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Recruiting class of 2016 position analysis: Defensive backs

Get the latest on the top defensive back recruits in the class of 2016, including Saivion Smith, Brandon Jones and more.

The race to National Signing Day has begun. Sports Illustrated and have partnered to provide complete coverage of college football recruiting. has been rolling out breakdowns of the top-ranked players at each position. Today, we’re looking at defensive backs. Check out our previous breakdowns of quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends, defensive ends, athletes, defensive tackles, and linebackers. Follow along daily with conference-by-conference recruiting shows featuring analysis, breaking news, prospect breakdowns and much more, all leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 3.

1. Saivion Smith

High school: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 183 lbs
National rank: 12
Status: committed to LSU scouting report: “Smith is how you want your cornerbacks to look. Over 6-feet tall, great length, loose in the hips, and a little confidence. Very fluid athlete who has played multiple skill positions in high school. Ball skills are a real strength and has shown very good anticipation in coverage. Always looks to make a play on the ball. Plays with his eyes open. Good, quick burst, elite in short space, and excellent recovery ability.”

The latest: Two days after Les Miles’s job status was reaffirmed following LSU’s win over Texas A&M, the head coach headed to Smith’s house to reassure his top committed prospect. Smith committed to LSU in February but took an official visit to Alabama earlier in December. There’s little reason for Tigers fans to worry, though, as Smith has been active recruiting his IMG Academy teammates for LSU.

2. Levonta Taylor

High school: Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 183 lbs
National rank: 13
Status: committed to Florida State

Five recruiting storylines to know as 2016 cycle begins winding to close scouting report: “Taylor is comfortable in his backpedal, and drives well on the ball in front of him. He understands different defensive concepts and does a nice job tracking the ball. He offsets his size with very good technique, and he has the speed to cover down the field and he also changes direction well. Taylor will get more physical and better with his jams as he matures and gets stronger. His ability in short space is very good.”

The latest: Taylor committed to the Seminoles in April and has shown no signs of wavering. He’ll head to the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2.

3. Brandon Jones

High school: Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190 lbs
National rank: 20
Status: uncommitted scouting report: “It's no secret as to why colleges want Jones. He can tackle, cover ground and at times make the big play in the pass game or in run support. On tape, he shows a wide array of skills. He is very aware and has a physically imposing presence. He plays under control, limiting mistakes. That shows great poise. He chews up a lot of ground, whether it is coming down hill to make a tackle in run support or covering laterally to help make a tackle.”

The latest: With Texas and Texas A&M locked in a battle for Jones, his recruitment will be one of the most-watched in the run up to Signing Day. Jones took official visits to Ole Miss on Nov. 20 and Texas A&M on Dec. 11 and has officials set up with the Longhorns on Jan. 15 and Auburn on Jan. 29. He plans to wait until Signing Day before making a commitment.

4. Nigel Warrior

High school: Peachtree Ridge (Suwanee, Ga.)
Height/Weight: 5’11.5”, 184 lbs
National rank: 21
Status: uncommitted scouting report: “Warrior is about making a play on the ball. He is a defensive back best suited for free safety. Really tracks the ball well and his hands help him turn the ball over to his offense. Not a lot of wasted movement by Warrior. Really takes good angles, plays within himself, plays under control, and seems to put himself in the right position much more than not. Solid tackler. Very good all around skill-set with instincts.”

The latest: Warrior took an official visit to Ohio State on Nov. 21 and has officials set up for LSU on Jan. 15 and Alabama on Jan. 22. But Tennessee gets the last crack at impressing him before Signing Day with a Jan. 29 trip to Knoxville. Georgia is also in the mix, but its primary recruiting duo for Warrior—Jeremy Pruitt and Thomas Brown—both left for other jobs.

5. Eric Monroe

High school: North Shore (Galena Park, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 180 lbs
National rank: 44
Status: committed to LSU scouting report: “Monroe is a very talented defensive back with a wide range of skills. He has the hips and agility of a cornerback prospect and the size of a safety. It is this blend of skill set that makes him special. He can cover the best wide receivers, but he can also use his size when coming up to lay the pads on an opposing ball carrier. It is still to be determined what exactly he'll play when he gets to college, but best guess he will fill out to safety.”

