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2024 Senior Bowl Preview: Defensive Backs

The 2024 Senior Bowl is rapidly approaching, and over 100 prospects have the most extensive on-field interviews of their careers. Once again, the Senior Bowl has a multiteam coaching setup, so these prospects must adapt quickly. Who will rise to the top and claim their place as early-round draft selections? Which prospects have a chance to improve their stock as sleepers? We’ll be looking at each position by the team they were assigned to in most cases. The secondary gets their turn in the preview tour.

If you missed the previous positional previews, you can find them below

Fanfield.io

Quarterback

Running Back

Wide Receiver

Offensive Line

Defensive Line

American

Cornerback

1. Kris Abrams-Draine | 5’11 173 | Missouri

2. Jarvis Brownlee, Jr | 5’10 175 | Louisville

3. Caelen Carson | 5’11 199 | Wake Forest

4. D.J. James | 5’10 169 | Auburn

5. Elijah Jones | 6’1 181 | Boston College

6. Andru Phillips | 5’10 183 | Kentucky

7. Nehemiah Pritchett | 6’0 183 | Auburn

Big Names

DJ James

The Yellowhammer State native returned home in 2022 after spending three years on the West Coast in Eugene. James broke out as a sophomore for a talented Ducks secondary, earning significant playing time. He then transferred to Auburn, blossoming into a big-time starter in the SEC. He’s seen a lot of things during his playing career; thus, he has honed in his plus instincts and has the physicality to back it up. A solid athlete who can turn and run with just about any receiver and has good closing speed. His last two years on the Plains were very consistent in production. He posted 75 tackles, 18 passes defended, and three interceptions. He could elevate his stock into the Day 2 range with a good week. James finished as the 42nd-best CB with an overall score of 83.9.

Jarvis Brownlee, Jr

Brownlee transferred to Louisville after a tumultuous time in Tallahassee, including being involved in that ghastly last-second loss to Jacksonville State. Fortunately, he thrived for the Cardinals, earning a grade of 77.9 from PFF as a senior. He’s not the fastest athlete at the position, but the demeanor to get physical with a receiver exists. He exudes confidence in his ability to get the job done. He’s mainly an outside corner by trade, but he does have experience playing safety and in the slot. Teams will love his versatility. He needs a big week to recover some stock as he suffered a downturn in productivity from his junior season. Bigger receivers like Johnny Wilson have proven to outmuscle him on occasion.

Top Prospect

Kris Abrams-Draine

KAD was a three-year starter for the Tigers’ defense, primarily lining up as an outside corner, but was also used in the slot. He has the physical tools to stick on the perimeter, such as arm length, fluidity, and footwork. Ball production was immense as he logged 136 tackles, seven interceptions, and 34 PBUs in three seasons. His athleticism is above average for the position, and his instincts are top-tier for the class. Teams will love his versatility and ball skills. He’s just an excellent ball player. He has the potential to be a top-five player at his position when the rankings come out. PFF graded him as a top-30 corner with an overall score of 85.8.

Sleepers

Elijah Jones

Jones performed well at the Hula Bowl and earned the invite to Mobile. He’s a solid athlete who should test well and has good ball skills. A solid tackler as well and unafraid of any challenge. He has the height, length, and weight to counter bigger receivers. If he can have a good week, the stock will go up. The former BC defensive back was graded as the 24th-best corner in the class, with an overall score of 86.4.

Andru Phillips

Kentucky has a bevy of talented defenders, and Phillips is one of them. He’s well-schooled in the fundamentals and is a physical tackler. Has the athletic tools to succeed at the next level. Ball production was nice for his two seasons as a starter. He improved on his junior numbers as a senior. A name to watch here in Mobile, that’s for sure.

Nehemiah Pritchett

Pritchett could’ve gone pro last season and become a high draft pick but chose to return to school in 2023. He formed a good cornerback duo with DJ James in two consecutive seasons and with Titans cornerback Roger McCreary in 2021 before that. The numbers are down from 2023, as he played only nine games. He’s a good athlete for the position, with the height and length to compete with any receiver. The former Tigers star hasn’t produced a lot of numbers, so he’ll need a solid week to recover stock.

Safety

1. Beau Brade | 5’11 201 | Maryland

2. Javon Bullard | 5’11 195 | Georgia

3. Kamren Kinchens | 6’0 205 | Miami

4. Malik Mustapha | 5’9 214 | Wake Forest

5. Jaylin Simpson | 5’11 175 | Auburn

6. Tykee Smith | 5’9 204 | Georgia

Big Names

Javon Bullard & Tykee Smith

The Bulldogs duo was arguably the best safety combination in college football. Both defenders are well-disciplined and athletic enough to staff the position at the next level. They have plenty of experience between them. Smith was a transfer from West Virginia who missed all of 2021 due to injury. Interestingly, his numbers with the Mountaineers are similar to what he had at Georgia, so consistency isn’t an issue. He will need a solid week to keep the vibes going into the Combine. Bullard is a physical threat to ballcarriers on nearly every rep. He’s another DGD who improved upon his numbers as a two-year starter. It will be interesting to see how they differentiate themselves this week.

Top Prospects

Jaylin Simpson

Simpson might be the best safety prospect in the class. He’s a big-time athlete that should test well next month at the Combine. The versatile chess piece had reps at slot corner and both safety roles for a loaded Tigers’ secondary. He fills the checklist for an ideal big nickel in today’s league with length and speed. Lateral quickness is above average as well. He’s a willing tackler who sticks his nose in there. Ball production was consistent as a starter for the three seasons. He should have a good time against receivers in one-on-one drills this week. A Day 2 grade awaits.

