Taking a glance at the potential 2014 draft class at defensive back, there is no denying that it’s a large class. That description not only refers to the group’s considerable depth, but also its collective stature.
The years of quick, yet smallish corners and safeties appear to be drifting well into the rear-view mirror. With the NCAA and NFL seemingly increasingly geared toward pass-oriented offensive attacks, the chase is on to match up with larger, more physical receivers. The recent success of NFL secondaries possessing taller defensive backs has only accelerated that momentum.
Of the top projected defensive backs in this year’s draft, nearly all stand six feet or taller and tip the scales at or in excess of 200 pounds.
Near the top of the list is Alabama safety Ha'Sean "Ha Ha' Clinton-Dix who, at 6’1” and 208 pounds, could be the first safety chosen in May. Having played in the Southeastern Conference among many of college football’s premier offensive talents, playing in a secondary that could match a receiving corps in size and athleticism was the norm for Clinton-Dix.
“I think a lot of SEC players are pretty big and pretty fast, and I was able to play at a high level,” Clinton-Dix said. “In the SEC, everyone’s big and dominant across the line. I had big corners on my team as well, and big guys in the back end.”
While the trend appears evident, it remains far from uniform. At 5’10” and 176 pounds, Texas Christian University CB Jason Verrett is the exception to what appears to be an ever-increasing rule. Verrett, who projects as a potential first-round selection this spring, sees the move toward larger defensive backs as being more of a cycle than a trend, but knowledged that areas of his game have to make up for the size difference.
“Just being a smaller guy, I have to play a lot smarter,” Verrett said. “I have to have really good technique, not focus too much on getting your hands on guys and trying to stay square.”
While exceptions such as Verrett and Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner—who stands 5’8”— show that size doesn’t mean everything in defending the pass, the increase in size at the position has extended well beyond the projected top picks. Lindenwood University corner Pierre Desir, who is projected by many as a mid to late-round selection, stands 6’1” at 195 pounds, and enters the Combine having logged 40-yard dash times as fast at 4.46 seconds. Those figures would characterize an outlier at corner in a previous generation, but has since grown to be the norm.
“Watching the Richard Shermans and all the bigger corners, it’s helped scouts to see me in a different light,” Desir said. “To see that I’m a guy with the range and a guy who can be one of the great, big corners in the future.”
After taking even just a cursory look at the stature of this year’s class of defensive backs, it would be easy to surmise there will be plenty more to follow.