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The latest: Monroe helped lead North Shore to the Texas 6A-DI state championship with a 21–14 overtime win over Westlake. He committed to LSU in June and has taken several unofficial visits to campus since but will take an official visit to Texas A&M on Jan. 22.

6. Kristian Fulton

High school: Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, La.)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 172 lbs
National rank: 47
Status: uncommitted scouting report: “Fulton does so many things well. When you are grading a top cornerback, he has checks in most, if not all the boxes. Has shown the ability to play on and off coverage. Has good short-space quickness at the line of scrimmage. His reaction is good to quick wideouts and his recovery speed is a real strength. Good frame with the ability to play physical. Solid tackler in one-on-one situations. Ball skills are a real plus.”

The latest: LSU is the favorite for Fulton, setting the Tigers up for a lethal pairing of him and Smith. Fulton’s proximity to the Tigers has allowed him to take several unofficial visits to Baton Rouge, but Arkansas will host him for an official visit on Jan. 22. Other official visits are expected, too, possibly to Miami or Florida, and Fulton is expected to announce his decision on Signing Day.

7. Trayvon Mullen

High school: Coconut Creek (Coconut Creek, Fla.)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 lbs
National rank: 48
Status: uncommitted scouting report: “Defensive backs with length are always in demand and at 6’2”, Mullen is one of the biggest. Has long arms and while a little lean today, his frame is capable of carrying plenty of weight. Explosive out of his breaks, it is his ability to flip his hips that is his calling card. Size gives him ability to match-up with the taller wide receivers in the red-zone.”

The latest: LSU and Florida State are the favorites to land Mullen, but he also took official visits to TCU on Nov. 27 and Louisville on Dec. 12. Mullen took an official visit to Florida State on Dec. 4. The Cardinals could have an edge from Mullen’s family ties to the program; quarterback Lamar Jackson is his cousin.

8. Deontay Anderson

High school: Manvel (Manvel, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’0.5”, 202 lbs
National rank: 53
Status: uncommitted

Year in review: Top 10 moments of 2015; 10 bold predictions for 2016 scouting report: “Anderson is well put together and a tremendous athlete at the safety position. He is able to stop and start quickly, giving him a good break on the ball to defend passes as well as the ability to come up quickly in run support. He is one of the players who just seems to have a nose for the football. He is often in the right place at the right time. Plays under control and moves with direct intent. Well tested against top-level competition.”

The latest: Anderson released his top five in August of LSU, Ole Miss, Texas, Texas A&M and USC. He took his first official visit to the Rebels on Oct. 10 but will give LSU the last shot to sway him with a Jan. 30 official visit.

9. Jared Mayden

High school: Sachse (Sachse, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs
National rank: 55
Status: committed to Oregon scouting report: “He uses his size, strength and speed to get off of blocks and contain. In coverage he is not afraid to come up to the line of scrimmage and get physical with receivers. Those two quick descriptions of his game would paint the picture that he is more of a power player, but he is also a finesse corner in a way. He has a quick backpedal and solid footwork, is good in space, and shows a quick break on the ball transitioning out of his backpedal.”

The latest: Mayden originally committed to Oregon in July but took official visits in September to Michigan and Georgia. However, he reconfirmed his pledge to the Ducks after an official visit in October. Mayden should have little trouble keeping up with the fastest receivers given his 4.36 40-yard dash time.

10. David Long

High school: Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 175 lbs
National rank: 65
Status: uncommitted scouting report: “Long is a two-way player who emerged this past spring as an elite cover corner. Has all the physical tools you could want in a next level DB including size, quickness, top end speed, instincts and toughness. He's a smart player with a high understanding of how to play the game and always competes at a high level. He's smooth in his backpedal, shows explosiveness getting in and out of his breaks and has excellent recovery speed as well.”

The latest: Long committed to Stanford in August but backed off that pledge on Dec. 18. Now Washington and Michigan appear to be the favorites. The Wolverines hosted Long on Oct. 17, and the Huskies will bring him in for an official visit on Jan. 15. Long is taking a trip to Italy at the end of January and could commit right before leaving.