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2018 NFL combine: Derwin James, Jaire Alexander stand out in DB group

Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward and the rest of the defensive backs took to the field to cap the 2018 NFL combine inside Lucas Oil Stadium. 

For safeties and especially cornerbacks, speed is the name of the game during the athletic exhibition. 

Many lesser known pass defenders shined Monday in Indianapolis.

Here are my biggest takeaways from the workouts featuring the defensive back prospects.

Defensive Back Winners

Jaire Alexander, Louisville – Somewhat of a forgotten man due to an injury-plagued 2017, Alexander is a lockdown cornerback who hits like a safety and has plus ball skills. He ran 4.38, one of the fastest time among the cornerback group. He also had a 35-inch vertical. Solid. Those are first-round cornerback numbers, and he has first-round cornerback film.

Isaiah Oliver, Colorado – At 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds with mammoth 33 4/8″ arms, Oliver zoomed to a 4.50 in the 40, certainly impressive for a bigger cornerback. He has the size and athletic makeup to be a No. 1 outside corner in the NFL.

Derwin James, Florida State – Unsurprisingly, James destroyed the combine. At nearly 6-2 and 215 pounds, the do-it-all secondary member ran 4.47 in the 40, almost jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a 40-inch vertical, and had an 11-foot broad jump. 

Parry Nickerson, Tulane – An underrated cornerback with elite ball skills and awareness, Nicker blazed to a 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash at slightly over 5-10 and 182 pounds. He had 31 pass breakups and 16 interceptions from 2014 to 2017 at Tulane. Stock up. Big time.  

Denzel Ward, Ohio State – Many expected a superb 40 time from Ward, a prospect with a track background. Not only did he run 4.32 … he had a 39-inch vertical and an amazing 11-foot-4 broad jump. He locked up first-round status.

Holton Hill, Texas – Hill is a big, physical cornerback who stands nearly 6-2, weighs 196 pounds and had 32-inch arms. Running 4.49 will help him not only in the draft but when he gets to the NFL against large and fast perimeter wideouts. 

Troy Apke, Penn State – Apke came out of nowhere and had one of the most ridiculous combine performances of the defensive backs on Monday. He ran an official 4.34 at 6-1 and 200 pounds. He also had a 41-inch vertical. He’s a classic “time to go back to the tape” prospect. 

Josh Kalu, Nebraska – The Nebraska defensive back showcased some ridiculous explosiveness on Monday, as he jumped 41.5-inches in the vertical and had an 11-foot-2 broad at slightly over 6-0 and 203 pounds. 

Defensive Back Losers

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama – By no means did Fitzpatrick have a bad workout. Compared to Derwin James, he did. Fitzpatrick had a 33-inch vertical to James’ 40, and the Alabama star had a 10-foot-1 in broad jump compared to James’ 11-foot leap. 

Mike Hughes, UCF – At 5-10 and 189 pounds with under 31-inch arms and film that shows speed and twitchiness, Hughes’ 4.53 was rather disappointing. 

Darius Phillips, Western Michigan – Running 4.54 isn’t necessarily slow, but for a corner with dynamic returning ability who weighed 193 pounds and measured in slightly below 5-10, many were expecting a faster time. 

Chris Trapasso

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