Defensive backs were in action Monday at the NFL Combine, but two of the top safety prospects were sidelined.
Nasir Adderley of Delaware missed the on-field workouts due to a lingering high ankle sprain. Deionte Thompson of Alabama couldn't participate either, still recovering from wrist surgery after a weightlifting accident last month.
That opened the door for Mississippi's State safety Johnathan Abram to steal the show with one of the fastest 40-yard dash among defensive backs – 4.45. Abram is known as one of the draft's biggest hitters, so it's key for him to show his coverage speed.
Abram was forced to sit out the Senior Bowl because of a shoulder injury, but he made the most of his return. Expect Abram's draft stock to rise after what he did in Indianapolis at the Combine, and on the field for Mississippi State.
Safety could become a position of need for the Ravens this offseason, depending upon what happens with Eric Weddle. Coming off another Pro Bowl season, Weddle turned 34 years old in January, and with a year remaining on his contract, his status with the Ravens for next season has not been clarified. Will he retire, return, or move on?
Backup safety Chuck Clark was solid when he started two games in place of Tony Jefferson last year, but the Ravens would not mind more depth and a potential starter at the position.
Adderley and Thompson missed a chance to elevate their draft stock at the Combine. But rather than push through workouts like he did at the Senior Bowl in January, Adderley decided to focus on being healthy for his Pro Day on March 22.
"I'm about I would say 90 percent," Adderley said at the Combine. "I was dealing with a high ankle sprain the back end of (last) year. It happened probably Week 6, Week 7 and I've just played through it. I got an MRI following the year and it was a pretty significant high ankle sprain. But I knew coming from a small school, the Senior Bowl is the most important event for me. I just fought through it."
Thompson underwent surgery for a torn wrist ligament last month and hopes to be healthy for his Pro Day on April 2.
"It was just a freak accident in the weight room," Thompson said. "I felt a pop and that was that. ... Six-to-eight-week recovery, I'll be ready to go for rookie minicamp and training camp as well. I didn't want to come to the combine and be 50 to 60 percent."
We know the Ravens don't mind drafting players from either Delaware or Alabama. Three former Delaware players have heard their name called by the Ravens – quarterback Joe Flacco (first round, 2008), offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski (fourth-round, 2012), and tight end Nick Boyle (fifth round, 2015).
As the next Delaware player in line for the NFL, Adderley is equally determined to prove he's ready to make the leap.
"I feel like my performance at the Senior Bowl alleviated some of the questions," he said. "I am confident in my ability and the small school thing, that's never been an issue for me."
Adderley was a playmaker in college with eight interceptions over his final two seasons. He played both corner and safety at Delaware, and his versatility fits how the Ravens like to utilize their safeties, moving them all over the field.
However, is Adderley impressive enough for the Ravens to take with their first pick at No. 22? Most mock drafts project him as a late first-rounder or second-rounder. The Ravens currently don't have a second-round pick, so if they stay at No. 22 and pass on Adderley, he will likely be gone before the Ravens pick again.
Thompson could also be an option if the Ravens trade down from No. 22, and what would a Ravens draft be without a player from Alabama? They already have two players in their secondary who played with Thompson at Alabama – cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett – so inside information about Thompson is readily available to the Ravens.
The Ravens have a difficult decision to make as they determine whether to bring back Weddle or move in a different direction. While he can't control which team picks him, Adderley wants to be the first safety off the board, and he looked forward to becoming the next Delaware player to play in the NFL.
"Walking down our hall in our facility, you see all the All-Americans, the NFL players," Adderley said. "That's something you wish to accomplish."