Bucky Brooks
Thursday February 21st, 2008

Here is the list of the top defensive backs. This list was compiled through a series of conversations with scouts and through game tape evaluations.

1. Leodis McKelvin, Troy, CB: The small-school standout has all of the tools to become an elite corner on the next level. As a talented athlete with exceptional speed, quickness and footwork, McKelvin excels in man coverage from press or off. He displays great natural instincts, and has a feel for route recognition. Although he often fails to come down with the interception, McKelvin's penchant for getting his hands on the ball is impressive. Additionally, McKelvin brings outstanding return skills to the position. As a punt returner, he averaged over 17 yards per return as a senior and had seven career return touchdowns. With such an impressive array of skills, it is not surprising that McKelvin ranks as the top defensive back in the draft.

2. Mike Jenkins, South Florida, CB: Jenkins is an athletic cover corner with good speed, quickness and movement skills. The All-America is not a polished technician, but excels in man coverage due to great instincts and awareness. He shows good ball skills and flashes an explosive closing burst. Jenkins finished the season with three interceptions, and recorded 27 breakups over the past two seasons. Scouts love his competitiveness and envision him developing into a solid starter as a pro. Jenkins also brings return value, as he averaged over 30 yards on seven kick returns and scored one touchdown. Jenkins ranks second on most draft boards, but could push McKelvin as the top corner with an impressive showing at the combine.

3. Aqib Talib, Kansas, CB: The Jayhawks' superstar corner is an impact playmaker with outstanding ball skills. The consensus All-America selection tallied 13 interceptions during his three-year career and contributed as a receiver this season (recording eight receptions for 182 yards with four scores). The multi-talented Talib is a rare cover corner with the skills to excel in a man or zone scheme. Scouts love his playmaking ability and natural instincts, but have reservations about his top-end speed. Regardless, Talib ranks as a top 15 player and could be valued higher by a team that runs a heavy amount of zone coverage.

4. Kenny Phillips, Miami, S: The top safety available has excellent size, speed and athleticism. As a banger with surprising ball skills and range, Phillips is a prototypical player at the position. Though scouts would like to see more impact plays from Phillips, there is no doubt that he has the talent to develop into a top-tier safety at the next level. Therefore, expect Phillips to come off the board in the mid-to-late portion of round one.

5. Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech, CB: A polished corner with great technique and skills. The Hokie standout is ideally suited to be a Cover 2 corner, but has the size and athleticism to be effective in a press-man scheme. His length and aggressiveness make him difficult to get past at the line, and receivers struggle getting free from his jams. Though scouts question his speed, Flowers rarely finds himself in poor position down the field. If he can run a better-than-anticipated 40, Flowers could vault into the bottom of the first round.

6. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennessee State, CB: Rodgers-Cromartie is a great athlete with outstanding speed, quickness and cover skills. The small-school All-America shows outstanding promise and potential as a press-man corner. His exceptional length gives him an advantage at the line, and he flashes enough body control to shadow from a trail position. Not only does Rodgers-Cromartie excel in press coverage, he flashes the footwork and athleticism to develop into a solid cover player from a few yards off. His ability to guard the top receivers in the Senior Bowl alleviated scouts' concerns about his ability to handle a jump in competition. Expect Rodgers-Cromartie to come off the board at the top of the second round.

7. Tracey Porter, Indiana, CB: The All-Big Ten selection has the talent to be the best corner on the board, but his finesse style of play turns off most scouts. His reluctance to be a physical player on the edge detracts from his outstanding skill set. Blessed with explosive speed, quickness and movement skills, Porter is capable of being a lockdown corner. Plus, he is an excellent punt returner. If Porter can answer questions about his toughness and dazzle scouts with his athleticism during the workout, he may make a late surge up draft boards to the middle of the second round.

8. Chevis Jackson, LSU, CB: Jackson is an experienced player who plays with great savvy and technique. As a four-year starter, Jackson used that experience to his advantage in coverage. He has a great feel for route recognition and isn't easily fooled by double moves. Despite his consistent tight coverage, scouts still question his recovery speed and burst. Thus, Jackson needs a strong showing at the combine to dismiss the concerns and maintain his ranking as one of the top players at the position. Regardless, Jackson is the most underrated corner prospect on the board and will outplay his draft status if put in the right system.

9. Reggie Smith, Oklahoma, CB/S: The All-Big 12 selection has a nice blend of quickness and athleticism. Although he lacks elite speed, Smith displays good cover skills and an explosive closing burst. He drives quickly on routes, and flashes good ball skills in coverage. Smith has some position flexibility (having spent two seasons at strong safety before moving to corner in 2007) and may have a greater impact as a pro at safety. Plus, he brings value as a punt returner. Look for Smith to be selected near the end of the second round as a potential safety prospect.

10. Antoine Cason, Arizona, CB: The two-time All-Pac-10 corner has excellent ball skills and awareness. Best described as a Cover 2 corner, Cason has a knack for keying on three-step drops and jumping short routes. His penchant for gambling has resulted in 15 career interceptions -- including three returned for scores -- and 32 breakups. But some scouts have reservations about his speed and his ability to hold up in a system other than the Wildcats' blitz-happy scheme. Though the speed question is warranted, Cason's penchant for game-changing plays is the result of his outstanding instincts, not the Arizona's high-pressure defense. Expect Cason to come off the board at the end of the second round.

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