The final position group to arrive in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine is the defensive backs, who will be measured on Saturday ahead of their workouts on Monday. The DB group is particularly interesting as it pertains to the Seattle Seahawks.
Their strict thresholds at cornerback will finally allow us to narrow down the position, some six weeks since the college All-Star games began. Free safety, meanwhile, is the most important spot on Pete Carroll’s defense, and is about to be vacated after nine Hall of Fame-level seasons from Earl Thomas. Seattle, and Carroll specifically, will have their eyes closely focused on the defensive backs. Here’s what they’ll be looking for.
By now, Carroll and the Seahawks’ desire for length at cornerback is common knowledge league wide. Arms 32” or longer, and a frame typically between 195-205 pounds, standing 6-foot-1 and above. As far as explosiveness goes, prospects only need to be between the 60th and 70th percentile—around 35” in the vertical jump and 10’ in the broad jump. Functionality is all that’s sought after in the 40-yard dash as well, around a sub 4.5.
The focus athletically is more on change of direction (which makes sense given the physical demands of the position). A three cone quicker than 7.15 seconds and a short shuttle quicker than 4.3 seconds are sought after. For the most part, the best cornerbacks Seattle’s drafted since 2010 have been exceptional in the three cone (Richard Sherman at 6.72 seconds and Shaquill Griffin at 6.87, for example).
During the early years of Carroll and John Schneider’s team building, they were able to take their pick among the cornerbacks they wanted, in a market truly only occupied by them. But, as Carroll’s tree has spread and other teams have followed the Seahawks’ lead, the market has gotten more crowded. Thankfully, Carroll’s Hall of Fame résumé as a defensive back coach will always afford them a competitive advantage.
As is the case at cornerback, size is sought after at safety for Carroll and Seattle. Their height threshold isn’t strict, a player just can’t be deficient—5-foot-10 and up is the standard. Weight wise, however, the Seahawks want bigger bodied safeties, generally between 205 and 220 pounds (even Thomas, who added excellent weight during his career, was 208 pounds coming out).
Similarly to cornerback, elite explosiveness isn’t necessary: 32” in the vertical and 9’05” in the broad jump has typically been the threshold. The extremely explosive prospects have been the late round gambles, such as Ryan Murphy or Eric Pinkins. However, like cornerback, the emphasis is put on change of direction: Prospects with a three cone quicker than 7.1 seconds and a short shuttle quicker than 4.3 seconds will be targeted.
More wiggle room will be given to unique or rare prospects, as was the case with both Thomas and Kam Chancellor. With a lack of top-tier prospects at free safety in this year’s draft, Seattle will need a vintage draft from Schneider and Carroll to help replenish the All-Pro talent that has left in recent seasons.