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03-24-2009, 04:30 PM
Body control, footwork, balance and flexibility are at least as important as straight-line speed when evaluating CBs.

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03-25-2009, 03:04 AM
Behind the times: Cornerback three-cone drill

By National Football Post (http://us.lrd.yahoo.com/_ylt=AtEYNAdq4lYgSxYWypvl.pQZc9AF/SIG=1386tg552/**http%3A//www.nationalfootballpost.com/%3Futm_source=yahoo%26utm_medium=article%26utm_cam paign=content)) 10 hours, 48 minutes ago

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Every year thereís a highly rated cornerback prospect who slips down NFL draft boards after his postseason workouts simply because his lack of 40-yard dash speed. Typically, once a cornerbackís lack of speed becomes exposed, he almost always gets tossed into the ďtweenerĒ category, also known as a hybrid cornerback/safety prospect. NFL officials always seem to struggle with what to make of these possible hybrid cornerback/safety prospects when trying to figure out if the player is more likely to become the NFLís next Nnamdi Asomugha (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/6367/;_ylt=AuiSXQZWQ4FjO54f6t1b_jIZc9AF) or Antrel Rolle (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/7184/;_ylt=An8sv__0G8DF8uQNYN3vGvEZc9AF). This draft season alone, the nationís top cornerback prospect, Malcolm Jenkins, is now being viewed as a free safety/cornerback tweener because of his lacking 40 time (4.51) at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

When evaluating the cornerback position itís always important for that prospect to feature good straight-line speed. However, there have been plenty of NFL corners that lacked elite speed who have found ways to be successful in the NFL. The cornerback position is all about body control, footwork, balance and flexibility which in turn, allow corners to more consistently close on the ball out of their breaks. With that said, itís bothersome that there is so much stock put into the 40-yard dash for cornerbacks, since itís rare NFL corners are asked to simply cover receivers in a straight-line. However, one test that does a good job measuring if a prospect can bend, pivot, drop his weight and play with balance is the three-cone drill.

http://www.chiefscrowd.com/forums/images/imported/2009/03/121.jpg Flowers (No. 24) had both of his picks against Brett Favre (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/1025/;_ylt=Aub2xj0B7LoNSLWis8Kp0fgZc9AF) (lower right).
(The Star-Ledger/US Presswire)

The three-cone drill seems to be a much better measuring stick for corners then any other drill at the combine (even the 40-yard dash). To illustrate this point, letís take a look at two similar cornerback prospects from last yearís draft. The first is Virginia Tech product, Brandon Flowers (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/8812/;_ylt=AvDZo6rkJoqba9O4ovd_qk4Zc9AF), a 5-foot-10, 189-pound corner who clocked in with a very average 4.55 40, but impressed scouts with a 6.72-second three-cone drill. The second prospect is Justin King (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/8878/;_ylt=AsF3S9qBnZrq4wXJoqWjt.QZc9AF) from Penn State. King, a 5-11, 192-pounder ran a blistering 4.31 40-time. However, he also ran one of the slower three-cone drills at the combine among cornerbacks at 7.14 seconds. The significant difference (.42 seconds) of the two times displays a dramatic advantage in body control, balance and change-of-direction skills for Flowers, a trait far more valuable to the CB position then straight-line speed.

Now there are other factors that go into an equation like this, but the facts are that Flowers ended up being the 35th overall pick in 2008 draft and started 13 games for the Kansas City Chiefs (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/teams/kan/;_ylt=Am8Ya5w2qH7fNr49EDs5bYgZc9AF). As a rookie Flowers had 69 tackles, two interceptions and defended 13 passes. King, on the other hand, slid all the way down into the fourth round, (101st overall) and was out the entire season because of a toe injury. Again, both players were only rookies during the 2008 season and each corner still has a lot of time to develop. However, the significant advantage in body control, balance and change-of-direction skills that Flowers possesses over King not only helped him get drafted higher, but from an evaluation standpoint, I fully expect those traits to help Flowers have a much more successful career in the NFL then King.

