In a week in which speed has been the big story at the NFL scouting combine, two defensive backs put an exclamation point on the affair Sunday.
Baylor cornerback Kalon Barnes and Texas-San Antonio cornerback Tariq Woolen ran two of the fastest 40-yard dash times in the combine’s history. Barnes’ official 4.23 clocking was the fastest ever for a defensive back and is now considered the second-fastest time to wide receiver John Ross’ 4.22 in 2017.
Barnes, who played in 41 career games for the Bears, was the second player to run Sunday and caused a stir among the fans in the stands as he crossed the finish in both of his attempts.
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Woolen ran an official 4.26 and, like Barnes, ran his best 40 on his second attempt. Woolen’s run, at least to some personnel executives, will be even a little more celebrated given he not has only tied for the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash in the event’s history, but he did it as one of the biggest cornerbacks in any draft at 6-foot-4⅛ and 205 pounds.
Woolen, a wide receiver until he played the last game of the 2019 season at cornerback, also has a defensive lineman-esque arm span of 79 inches.
He was asked Saturday what he might run given he was expected to be one of the fastest players in attendance, and he said: “It’ll be good, good, but y’all will just have to see. But I feel like it’s going to be good.”
Asked how he could be so fast when tall players have not always run well among the defensive backs at the combine before, Woolen said, “I kept growing and I kept getting faster.”
It all capped a sizzling week on the combine turf as eight wide receivers were timed under 4.4 seconds in the 40 and 12 offensive linemen were clocked under 5.0 seconds.
Also of note, while Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner didn’t need to do much to boost his already-soaring draft stock, he still likely put up the best all-around day for the cornerbacks. At 6-foot-2¾ and 190 pounds, Garner ran an official 4.41 in the 40-yard dash and handled the position drills with precision and ease.
Gardner came into the combine ranked No. 5 in ESPN’s player rankings and the No. 1 cornerback overall.
The top safety on the board, Kyle Hamilton (6-4⅛, 220 pounds), excelled in the position drills Sunday, running a 4.59 in the 40. Georgia’s Lewis Cine, a physical safety in the run game who will be rated more highly by teams in need of a player who can work down near the line of scrimmage, ran a 4.37 at 199 pounds.
Michigan safety Dax Hill also impressed with his work in position drills to go with his 4.38 showing in the 40.
There was some private grumbling among scouts about the veracity of all of the surprising 40 times. But teams will do what they have always done after the combine: compare the official times to their own on site, as well as the GPS data they accumulated during the season and at postseason all-star games like the Senior Bowl.
Special teams players also worked out Sunday, the fourth and final day of on-field work at the combine.
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