Beau Brade

He is the latest Maryland defensive back trying to make his way into the league. He had two seasons of great production as well. He’s a physical, intuitive, and above-average athletic prospect. Production took a slight dip as a senior, but not to the point where it would affect his stock. He was lined up nearly everywhere for Maryland, including safety roles and inside + outside corners, so teams will love his versatility. If he can prove that he can hang against receivers this week, there will be little doubt that he’s a top-three safety.

Kamren Kinchens

Kinchens is another underclassman who got the invite after three incredible seasons that were consistent. He has primetime athleticism and could play corner in a pinch. The former Hurricane playmaker ended his career with 162 total tackles, 11 interceptions, and 11 PBUs, so his ball skills are evident. Lateral agility and speed are significant pluses of his game. Uber-athlete who’s just scratching the surface of his talents. If he has a good week, there’s a possibility that he gets drafted relatively high on Day 2.

Sleepers

Malik Mustapha

National

Cornerbacks

1. Johnny Dixon | 5’11 195 | Penn State

2. Willie Drew | 5’11 183 | Virginia State

3. Cam Hart | 6’2 194 | Notre Dame

4. Khyree Jackson | 6’3 195 | Oregon

5. Kalen King | 5’11 190 | Penn State

6. Max Melton | 5’11 194 | Rutgers

7. Quinyon Mitchell | 6’0 194 | Toledo

8. Chau Smith-Wade | 5’10 183 | Washington State

Big Names

Khyree Jackson & Cam Hart

Jackson transferred to Oregon from Alabama for more playing time and got loads of it in the PNW. He’s a bigger cornerback at 6’2, 203. He was used primarily as an outside corner for the Ducks and was challenged as a third-year player. He’s very physical at the line and aggressively dictates the tempo. Injuries were a consistent theme as he was in and out of the lineup at critical moments with minor stuff. With a solid week, he could boost his stock into the top ten at his position. Teams will love his size. Another corner with great size is Notre Dame’s Hart at 6’2 204. He’s a good athlete with length and quickness. PFF said he was almost exclusively an outside corner with 500 snaps there. He also needs a big week to elevate his stock further.

Top Prospect

Quinyon Mitchell

The former Toledo Rocket has had two consecutive seasons of gigantic ball production with 37 passes defended, six interceptions, and 82 tackles. PFF graded him as the top corner with an overall score of 91.5. An impressive athlete in every regard and with plus plus instincts. He’s laterally quick with good footwork and the size to compete with bigger receivers or accelerate against smaller receivers. When all is said and done, he may be a top 5 overall corner in this year’s class.

Sleepers

Willie Drew

The undersized school cornerback plied his trade at the Division II level and was a production monster. He posted 99 total tackles, 11 interceptions, and 39 PBUs (a whopping 22 in 2023). The cornerback could be the latest from a lower level to shine in Mobile and boost his stock as a late-round selection.

Max Melton

Melton is yet another big-time athlete at outside cornerback with exciting possibilities as a nickel at the next level. He’s not the first Melton at the Senior Bowl, as older brother Bo was in Mobile recently before heading to the league. He has excellent instincts and closes to the ball in a hurry with mean intentions. Lateral fluidity is a huge plus; he has ideal size and deep speed. He could see himself as a Day 2 / Early Day 3 prospect if he manages a great week.

Safety

1. Cole Bishop | 6’2 207 | Utah

2. Jaden Hicks | 6’3 209 | Washington State

3. Kitan Oladapo | 6’2 214 | Oregon State

4. Josh Proctor | 6’1 204 | Ohio State

5. Sione Vaki | 6’0 208 | Utah

6. Evan Williams | 5’11 205 | Oregon

Big Name

Evan Williams

Williams transferred to Oregon from Fresno State for his final collegiate season. He was generally productive throughout his career, posting two 80+ tackle seasons. Oregon deployed him in an almost equal timeshare as a free and box safety in 2023. He was inconsistent in coverage, frequently getting lost locating the receiver in the FS role. Ultimately, he proved to be a better box safety with fewer pass coverage assignments. Perhaps that’s his role at the next level as a dime linebacker or third safety. He’s the younger brother of former Duck safety Bennett, who was remarkably similar in play style.

Top Prospect

Cole Bishop

Bishop is another underclassman invited to Mobile from a program that usually develops great DB talents. He wasn’t as productive as a junior from his sophomore season. He was primarily aligned in the free safety role but had reps as a box safety in his repertoire. Three years of consistent production with 197 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three interceptions, and 12 pass deflections. Utah did a great job with him. He could go as high as the fourth round with a solid week.

Sleeper

Kitan Oladapo

It will be interesting to see how teams view him as a prospect since he was lined up everywhere in the secondary. PFF had him lined up in a near 50/50 split between slot corner and box safety. He’s an outstanding athlete who moves fluidly, no matter his role. He has the height and length to compete with every type of skill position player thrown his way. Three seasons of great production as he totaled 223 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 22 passes defended in that time frame. Oregon State developed him nicely, as is their program mantra under old DC / new HC Trent Bray. With a solid week, he could be a sneaky play for a late Day 2 selection due to his athleticism and versatility. PFF graded him as the 13th-best safety with an overall score of 88.2.

Joseph Yun

A Titans fan who loves the NFL, College Football (Go Ducks and Noles), along with the Braves, Las Vegas Aces, Red Wings, and Manchester United. Draft scout / analyst who has been credentialed to the best all star game of them all, the Senior Bowl. Follow me on Twitter for more good stuff!

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