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NFL Combine 2018: DB prospect preview

The final entry in our NFL Combine prospect preview series takes a closer look at the most intriguing DBs in this year’s class that could be of interest to the Falcons.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The final entry in our NFL Combine prospect preview series is finally here. I hope you’ve enjoyed these little scouting blurbs, but don’t worry—there will be plenty more full scouting reports coming in the weeks ahead. Today’s group is the DBs—where the Falcons are relatively settled at safety but could stand to add depth at CB.

If you missed any of the previous entries in the series, you can find them here: OL, RB & FB, WR, TE, DT, EDGE, LB.

Let’s dive right in to some of the most interesting CB and S prospects for the Falcons that will be participating in the 2018 NFL Combine.


As a Day 3 prospect, Quin Blanding could be an ideal back-up SS behind Keanu Neal. He’s big (6’2, 215) and is a physical, punishing tackler. Blanding has advanced football IQ and plenty of experience playing in the box coupled with a fierce, competitive streak to his game. He’s a limited athlete and isn’t likely to be an impact starter, but as an immediate special teams contributor and depth option, he’s an interesting choice later in the draft.


A nickel CB in the Brian Poole mold, Tony Brown is big (6’0, 198) and physical in run defense. He’s got enough athleticism to be a contributor in coverage, but his technique is underdeveloped. Brown is more of a “straight-line” mover and will struggle against more agile slot WRs. His best fit is likely as a rotational nickel CB who can be a force on special teams—Brown was Alabama’s primary gunner and kick coverage specialist. His draft stock is floating around the early Day 3 range.


Another CB that has a similar game to Brian Poole, Duke Dawson has similar size (5’10, 208) as well and played at Florida. That being said, Dawson seems like a better player in coverage than Poole—he’s not zone-limited, and actually excelled in man coverage. Dawson possesses a physical style of play that was simply too much handle for lighter slot WRs. He’s technically sound and could contribute early in his career, but he’s just an average athlete. As an early Day 3 selection, Dawson would be a quality addition to the CB rotation.


An interesting athletic project at safety, Terrell Edmunds looks the part of a high-level NFL starter at 6’2, 220. He’s a tremendous athlete, too, and brings an energetic and physical style to his game. Edmunds has all the tools, but his technique needs plenty of refinement and his instincts are completely lacking at this point. With a year or two of seasoning behind an established veteran, however, Edmunds could be a potential steal early on Day 3. He could begin his career as a depth player that can immediately help out on special teams.


A polarizing player I’ve seen included in mocks anywhere from the 2nd-6th round, DeShon Elliott is an interesting evaluation. At 6’2, 205, he’s got ideal size for the position to go along with advanced football IQ and good instincts. I think Elliott has the potential to be a solid starter in the NFL, but his athleticism—or lack thereof—is concerning. He appears stiff in his movements and his coverage ability is questionable. His athletic testing will be big, but right now he’s an early-Day 3 player for me.


Probably the player with the highest draft stock in this preview, Mike Hughes is a high-ceiling CB prospect with electric return skills. He’s big enough to survive on the outside (5’11, 191), with a physical streak to his game that makes him a fantastic press-man corner. There are aspects of his coverage technique that still need development, as he was able to get by on his athleticism in college. Hughes has the potential to seize a role as a CB3 immediately, with a CB2 role in his future. His value as a returner—he might be the best in the class—also gives him an avenue to contribute early in his career. Hughes will likely demand an early-Day 2 pick and has even been getting first round buzz.


A small-school prospect with intriguing potential as a nickel CB, Taron Johnson has length but simply isn’t heavy enough to play on the outside (6’0, 180). He’s got the agility and quickness to find success in the slot, however, and he’s physical enough in run support that he’s not a liability there. There are issues in Johnson’s technique that need to be cleaned up, but I like his potential as a future nickel starter and depth CB early on Day 3.


Talk about a player that’s tough to find film on. Michael Joseph played his college football at Division III Dubuque, where he dominated the competition at every turn. He’s got the size (6’1, 181) that Dan Quinn likes from his corners, and (admittedly, from highlights) he looks like a good athlete. I’m interested to see how Joseph tests and how he performs in the drills, but I like him as a potential Day 3 sleeper. He’ll certainly need a year or two to acclimate to the NFL, but he looks talented enough to earn a roster spot as a 5th or 6th CB.


The 6’2, 200 Kameron Kelly looks the part of an NFL safety—and played like it, too. Kelly actually took over for Falcons’ rookie Damontae Kazee at CB for SDSU in 2017, but I think he’s a better prospect at safety. He’s a good athlete with quality ball skills, and he offers a well-rounded skillset in coverage and run support. I like Kelly quite a bit as a third safety that can do a bit of everything, and he’s a very good player on kick coverage as well. In the early Day 3 range, he’d be an interesting choice to shore up Atlanta’s depth—and he offers some flexibility to play CB, too.

NICK NELSON, CB, Wisconsin

If the Falcons are looking for a player that can come in and immediately shore up the CB depth—and possibly compete with Brian Poole for the nickel spot in the future—Nick Nelson looks like a solid choice early on Day 3. He primarily played on the outside at Wisconsin, but he’s a little lacking in length for that role in the NFL (5’11, 208). Nelson has an interesting state line, as he piled up pass deflections but never caught an interception. He’s a solid athlete and has proven ability in coverage, but his ceiling is limited and he’s never going to “wow” you as a starter.


If you’re looking for an ultra-athletic and rangy free safety prospect that could compete with Ricardo Allen for the starting FS role in the future, Armani Watts could be your guy. He’s a bit bigger than Allen (5’11, 205), but he’s not quite the tackler that Allen is. Watts has great ball skills and sky-high potential in coverage, but his aggressive style also tends to give up big plays. He’ll likely demand a Day 2 pick, but with a year to learn behind Allen and clean up his tackling, Watts could develop into a high-level starter at FS.

ISAAC YIADOM, CB, Boston College

Another long CB (6’1, 190) that can play both outside and in the slot, Isaac Yiadom looks like an ideal fit in Quinn’s defense. He’s a physical corner that excels in man coverage, but is also athletic enough to survive in zone. His coverage technique needs refinement, but Yiadom is a demon on special teams and is strong enough to be an asset in run defense. In the late Day 2 range, Yiadom could seize the CB4 role immediately and continue to develop while being a cornerstone on special teams.

What are your thoughts on the Falcons adding a CB or S in the 2018 NFL Draft? In what round would you begin targeting prospects? Who are some of your favorite players in this class?