Mayock's take on cornerbacks and safeties

Posted: April 25, 2013

FOR THE 12th straight year, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is breaking down each of the positions in the draft for the Daily News, providing his assessment of the best player at each position, as well as his top riser and sleeper. Mayock, 54, resides in Newtown Square and is a graduate of the Haverford School. A former safety, he was a 10th-round pick of the Steelers in 1981 and played two seasons with the Giants (1982-83).

CORNERBACKS

THE BEST

Name: Dee Milliner

School: Alabama

Height, weight: 6-foot, 201

40 time: 4.35

Vertical jump: 36 inches

Arms: 32 inches

Round projection: 1

Mayock: "The 40 he ran at the combine erased any questions people had about his long speed. He's a top-10 corner. He does everything well. He can press. He can play off. He will tackle. What I've seen on tape is a tough, instinctive guy who will hit you, which I love. I love a corner that will tackle. When you come out of Nick Saban's program, especially when you're a defensive back, which Nick takes a big interest in as a former defensive backs coach, you're well-coached."

THE RISER

Name: D.J. Hayden

School: Houston

Height, weight: 5-11, 191

40 time: 4.38

Vertical jump: 33 1/2 inches

Arms: 31 1/8 inches

Round projection: 1

Mayock: "Hayden almost died on the practice field in November. He took a knee to the chest from his own safety. He could've bled out internally. He's been cleared by most teams. I put the tape on a month ago and was blown over.

"He's a first-round corner. Five months ago, people weren't sure he ever was going to play again and now he's probably going to be a first-round pick. That's the ultimate riser.

"He didn't run at the combine because he wasn't medically cleared at that point. But at his Pro Day, he put up a 4.38. I watched three of his tapes, including the Louisiana Tech tape. Tech has Quinton Patton, who is a second-round wide receiver, and Hayden ate him alive. He didn't let him off the line of scrimmage. Patton had just four catches for 36 yards. Houston matched him [with Hayden] wherever he went and took him right out of the game."

THE SLEEPER

Name: Josh Johnson

School: Purdue

Height, weight: 5-10, 199

40 time: 4.56

Vertical jump: 35

Arms: 30 3/8 inches

Round projection: 5-6

Mayock: "Every year I fall in love with a short, speed-deficient boundary corner. Last year, it was Leonard Johnson, who ended up starting a bunch of games for Tampa Bay. This year it's Johnson.

"He's short. They don't think he runs fast enough. He can't jump high enough. But when they played Notre Dame, I thought he was the best player on the field that day. Every time I put a Purdue tape on to watch [defensive tackle] Kawann Short, this kid was making a play somewhere.

"He's probably a fifth- or sixth-round pick. But I'll take him all day long. He's quicker than he is fast."

SAFETY

THE BEST

Name: Kenny Vaccaro

School: Texas

Height, weight: 6-foot, 214

40 time: 4.59

225 bench: 15 reps

Vertical jump: 38 inches

Arms: 32 3/4 inches

Projected round: 1

Mayock: "This is the deepest safety class I've seen in a long time and Vaccaro is the best of the group. He should go in the top 20. He came down and played over the slot. He's quick-footed. He will tackle. It's hard to watch his tape this year because he's hardly ever in a deep half or deep third [coverage]. But you can go back to his junior year tape and see a bunch of that. He didn't run well at the combine, but to me, he's plenty fast enough."

THE RISER

Name: Matt Elam

School: Florida

Height, weight: 5-10, 208

40 time: 4.43

225 bench: 17 reps

Vertical jump: 35 1/2 inches

Arms: 32 5/8 inches

Round projection: 1-2

Mayock: "He could be a first-rounder. Worst case, he goes early- to mid-second. He's a really good player. He tackles. He loves the game. He flies around. He can play over the slot. My concern with him is it's hard to find him playing deep-half and deep-thirds [coverage].

"He's only 5-9 7/8. He's a tight, muscular, put-together kid. And you worry with somebody like that whether

they're too tight. Whether they can open their hips and drive and that sort of thing.

"This kid was really fluid at his Pro Day. He caught the ball well. He came out as a junior. Initially he was a second- or third-round projection. Now it's a first- or second-round projection."

THE SLEEPER

Name: Earl Wolff

School: North Carolina State

Height, weight: 5-11, 210

40 time: 4.40

225 bench: NA

Vertical jump: 39 inches

Arms: 31 1/2

Round projection: 3-4

Mayock: "I first saw him at the East-West game. He had a solid week of practice there. Guys were talking about him in the fifth or sixth round at the East-West game. Then, at the combine, he ran a 4.4 and jumped 39 inches and really looked athletic and caught the football well.

"If you go back and watch the tape, this kid is a good football player. To most of America, he's a sleeper. To NFL teams, he's not. And he could've worked his way up to the third round."

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