To put the three-cone drill times into perspective, we broke down some of this yearís top cornerback prospects in order to give you a better idea of what corners have NFL-worthy body control and balance and what prospects will struggle playing to their listed 40 time. But before we get into that, I constructed a range of three-cone drill times used for the CB position only, in order to put each time into context.

Great three-cone drill times (6.60 seconds and below)
Carlos Rogers (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/7185/;_ylt=Aq95D_MXqpXmZ2cCXSOLsx8Zc9AF): Redskins (6.48)
Darrelle Revis (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/8268/;_ylt=AoEjIILVVFwUglWx1ZUI0KMZc9AF): Jets (6.56)

Good three-cone drill times (6.61-6.89)
Marcus Trufant (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/6347/;_ylt=Ai5.ScR0iH6Hw_Qqs5lkhF4Zc9AF): Seahawks (6.87)
Terence Newman (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/6341/;_ylt=Aur_GN2eSNCT5Zf0mtwKNJoZc9AF): Cowboys (6.88)

Average three-cone drill times (6.90-7.05)
Chris Houston (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/8295/;_ylt=AjGLX42KQfxnt.Utj9_0vUEZc9AF): Falcons (6.94)
Sheldon Brown (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/5945/;_ylt=Ajpm0cx8Bmm_vEnMREXoSF4Zc9AF): Eagles (7.00)

Below average three-cone drill times (7.06 and above)
Dreí Bly (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/4690/;_ylt=AtD92QPqUTNcvPaJ.ho5YtcZc9AF): Free Agent (7.10)
Mike Jenkins (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/8802/;_ylt=AgsKNIJ5nkLWTgirGM9ByboZc9AF): Cowboys (7.21)

With an eye toward the 2009 draft class, we now rank some of the nationís top cornerbacks according to their three-cone drill and break down what each times means.

http://www.chiefscrowd.com/forums/images/imported/2009/03/122.jpg Malcolm Jenkins
(Darron Cummings/AP Photo)

1. Malcolm Jenkins: Ohio State (6-0, 204) (Three-cone drill: 6.59)
So much has been made about Jenkinsí lack of top end speed. However, he displays the balance, footwork and quickness to always make a play on the ball. Jenkins plays much faster than his 40 time (4.51) would indicate and his impressive three-cone drill is a direct result of that. I still feel Jenkins is too talented of a cover man to move to safety and this three-cone type quickness consistently shows up on film.

2. Sherrod Martin: Troy (6-1, 198) (Three-cone drill: 6.60)
No wonder so many NFL teams are looking at Martin as a cornerback prospect. Not only did he prove at the combine that he has the speed to run with receivers down the field, but he was also one of the most fluid and graceful defensive backs during position drills. I still think Martin has the makings of a ball-hawking free safety at the next level, but his three-cone time proves he also has the foot speed and body control to be successful at corner as well.

3. Vontae Davis: Illinois (5-11, 203) (Three-cone drill: 6.75)
Davis not only displays the deep speed to turn and run with receivers down the field, but also has the balance and body control to explode out of his breaks. He plays just as fast and quick as all his times would indicate. However, my only concern is his lacking technique, which could cause him to never develop into the player his physical skill set would lead you to believe.

4. Sean Smith: Utah (6-4, 214) (Three-cone drill: 6.92)
It isnít often you find a defensive back of Smithís size that can not only run in the high 4.4 range, but also flip and bend like a corner thatís 5-10. Smith possesses rare hips and flexibility for a guy his height and isnít simply a strider. He has the ability to be successful both as a corner or safety and should bring a team a lot of versatility and upside in the secondary.

5. Darius Butler: Connecticut (5-11, 183) (Three-cone drill: 6.92)
Butler does a great job exploding in and out of his breaks and gets up to speed very quickly. He does a nice job always staying low in his backpedal and possesses the balance to consistently break on the football. Butler is one of the few corners who actually plays as fast as his 40 time would indicate. This is due largely in part because of his short-area quickness and body control, two traits that definitely jump out at you during his three-cone drill.

The National Football Post