Defense wins championships. That is a notion that has lingered in the NFL for decades. And with the ramped-up passing attacks in recent years, it is even more important to load up on great players in the secondary.
The Seahawks Legion of Boom and the Broncos’ ‘No Fly Zone’ come to mind as two powerhouse secondaries that have dominated in recent years on their way to Super Bowl victories.
The following guys are the top defensive backs in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is up there in the discussion as the best overall defensive player in the draft, although Bradley Chubb would strongly disagree. Fitz is listed as a safety, although he played a lot in man coverage and played 242 snaps in the slot last season.
His versatility would enable the team that selects him to line him up in the slot or at safety. His size, at 6’0, 204 lbs, combined with his physical style of play also open the possibility to cover tight ends one on one. This is the type of player that can come in and immediately provide an upgrade for many teams’ defensive backfields.
Derwin James, Safety, Florida State
James is a unique talent, and is the biggest challenge to Fitzpatrick at the top of this list. He is physically strong and big, at 6’3 and 211 lbs. Last season, he recorded 84 tackles, two interceptions, and 11 broken up passes.
He is arguably even more versatile than Fitzpatrick, and is seen by some teams a potential DB/Linebacker hybrid. His size provides him with an advantage over many other defensive backs in this draft class, since he matches up well with towering receivers in the NFL. Some teams see him playing closer to the line of scrimmage and helping to defend opponents’ running games as well.
Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State
Ward is widely considered the top cornerback prospect in this year’s draft. He is extremely fast, running a 4.32 40-yard dash, making him a candidate to start immediately on a team that lacks depth at the position.
The downside with Ward is his lack of size, at 5-10, 183 lbs. There are concerns over his ability to win contested battles with bigger receiver at the pro level. However, he plays a very physical style and had two interceptions, 15 broken up passes, and 37 tackles. His game film at Ohio State shows a player who plays bigger than his actual size, and his speed and quickness are undisputed. Ward is expected to be drafted in the top half of the first round.
Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
Jackson is a bigger corner than Ward, at 6-0, 196 lbs. However, he lacks the speed necessary to keep up at the next level, with a 40 time of 4.56. But taking a look at his prolific 2017 numbers will quickly make you forget all of that. Jackson had eight interceptions and 18 passes broken up last year alone. He also used his size to record a total of 48 tackles, showing his willingness to lower his shoulder and make plays. NFL teams could look at Jackson as the superior player to Ward, depending on the scheme and their particular needs.