Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter will take a position-by-position look at prospects with the most to prove at this year's NFL Scouting Combine (March 3-6 on NFL Network) leading up to the event, continuing today with defensive backs.
NOTE: Click on each player's name for a full combine scouting report.
The depth in this year's defensive back class is so strong that a dozen cornerbacks and safeties might be taken in the top 50 selections. The strong depth at a position means there will be great competition at the combine, as the top prospects attempt to separate themselves with any slight advantage they can find. For example, defensive backs spend weeks before the event working on their hip turn, in addition to lowering their 40-yard-dash times, to impress general managers and coaches in the Lucas Oil Stadium stands.
Even though the five defensive backs listed below are all very talented, they each have issues that they need to address through their work at the combine. Whether or not they meet expectations during athleticism testing will determine how early they are drafted.
Dates: Feb. 28-March 6
TV: NFL Network
Jackson's lack of size is going to be a problem for NFL teams looking for a starting outside corner. Listed at 5-foot-11, 188 pounds by the school this fall, Jackson is expected to fall short of those figures when he's measured at the combine. In order for teams to consider him as an elite nickel prospect worthy of a top-50 selection, his athleticism testing needs to be outstanding. If he's not elite in his speed and agility, it could cost him considerable draft position.
Size is also an issue for Baker, who is listed at 5-10, 192 pounds by his former school. He's been a difference-maker for the Huskies since arriving on campus and deserves first-round consideration, but he'll be fighting an uphill battle if he measures less than 5-10. Even if he hits the 5-10 mark that many teams feel is the minimum height for a starting safety, Baker must be outstanding in all drills to quiet doubters. The question isn't about whether Baker will be a starter (the answer is yes), but rather if he can convince a team to look past their position size requirements early in the draft.
Some believe Wilson is just as good a pro prospect as his more heralded teammate, Teez Tabor. Wilson certainly has the tall, athletic build teams prefer in the back half, and his length will come in handy against tall, quick NFL receivers. His best position is a question mark, though, for some scouts, as Wilson's pure foot quickness and hip fluidity can be an issue against better route-runners. Defensive back drills at the combine can expose weaknesses in those areas -- or alleviate any concerns. Expect scouts to be paying close attention to Wilson's movement skills throughout his workout.
King's story is similar to Wilson's, as teams are split as to King's best position at the next level. It's not a matter of whether King will play in the NFL, but rather if his average height and hip turn make him a better fit at safety or cornerback. King won't get a chance to show off his impressive physicality during the combine, but testing well in the 40 and agility drills can help answer some questions about his potential as an outside defender.
Two years ago, a UConn defender who was already ascending exploded at the combine, landing in the first round. Melifonwu looks to follow in Dallas Cowboys starting safety Byron Jones' footsteps, building on an excellent Senior Bowl week to fight for the No. 3 safety spot in the class. He's a monster of a defensive back at 6-4, 219 pounds, and flashes the speed and tenacity to attack the sideline and backfield. I suspect his straight-line speed and short-area quickness numbers will be among the best for taller, thicker defensive backs in the class, requiring teams to assess whether they should rate him a late first-round value.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.
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