFL Draft and a top
five position on our draft board.
In 2012, Milliner broke up 20(!) passes, caught 2 interceptions, made 54
tackles including 4 for a loss and 1.5 sacks as well as forced a fumble and blocked
a kick. He was seemingly everywhere in Alabama’s quest for another national championship.
He shows excellent awareness as he reads what the offense is doing and quickly reacts
accordingly. He plays tight coverage on the receiver down the field, giving the
route runner little cushion but does a good job of baiting the quarterback into
making the throw before closing quickly on the ball. He does a great job of timing
his moves, making a play on the ball at the appropriate time, using his arms to
reach in and disrupt the pass. Milliner is very active in the run game, showing
good aggression and making solid tackles on the ball carrier. He’s the most complete
cornerback in the draft and arguably the best defensive player. The only reason
he won’t be a top five pick is if teams are concerned about recent surgery to repair
a torn labrum.
April 24: Milliner has purportedly undergone five surgeries including a right knee scope, sports hernia, right tibia stress fracture and both shoulders. Don’t be surprised if this causes him to fall outside the top 10.
2. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Trufant was a four year starter at Washington and put up
consistent numbers over the course of his career in Seattle. He proved to
be a solid cover corner, both in man to man and zone coverage’s. Although he only
had a meager 6 interceptions over his four years at Washington, this may be a product
of teams neglecting to throw in his direction rather than his actual ball skills.
In 50 career games, he only broke up 32 passes which shows how reluctant teams truly
were to throw to his side of the field. He plays with fluid hips and has the ability
to quickly turn and cover in deep ball situations. Equally so, he has good closing
speed and isn't afraid to tackle, as can be seen by the 195 tackles he made during
his career. Trufant won’t likely be a perennial Pro Bowler as he’s not one for flashy
plays but he has All Pro potential as a lockdown corner at the next level.
3. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
With 8 interceptions, 23 pass defenses and 139 tackles during his
three years starting in Tallahassee, Rhodes comes with valuable experience
and solid production. At 6-2, 210 lbs, Rhodes has prototypical size that he puts
to good use in both run support and pass defense. He excels at jamming receivers
at the line and gets physical in press coverage, staying aggressive throughout the
course of the play. He has elite speed and with a 4.43 time in the forty, shows
the ability to stick with receivers on deep routes. He’s able to mirror receiver’s
routes, sticking close at all times, putting himself in a position to make a play
on the ball. His aggressiveness can sometimes leave him susceptible to double moves
and pump fakes and he has a habit of peeking in the backfield at times. He’s also
suffered from injury trouble, having to redshirt his freshman year due to a hand
injury and forgoing the NFL Draft last season due to a knee injury suffered in FSU’s
bowl game. Nevertheless, he’s a talented cornerback that will attract a number of
teams’ attention in the first round.
4. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi
After four years at Mississippi State, Banks has put together an NFL caliber résumé
showing good ability to makes plays on the ball, cover receivers down field and
provide support in the run game. He worked his way into a starting role midway through
his true freshman year, contributing almost immediately with two pick sixes against
Florida’s Tim Tebow in only his third career start. He leaves Starkville with a
school record 16 interceptions, showing good awareness to jump routes at the appropriate
time, being careful not to over pursue. At 6-2, 185 lbs, he has a long frame and
lacks the ideal weight for his size but nevertheless is a willing tackler in the
run game and isn’t shy to deliver big hits. Overall, he’s one of the top cornerbacks
in the draft and will be tempting for teams picking late in the first round.
5. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut
At 6-1, 195 lbs, Wreh-Wilson looks the part if nothing else. As a four year starter,
he has plenty of experience on his résumé and plenty of film on tape accordingly.
The only trouble is, some of that tape isn’t all that great. He lacks the relevant
speed required to play man coverage which is exacerbated by poor technique as he
struggles to turn his hips quick enough to cover his man downfield. He shows excellent
instincts and coverage skills in zone formations but his struggles in man-to-man
likely mean that he’ll be limited to a third down nickel or dime back initially.
He might be better suited to the safety position as he shows willingness to tackle
in the run game and has the ability to take down the runner with a form tackle.
He’s somewhat of a project initially but has a high ceiling and with the correct
coaching at the next level, could become a starting cornerback.
1. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (14)
In his three seasons starting in Austin, Vaccaro produced 5 interceptions, 20 pass
breakups, 5 forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. You might expect a few more interceptions
or touchdowns for a defensive back projected as an early first round pick but his
production is nevertheless impressive. Vaccaro's true value however is with his
tackling. He racked up 239 tackles at Texas, including 180 solo tackles and 13 for
a loss. He shows great ability to wrap ball carriers up with form tackles but also
doesn't hesitate to bring the wood for highlight-reel hits. In terms of his pass
coverage abilities, he was frequently tasked with covering the slot receiver at
Texas and demonstrated good ability to transition out of his backpedal, turn his
hips and keep tight to the wide receiver. All in all, Vaccaro possesses good football
instincts and will look to make a seamless transition to the next level.
2. Matt Elam, S, Florida (43)
Explosive. Physical. Aggressive. Whenever you see highlights of Elam's career at
Florida, those three adjectives are the first that come to mind. He shows good closing
speed near the line of scrimmage to deliver powerful hits on the ball carrier but
also has the versatility to cover receivers down the field. He proved to be a ball
hawk during his time in Gainesville, snagging six interceptions over the course
of his two years starting, demonstrating good timing and the necessary instincts
to make a play on the ball. Although he racked up 176 tackles during his three year
career, he needs to work on his fundamentals as his tendency to go for the SportsCentre
hit results in some ugly missed tackles. He'll have to answer a few questions from
teams regarding his two run-ins with the law over alcohol but on the whole he showed
good leadership qualities that teams look for. At 5-10, 208 lbs, he’s slightly smaller
than you’d like your average safety to be and his size is ultimately what gives
him a second round grade.AJ Young
is the editor of Down at the One.