Jaguars.com previews the 2007 NFL draft in an eight-part series. Part VII features the defensive backs.
A deep crop of defensive backs could push safety Reggie Nelson (pictured) right into the Jaguars' laps. At least, that's what most draftniks are expecting.
Nelson is one of six defensive backs expected to be selected in the first round of this year's NFL draft. The Jaguars, of course, lost safety Deon Grant in free agency and would love for value to meet need at pick number 17, which just happens to be where jaguars.com draft analyst Tony Pauline expects Nelson to come off the board.
"He was one of the most interviewed players at the combine," Pauline said of Nelson, a 5-11, 198-pound junior-eligible from Florida. Pauline, the president of tfydraftpreview.com, ranks Nelson as the third-best defensive back in this year's draft class.
LSU safety LaRon Landry, 6-0, 213, seems to be everybody's number one defensive back. He's a complete package; tough against the run and terrific in pass-coverage. Landry plays big and plays fast. He opened eyes by running a 4.4 at the combine and figures to be a top 10 pick. Pauline describes Landry as a bigger version of Ed Reed and better in coverage than Troy Polamalu.
The number two defensive back is Michigan cornerback Leon Hall, 5-11, 193. Hall is a shut-down defender whose stock fell due to two poor performances late last season. There were concerns about his speed, which made his 40-time at the combine critical to his draft position. He responded by running a 4.45 that would seem to have pushed him back into the middle of round one.
"He doesn't play as fast as his speed. He's been beaten deep. If he had run bad at the combine, he might've slipped out of the first round," Pauline said.
Buffalo is a possible suitor at the 12th spot.
Nelson would be next. He's a centerfielder with great range and he has the speed and athletic ability to also play corner. He flashes on the scene and is solid in run-support. Nelson ran a 4.5 at the combine, then flashed a 4.3 at his pro day.
Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis, 5-11, 204, has size, speed and well-developed skills. He ran a 4.38 at his pro day and is famous for his Sportscenter punt-return against West Virginia last season. Revis, however, was rarely challenged by the opposition and there's little in the way of video proof of his coverage skills. He's considered to be mechanically sound and fluid and will go in the bottom third of round one.
Cornerback Chris Houston, 5-10, 185, of Arkansas is a top athlete with terrific upside, but mostly for a team that plays a lot of zone coverage. Houston is feisty, aggressive, works hard in coverage and runs a 4.39, but he struggles in coverage with his back to the ball. He must play zone or off the line of scrimmage. He'll go in the bottom of round one.
Texas safety Michael Griffin, 5-11, 202, is an intimidating force. He's a true centerfielder with sideline to sideline range and a burst of speed. Griffin is a punishing hitter and solid on special teams. His 4.49 will push him into the bottom third of round one.
Miami's Brandon Meriweather, 5-10, 195, is a safety who some teams are projecting at corner. Meriweather is athletic, solid against the run and good in coverage. He's run a 4.55 but plays faster. He'll go early in round two.
Marcus McCauley, 6-1, 203, of Fresno State is a physically-gifted cornerback with great size and speed and he plays to the level of each. He's fluid and runs with receivers all over the field. McCauley is physical and rarely challenged by opponents. A 4.5 will likely push him into the second round.
The list of top 10 defensive backs is capped by two Texas cornerbacks:
Aaron Ross, 6-1, 193, is athletic and has shown a lot of progress the last two years. He turns his hips and is good in press or zone coverage. He's run a 4.55 and is a second-round prospect.
Tarell Brown, 5-10, 190, has everything you want and some things you don't want. He has great awareness and instincts and runs with the best receivers. His 4.55 may be misleading. A stress fracture in his foot injured his performance last season, and two brushes with the law could push him into the late-second round or lower.
Tanard Jackson of Syracuse and Josh Wilson of Maryland are two other cornerbacks of note. They're also considered to be second-round prospects.