The top two defensive backs in the upcoming draft, Tennessee safety Eric Berry and Florida cornerback Joe Haden, had different combine experiences today. Berry generally looked smooth and ran one of his 40 times in 4.4 (unofficially) - a great time for someone who weighs 211 pounds. (His official time was 4.47) Haden ran one of his 40s at 4.6. That's a time that linebackers sometimes surpass. USC safety Taylor Mays, meanwhile, shocked everyone by running an unofficial 4.24 on his first run, according to NFL Network. He clocked 4.34 on the second, raising eyebrows about what his official time will be. (Mays indeed ended up being the fastest DB today, but his "official" combine time was 4.43. That number also seemed inaccurate.)
The question is whether Haden - to this point a Top 10 pick - could tumble and whether the 49ers could get him at 13 or even 17. The question really is, would the 49ers be as scared by a lack of high-end speed as other teams? Haden seems to fit every other criterion the 49ers want in a cornerback. He's aggressive, a good tackler and played in the SEC. However, they already have one high-priced cornerback, Nate Clements, who has those attributes and who also doesn't have great speed. Would they want to add another, and if they did, would that be bad news for Clements?
As for Mays, his straight-line speed never has been an issue. The question about him is whether he can change direction and whether he has the necessary instincts for the position. His actual time today probably was in the 4.3 range -- there are real problems with the timing on that drill as shown by the wildly different results -- but his draft stock probably hasn't changed that much. Earl Thomas likely made himself some money in Indianapolis. The Texas safety showed up bigger and more muscular than people thought at 208 pounds, but still ran fairly well. Size and durability were his biggest issues entering the combine.
Here are some unofficial 40 times from the first group of DBs. The NFL only releases the top "official" times, which I've included in parenthesis. Official times by and large are considerably slower than the unofficial times. If you're wondering how the teams gather 40 times when there seems to be so much variability, NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang breaks it down here.
CB Javier Arenas, Alabama: 4.52, (injured hamstring)
S Eric Berry, Tennessee: 4.46, 4.40 (4.47)
S Kam Chancellor, Va Tech: 4.63, 4.62
CB Chris Cook, Virginia: 4.47, 4.43 (4.46)
CB Perrish Cox, OSU: 4.53, 4,57
CB Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest: 4.37, 4.34 (4.45)
CB Joe Haden, Florida: 4.57, 4.60
S Chad Jones, LSU: 4.57
S Taylor Mays, USC, 4.24, 4.34 (4.43)
CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers: 4.34, 4.35 (4.48)
CB Patrick Robinson: 4.42, 4.49
S Myron Rolle, Fla State: 4.69, 4.68
CB Devin Ross, Arizona, 4.56
S Earl Thomas, Texas, 4.53, 4.44
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