Thursday the defensive backs hopped on the field to run, jump, catch, dip and jive for NFL scouts and team personnel. Like every year at the NFL Scouting Combine, certain prospects left Lucas Oil Stadium with some freshly elevated stock.
Already a consensus high tier prospect, Brian Branch, handled himself accordingly. The University of Alabama Safety showed up and showed out, with a combine performance that could have been mistaken for a teaching tape. The Alabama star continued to shine bright in Indianapolis.
YES an unreal day by Branch he looked smooth calm and under control in every drill. Looked like a WIDE RECEIVER catching the ball #nflcombine #nfldraft https://t.co/9GXxD3LIIP— Will Walsh (@Will_Walsh_NFL) March 4, 2023
Following in the footsteps of, and not far behind, Branch’s superb workout was Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez. Gonzalez did a good deal to help himself in Thursday’s workouts, receiving audible praise from coaches throughout his reps. The cornerback was a fluid athlete on the field. His movements all came effortlessly, with a grace, and ease. He showed some of the best ball skills in his group, while his natural athleticism and comfort in positional drills was on full display for the NFL world to observe.
A notable name who wasn’t able to boost his stock quite as much as Branch or Gonzalez is Julius Brents.
Julius Brents has had a good day but it hasnt been great. When I spoke with him at the #seniorbowl he talked about his versatility combined with his size making him the best cb in this #draft his outing td puts him more as a guy who may HAVE to win with size #nfldraft #nflcombine— Will Walsh (@Will_Walsh_NFL) March 3, 2023
Brents will always be big, his size is undeniable. Standing at six feet three inches, he is a long corner with great length. Brents’ best opportunity to raise his stock through the draft process is going to be by proving that he has the capability to be a quality corner, height and size notwithstanding. Instead of cementing that hope as a reality, Brents showed the more likely reality is that he will need to win his matchups with size and length at the NFL level. During Senior Bowl week Brents struggled occasionally with players turning him around in space and forcing him to run with them. In drills on Thursday, Brents had difficulties, at times, with his ability to sink and turn his hips. The long corner out of Kansas State did impress with an explosive broad jump but he looked stiff in some of the positional drills, a trait that can be common to larger corners. Day two was not an unforgiveable stock-dropping disappointment for Brents, however, showing that he can play a nimble man’s game, like some of his more diminutive peers, was an opportunity to raise his draft stock that was missed.
Pro days will be the next chance each of these players will have to make an impression on their potential future teams.
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