Over the course of a four-day media period, 300 players are made available for a rapid fire question-and-answer session at the NFL's Scouting Combine. The first three days feature groupings, pairing multiple positions together.
Friday, the defensive backs are isolated, as all the cornerbacks and safeties filter through the media room at the Indianapolis Convention Center. In our interview with NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks, we learned that the cornerback position is among the deepest in this class. On Brooks' podcast -- Move the Sticks -- Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier spoke about the importance of versatility, citing Eric Rowe's transition last season from corner to safety.
Versatility – that was the buzz word Friday. We caught up with some of the draft's most versatile defensive backs, including the star pupil of new Dolphins Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander, Cal safety Ashtyn Davis.
"My best attribute is my versatility," Davis said. "I played corner, I played nickel, even Will [linebacker] in a couple of packages, and obviously safety. I'm comfortable anywhere on the field, but I think that my deep defense is my best trait."
Davis was asked to describe Coach Alexander's coaching style after he mentioned his name unprompted.
"He's the best coach I ever had," Davis said. "He's very driven, like me, to be the best that he can be. He was taking trips in the offseason to visit NFL teams to get nuggets from anyone he can, and to get better. I can definitely relate to that as a player. Someone who's trying to improve all the time. It's refreshing to have a coach that's doing the same thing and not just set in their systems and set in their ways."
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco stated his case for the best do-it-all player in this group, Alabama's Xavier McKinney.
Prisco talked about McKinney's ability to play safety, as well as Buck linebacker, and McKinney was asked how he balances all the duties that were thrust upon him at Alabama.
"Just balancing it all," McKinney said. "Being able to focus when you're at two different positions. I try to make sure I do both at the same tempo, at the same pace. I try not to get too focused on one."
McKinney also spoke about the benefits of practicing every day with presumptive first-round pick, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
"He's helped me a lot. We've had talks after practice and he tells me what he sees," McKinney said. "He's looked me off several times, so I got to a point where I got frustrated because [I didn't know how he was doing it]. I've asked him what he sees that I'm not doing, and he asks me the same thing."
Asked if he's ever picked off a Tagovailoa pass in practice, McKinney said "I have, but it's not a lot. It's probably about three times; but when I do, I'm happy."
Minnesota's Antoine Winfield Jr. finished fourth in interceptions in all of college football, and he too believes versatility is his best trait.
"Versatility is my best attribute," Winfield said. "I can play anywhere, also creating takeaways. That's my goal, to create takeaways for my team. That gives us the best opportunity to win and I'm going to do everything in my power to do that."
Those interceptions came at critical moments for the Gophers. Winfield sealed a game against Fresno State with an interception in overtime, and came down with two picks in Minnesota's monumental win over Big 10 rival Penn State.
"I rise to my level of competition," Winfield said of his big plays in the biggest moments. "I know when the lights are on and we need to make a play, that's when you'll see me out there."
A lot of defensive backs that play multiple positions have one true home. Utah's Julian Blackmon began his Utes career as a cornerback, but switched to safety for his senior season, and it was his idea.
"I was the one who brought [the idea to Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham]," Blackmon said. "I thought it would be a good idea to move to safety because my play style is more playmaking, rather than just guarding a guy. I can do that, too. But I really wanted to make plays and see the whole field."
Blackmon spoke about what playing in the Utah program did to prepare him for the professional ranks.
"It's a pro style defense," Blackmon said. "Making sure that we all understand more than just what our job is. Once we perfect our job, we make sure that we understand things like gaps and positioning."
Blackmon also spoke about the trait that makes him standout from the rest.
"My instincts. Being able to adapt, understanding football. I have a really high football I.Q. so I think that helps a lot," he said.
Some players' versatility stems from working on the other side of the ball, like Alabama's Trevon Diggs. A former wide receiver, Diggs changed positions to cornerback in college.
"Playing receiver helped me understand things like knowing the route tree, and how to play that," Diggs said. "But there's still plenty of room for me to grow and improve."
Diggs was used to the big game at Alabama, including a CFP National Championship appearance against Clemson at the end of the 2018 season. On the other side of the ball in that game, Tigers cornerback A.J. Terrell took an interception back for a touchdown.
"Preparation. We were in a great Cover 2 call. I just sat on the route and took it to the house," Terrell said in reference to what allowed him to make that play.
Terrell was in another championship game this year against the LSU Tigers and Biletnikoff Award winner Ja'Marr Chase. Chase had a big day, but Terrell was in good position for the majority of those plays, and expanded upon that matchup.
"[It was] great competition," Terrell said. "I started out strong. He got the best of me some plays. Every time we lined up, I knew I couldn't take a play off."
Jeff Gladney played a variety of coverages of TCU, including press-man. Utilizing his length, Gladney expanded on how he uses that to his advantage.
"I don't have to be as close to get hands on [the receiver], so that length helps a lot," Gladney said.
Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette just celebrated the birth of his son, which he says gives him a new fire in his eye. His game was always about playing with a chip on his shoulder, and Arnette described where that came from.
"Always being over-looked, always being the underdog in everything I do," Arnette said. "Coming out of high school, a three-star [player], it took me a while to get my stuff together at Ohio State. Naturally I always stay in the shadows, just grinding. I go through my own personal issues but at the end of the day, I always rise up on top."