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Sometimes with dynasty leagues, the idea of ranking rookie defensive backs is quite silly. More often than not, it is the opportunity that decides their value. NFL teams that have great scoring offenses usually give defensive backs morepryor2 chances to make plays as the other team is playing behind and will be less conservative with the pigskin. This is my top ten pre-draft assessments of the defensive backs by talent and football IQ.

1.Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

This safety is the hardest hitter in his class. He reads the field well with excellent vision and gets himself in the best spot to make plays. Pryor uses his physicality and seems to be a bit of a head hunter. He isn’t smooth in coverage and can fall for multiple move fakes. If Pryor ends up with a team that has weak linebackers, he might lead his team in tackles.

2. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

If you want a big play safety, he is your man. Clinton-Dix can cover, close, and ball hawk when necessary. He is very aggressive and has good instincts in finding where the ball is going. The safety has impressive hops and soft hands, but can be fooled at times because he over-reacts so much.

3. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

He might be the best athletic defensive back in his class.  Gilbert has light feet, is very fluid, flips his hips quickly, and adjusts well to the ball in the air.  The corner sees the field well when playing corner and when returning the ball.  He sometimes gets too physical in coverage. I would expect Gilbert to start from day one and return the ball immediately.

4. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

He is short, 5’ 9”, but is an excellent slot matchup corner as he is smooth and quick enough to handle the receivers lined up there. Verrett isn’t the most physical corner, but has the ball skills and flexibility to cover one on one. He is also a good special teams player.

5. Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State

Joyner is also one of the smaller defensive backs at 5’ 8”, but he plays much bigger which has to do with his running back mentality. He accelerates quickly, has great vision seeing how plays develop, and uses this skill returning the ball on special teams too.

6. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

The safety is a hard hitter and has a great deal of football intelligence. He has great balance, lateral agility, good vision, and covers well. Ward’s speed is a little slow and he does get knocked around by bigger, physical receivers. He looked great at the senior Bowl practices despite being a little raw to play in the NFL.

7. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

He is a big, physical hard hitter who forces fumbles by big hits and pries the pigskin away from ball carriers. Bucannon also impressed during the Senior Bowl practices. The safety isn’t the most fluid athlete and he can get caught up in double moves when covering.

8. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

He is the most physical of all the corners in his class. If he can get away with it, Dennard leans into whomever he is covering man on man. The corner is patient and contorts his body to the ball with fluidity while using great vision to be in the best spot to defend or take the ball away. Dennard plays the run aggressively as well.

9. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, S/CB, Nebraska

The big defensive back is 6’ 3” 218 lbs., is not as physical as his size would suggest. Jean-Baptiste uses his frame to knock down passes and get between the receiver and the ball. He changes directions quickly and likes to cause turnovers. Jean-Baptiste, a former wide out, is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

10. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

This corner has a lot of off-field issues, so that is why I knocked him down a bit. He is very fast and fluid, but is not the most consistent player. Roby got smoked by Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, but had solid games against better Big ten receivers.

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