2023 NFL combine In full swing, on Friday, the defensive backs televised their on-field drills. By convention, one group began running 40-yard dashes, then switched to stance drills, while another group completed agility drills and measured jumps.
Let’s take a closer look at the defenses that stand out.
There are many pure safeties in this group that help themselves, but instead of highlighting all the pure safeties, I focused on the players I felt would best fit the needs of the Lions, especially those who could fill a need. Detroit in the slot.
Jardavious “Quan” Martin, Illinois, 5-foot-11, 194
4.45/1.47 (40/10-yard dash), 44-inches (vertical jump), 11-foot-1 (broad jump)
In our defense preview, I noted that Martin was one of “my guys” because I felt he didn’t get enough attention and I expected him to show well at the combine. Of course, he defied my predictions and he’s definitely on a lot of radars right now.
With a thick frame and wooden rods for thighs, Martin propelled the frame in all directions. His sub-4.5 40-yard dash was impressive, but his 1.47-second 10-yard split was the fastest of all defensive backs in this draft class. His jumps combined his vertical jump with the highest of all defensive players—the fifth-highest ever recorded in affiliate history—and his broad jump checked in as the fourth-highest.
In on-field drills, Martin showed an easy mover, smooth transitions, and an ability to clean his upper body. This ability allows him to run at full speed while adapting his upper body to the traffic around him, be it a player or the ball. Martin showed excellent ball placement, pointed high when needed, and had soft, reliable hands.
Overall, his powerful legs moved like pistons, yet he was in complete control of his body at all times. “W-Drill” – my pick for the best predictor of success in slots – is a walk in the park.
In my opinion, the top three slot safety hybrids in this class are Brian Branch, Martin and …
Jamie Robinson, State of Florida5-foot-10 1/2, 191
4.59 (40), 33.5 inches (vertical), 9-foot-8 (wide)
Robinson has a compact frame and is as quick as any defensive tackle in this class. His testing numbers were average, and at times during practice, he looked like he was too focused on being technically sound instead of loose, which led to some stiffness.
When Robinson was loose, he showed incredibly quick feet, snapping them up and down like a typewriter running across the page. His focus on technique helped him excel in drills, but when he rested, his natural abilities took over. One of the best examples of this was at the end of eight on-field workouts, when he moved with smooth acceleration, ramping, decelerating and ramping again at an impressive pace.
Sidney Brown, Illinois (5-foot-10, 211, 4.48) Looks like a A muscular running back—not surprising considering that’s what his twin brother is—and his power was evident in his movement during practice. He was quick and agile, but the power he generated in his movements was remarkable.
Christopher Smith, Georgia (5-foot-10 1/2, 192, 4.62) Another slot safety to keep an eye on in the draft is the hybrid. His transitions became easier during practices, and as practices continued, he became smoother and his hands improved.
G’Air Brown, Penn State (5-foot-11 1/2, 203, 4.65) is known A ballhawk and his skills were on display in Indianapolis. The ability to track the ball in the air—even when adjusting late—is on a different level than other defenses in this class. He moved a bit on the pass, but he had quick feet and great hands.
Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M (6-foot-2, 198, 4.52) Big and long, and his frame facilitated many exercises. He was a smooth glider across the court and devoured the ball when it came into his range. He struggled with some quick agility drills, but that wasn’t really his game and was expected to be more challenging.
Samary Conner, Virginia Tech (6-foot-0, 202, 4.51) Anyone on my draft board improved his stock as seen in this link. I thought he had some slot defensive back range and I was very impressed with what I saw, and he delivered a “go back and watch the tape” performance. Smoothness in his movements, easy backpedal, smooth tracking ability, ball placement and soft hands were all notes I recorded on Connor during training.