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Senior Bowl
NFL Draft

Senior Bowl 2023 DB Primer: What You Need To Know

  • Ryan Fowler
  • January 16, 2023
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A group of high-impact talent primed to light up the showcase event, the pool of secondary prospects set to take the stage in Mobile for the Senior Bowl is an enticing one. We here at Draft Network will have you covered from every angle starting in a few weeks’ time live from the Senior Bowl. With less than a month until pads begin to crack during Senior Bowl practices, here is a deep dive into a loaded group of corners and safeties to keep an eye on.

Jakorian Bennett, Maryland

One of the top pure cover corners you probably haven’t heard of, Bennett was fantastic this fall for the Terps. He didn’t allow a single touchdown as the primary man in coverage in 406 coverage snaps, allowed a minuscule 44.4% reception percentage when targeted, and had two picks and seven pass break-ups. He isn’t the biggest guy in the world at 5-foot-10, but his footwork and clean technique put him in a spot to succeed on the outside.

Julius Brents, Kansas State

I think Brents will rise significantly after a week in Mobile. One of the longer corners in the class with arms expected to tease 33.5 inches, Brents uses his pterodactyl-like length to disrupt timing on the perimeter. A transfer from Iowa that spent his final two years of college ball with the Wildcats, he’s got excellent ball skills and a frame that will impress when scouts see him live.

Chamarri Conner, Virginia Tech

A game-changer in the secondary, Conner has 10 touchdowns to his name as a guy that isn’t afraid to make plays at whatever alignment he finds himself at. A physical tackler as well, his willingness to stick his face in the mud will shine during team drills. He also offers some value on special teams. 

Anthony Johnson, Virginia

Impressively built at more than 200 pounds, aligning opposite of the top pass-catchers in the country in Mobile will provide a clear window into his immediate role on Sundays. Primarily aligned with the sideline to his left shoulder this year, I’m intrigued to see how he’ll work when forced into different alignments at different depths.

Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford

The jury remains out as to just how high Blu Kelly will go as there is a lot to like, but things that could cause teams to holster an early Day 2 pick on him. He’s long and physical and is comfortable in press-man due to outstanding footwork and make-up speed, but needs more reps in zone. Mobile will be huge for him.

Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama

The top cover man for the Jaguars, Luter Jr. has allowed just three touchdowns in three seasons. He’s got 33-inch arms, ideal change of direction skills, and will be a nice addition for a team in need of value at the roof and on special teams. 

Jartavius Martin, Illinois

A five-year impact player for the Illini, Martin and the loaded Illinois secondary was a fun watch this fall. The nickel corner for Brett Bielema’s defense, he’s comfortable working inside a phone booth. While he was picked on a ton this year (74 targets against), I like guys that are battle tested—and he only allowed a 55.6% receiving percentage against. 

Riley Moss, Iowa

A move to safety seems likely as he isn’t the most dynamic athlete in the world, but he’s got more than 1,400 coverage snaps under his belt in the Big Ten and will immediately offer value on special teams as well. He’s got excellent ball production (11 interceptions in five seasons) and his instincts will flash in seven-on-seven drills.

Darius Rush, South Carolina

A WR convert, Rush is a name rising on boards across the league. He looks the part at 6-foot-2, the ball skills pop off the screen, and he’s expected to test extremely well at the combine. He could rise significantly with a good Senior Bowl week.

Tyrique Stevenson, Miami

A transfer from Georgia, Stevenson took his lumps in spurts this fall but will be an excellent chess piece in a secondary down the line. He’ll have no issue if he’s asked to play in the box a ton at the next level—his physicality would shine. 

Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

Depending on who you talk to, Witherspoon could jump to CB1 in the class with a dominant performance against the litany of high-octane talents set to compete in Mobile. Some fine-tuning is needed as a pure cover corner, but he’s got everything you look for as someone that you could ask to shut down a third of the football field.

Rejzohn Wright, Oregon State

You can watch the Utah game or flip on Boise State or Washington State, Wright was everywhere all campaign long. He’s a little bit of a ball of clay as far as where he best projects at the next level, but he’s explosive in the air and is a “my ball” type of athlete. I’m a fan of his game.

Jordan Battle, Alabama

Battle could have come out last year and been a top-100 pick, but opted to go back to school where he enjoyed another good year of ball. A willing tackler that can align anywhere, he’s extremely cerebral as a centerfield defender that can see it all. There are no hiccups in his game when he’s asked to come down into the box or play nickel. 

Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State

Brown does the little things well in the secondary, from maneuvering his way through blockers on a screen play to the flat to covering a vertical route only to have the instincts to come off and play the underneath man. He won’t blow you away with his physical intangibles, but his intelligence fuses ball production (10 interceptions the last two years) that will boost a secondary right away.

Sydney Brown, Illinois

A physical cover man that matches up best against tight ends and running backs in space, Brown shouldn’t be asked to play single-high a ton at the next level, but has the necessary movement skills to play down in the box if needed. His ball production popped off the screen this year (six interceptions and six pass break-ups) but he could be scheme-specific on Sundays.

DeMarcco Hellams, Alabama

He’ll be a tone-setter for a team in need of juice on defense. A superb defender when asked to trigger downhill, he has no issue adding bodies in the box to counter the run and has ideal size to match up downfield with ‘X’ wideouts in the NFL. He has five defensive touchdowns to his name in the last two seasons combined as well. 

Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa

You can tell Merriweather was a standout on the hardwood due to his elite athleticism in space and change of direction skills at full speed. Basketball aside, he looks to be the next standout secondary defender from Iowa (joining Moss) to enter the NFL. He has no issue making plays from depth and will be a core special teamer from day one. His hit in the hole against Northwestern in 2020 showcased his willingness to blow ball carriers off their feet as well.

Jammie Robinson, Florida State

He won’t win any size contests, but Robinson remains one of my favorite safeties in the class. He’s rarely out of position, always in attack mode, and is a sneaky good blitzer when asked to push the pocket. 

Daniel Scott, California

Despite being a member of the Cal program since 2017, Scott has only begun to come into his own the last two seasons. The Senior Bowl will be a great test for him as he’s someone who constantly finds himself around the football. 

JL Skinner, Boise State

It won’t be hard to find Skinner, as his 6-foot-4 verified frame showcases one of the bigger safeties in this year’s class. While he won’t be asked to play a ton of man on perimeter pass-catchers at the next level, one-on-ones will be big for him as I’m looking for quickness in his lower half against more fluid route-runners. He should showcase extremely well in game action, where his knack for blowing up the run game shined on the blue turf at Boise this year. 

Christopher Smith, Georgia

One of the more well known names in the safety group, Smith could leave the Senior Bowl as a potential top-40 pick if all comes to fruition. There remain concerns on his length, but there’s something to be said about being a flat-out good football player, and Smith does so many things well at the roof. Like many safeties out of Athens, he plays a throwback brand of football that’ll make you tighten your chinstrap.

Jay Ward, LSU

I like Ward’s game a lot and think he’ll be a name we talk about even more coming out of Senior Bowl week. He played multiple spots extremely well and had moments on tape that made your eyes pop. Pound-for-pound, he may be the most physical defender in the class.

Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State

Like many players on this list, Hickman offers versatility at a variety of spots. Where he shines most though is in man coverage where he’s able to mirror wideouts whether he’s in press-man or off the line of scrimmage. It seems like every year there’s an Ohio State corner that draws heavy interest and Hickman could be the guy this year. He has a lot to like as a nickel defender.

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Ryan Fowler