To the casual fan, the NFL Scouting Combine may be an event to learn about which prospects could become the next stars in the league but to many coaches and general managers, it gives them the opportunity to not only interview them and perform medical checks but to see if they have the desired measurables for their respective schemes.
Many NFL teams – most notably the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers – will only draft players that meet their physical profiles. Seattle prefers cornerbacks with 32-plus inch arms, while Green Bay prefers 5-foot-11 or taller cornerbacks. The Falcons recently began valuing the three-cone drill in their player evaluations.
Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane aren’t as strict with their thresholds, but our team gathered all of the NFL Scouting Combine data from every defender McDermott coached with the Eagles and Panthers. Additionally, we compiled all of the data from draftees and notable free agent additions from 2002-2016 when Brandon Beane was with Carolina in order to see if we could identify any trends in what style of player we could expect Buffalo to select in the 2018 NFL draft.
Sean McDermott runs a 4-3 defense with bigger defensive ends, lighter/athletic linebackers, and solid tackling defensive backs who excel in zone coverage.
Our goal was to look at the historical numbers (height, weight, 40 times etc..) and see who from the 2018 draft class matches up best as potential targets based on their measurables and workout numbers from the NFL Combine.
- Which players match up most closely to recent picks/signings?
- What players may be able to get into that list with good pro day performances?
- Which players surprisingly didn’t meet the thresholds?
In this edition, we will take a look at the Cornerback position.
The Bills seem to have pretty solid footing at cornerback going into 2018 as they will be pairing sensational rookie TreDevaious White along with solid veteran free agent pickup Vontae Davis. White isn’t going anywhere for a while.. however.. Davis is 29 and is likely only a short-term solution. Accordingly, the Bills would be wise to draft at least one.. if not two …cornerbacks in 2018 to ensure a bright future.
Below are measurables for all of the cornerbacks drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers during McDermott and Beane’s tenure with those franchises as well as those acquired by the Bills last year.
Notable McDermott/Beane Players
Let’s highlight several of the notable McBeane cornerbacks and see how they stack up to the historical averages
Drafted out of little-known Samford in 2016 in the 2nd round, Bradberry started from the get-go and played 13 games in his rookie season for Carolina. While his performance in coverage has been inconsistent (PFF gave him a 41/100 pass coverage grade for 2017) the big CB did come up with 2 interceptions in 2017. Toughness is his strong suit as the Samford product is not afraid to get his nose dirty and has been a sure tackler during his pro career thus far. In 2017 he racked up 66 solo tackles along with 19 assists (PFF gave him a 76 for run defense in 2017).
McDermott has publicly stated many times that if a defensive back isn’t a sure tackler then that defensive back has no place in his secondary.
As shown above, Bradberry’s hands, speed, strength and explosiveness numbers all hover around the average thresholds that McDermott and Beane have shown to covet.
However, the 2016 2nd rounder’s height, weight and arms are markedly above the historical McBeane averages. For a man of his size, he is incredibly agile. We will take a look later on in the article and see if there are any touted 2018 CB prospects who can match Bradberry’s combine numbers.
Many Bills fans were frustrated when McWhaley traded down with the Chiefs in the 2017 draft… passing up ballyhooed QBs such as Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson. When Roger Goodell finally came to the podium to announce the 27th overall pick as LSU CB TreDavious White, audible groans could be heard among the BillsMafia faithful. Then training camp began and “Tre’Day” completely blew away expectations from day 1. A well rounded DB, White displayed excellent skills and savvy in his rookie year rating out as the 2nd best corner in the entire NFL according to Pro Football Focus . White displayed top-flight coverage skills (91.6 PFF grade 2017). The LSU Tiger also displayed sure tackling and grit in defending the run (74.8 PFF grade 2017).
Looking at White’s measurements.. he neatly matches the historical McBeane averages in many measureable categories. Is there a 2018 CB prospect out there that matches TreyDay’s measureables? We shall see later on in the article.
2018 NFL Draft Prospect fits
JOSHUA JACKSON – CB IOWA
When it comes to physical traits, Iowa CB Joshua Jackson is the 2018 prospect who matches up most closely with James Bradberry’s combine numbers. Both are tall, rangy CBs with long arms and big hands. Jackson is actually a little stronger, (18 reps on the bench).
Most draft experts have Jackson listed in the top tier of 2018 CBs. One area where he may be a better prospect than Bradberry is ball-hawking as the Hawkeye came down with 8 interceptions and 18 passes broken up in his 2017 campaign. More importantly in terms of McDermott priorities, J.J. is also touted as a disciplined defender who is a solid tackler and reliable in defending the run game.
If the Bills end up keeping their late 1st round pick they could do much worse than to spend it on a solid prospect such as Joshua Jackson.
M.J. STEWART – CB NORTH CAROLINA
If the Bills are looking for a mid to late round CB whose measurables compare favorably to Tre’Davious White then UNC DB M.J. Stewart may fit the bill. While his hands aren’t the best (0 interceptions in 2017) he was in good enough position to breakup 12 passes for the Tarheels in 2017. Projected to be a slot defender in the pros, Stewart could fill a hole as Buffalo currently lacks a reliable nickel cornerback.
As far as measurables go.. (as shown above)..M.J. Stewart and Tre’Davious White may as well be twins. Accordingly, McBeane may very well have this young man on their radar.
PROSPECTS THAT COULD MEET THRESHOLDS AFTER PRO DAYS
Below are a pair of highly touted prospects that did not run the 20 yd or 3 cone at the combine. If Denzel Ward and Carlton Davis can score around the McBeane average in these missed drills at their respective pro days they could further solidify themselves as top tier CB prospects in Buffalo’s eyes
PROSPECTS WHO SURPRISINGLY DIDN’T MEASURE UP
While highly touted Maryland prospect J.C. Jackson measures up favorably in most categories to McBeane averages.. his weight (201 lbs) and smaller hands (8.15 in) made him fall short of the top tier matches.
The disparity in physical traits may be too much to make up for his off-field issues (accused of armed robbery in 2015 , was shot at and grazed by a bullet in 2014) as we know McBeane strongly value (but are sometimes willing to overlook.. ie trying to trade for Martavius Bryant last year) high character individuals.
In conclusion, it is highly likely that the Bills will draft a CB or two this April. Not only does it make sense from a depth/talent standpoint, it also makes sense financially. Free Agent CBs aren’t cheap and if you can get top-flight production as the tean did for Tre’Davious White pricing for 4 years then the risk of taking a CB early really can pay off.
By using historical McBeane combine measures as a baseline to identify potential prospects we’ve attempted here to put some sort of method to the draft madness. We’ll see in April how true they stay to their history.