Blog Entry

Finding the Fits -- Cornerbacks

Posted on: May 14, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:08 pm
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Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Perhaps not surprising considering that I had LSU's Patrick Peterson as the No. 1 player in this draft, I was higher on this year's cornerback class, as a whole, than most. The three corners taken in the first round deserved to be so -- and that isn't always the case. Kareem Jackson (Texans), Kyle Wilson (Jets) and Patrick Robinson (Saints) were all selected in the first round last year and struggled as rookies. I don't believe this year's first round class will experience the same growing pains.

The 2011 corner class, however, wasn't just talented up top. There were a few middle round fits that I believe could pay off quickly, as well. A couple of other fits that I liked, but didn't make the final cut below were the Chargers plucking Shareece Wright in the third round, the Panthers, Chiefs, and Packers adding Brandon Hogan, Jalil Brown and Davon House, respectively in the fourth round.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants: The day before the draft I started hearing rumors that Amukamara could slip out of the 13. Detroit, at No. 13, had previously been the furthest most thought the All-American would slide. I didn't understand it. I remain an Amukamara fan and love the fit in New York. His length, strength and speed will serve him well and he'll have the advantage of playing behind a disruptive pass rush. One of the reasons for Amukamara slipping, I've been told, is that as scouts watched more tape, they saw returning senior Alfonzo Dennard making just as many impressive plays as Amukamara.

Rashad Carmichael, Houston Texans: I could have just as easily listed the Texans' second pick -- former Miami cornerback Brandon Harris -- in this space, as I like both selections. Like Harris, Carmichael is a good -- but not elite -- athlete who projected nicely as a zone cornerback due to his instincts and tackling. Houston, you had a problem. In drafting Harris and Carmichael (and hiring Wade Philllips as defensive coordinator), the problem is being fixed. 

Chris Culliver, San Francisco 49ers: Having evolved from wide receiver to free safety to cornerback throughout his career, Culliver enters the NFL still learning the intricacies of the position. He is an impressive athlete who had been enjoying a solid first starting season at cornerback after having earned Second Team All-SEC honors (behind Eric Berry) in 2009. A torn pectoral ended his senior season after only eight games, however. Culliver also is a standout special teamer (South Carolina record 2,464 career kick return yards). I projected the 49ers taking a cornerback in the first round in my 2012 early mock. Culliver is a little raw, but he is an ascending talent who could allow the team to look elsewhere.

Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals:
The fact is, Peterson was my top-rated player in the 2011 draft, so the fact that he "fell" to the Cardinals at No. 5 already makes him a rare value. Value doesn't necessarily equate to schematic fit in some cases, but it does in this one. The Cardinals ask their cornerbacks to play a lot of press man coverage, which is Peterson's strength. With another premier talent opposite him in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a starting-caliber corner in Greg Toler slipping inside to nickel, the Cardinals' secondary is formidable. Against the relatively weak passing games in the NFC West, Peterson is all the more likely to impress early.

Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens: Say what you will about Smith's off-field issues, the man can flat play some football. Smith's length, physicality and speed make him an ideal press corner. Smith also gets the advantage of going to a very good defense. He turned some off when boastfully praising his own ball skills to that of Nnamdi Asomugha. With this defense forcing wild throws, Smith might very well get the opportunity to prove his playmaking ability.


Questionable Fit:

Demarcus Van Dyke, Oakland Raiders: In all honesty, it isn't fair to characterize Van Dyke as a poor schematic fit, as he certainly possesses the size (6-1, 176) and straight-line speed (4.25) that Al Davis has always placed a premium on at cornerback. "DVD" as he was called at Miami, obviously has a unique combination of size and speed, but he rarely demonstrated the physicality, toughness and technique while with the Hurricanes to stand out. As such, I and scouts I've spoken with, thought that Van Dyke was a significant reach at No. 81. Quite frankly, I believe that the Raiders will ultimately be more pleased with the play of 4th round pick, Chimdi Chekwa (No. 113 overall), than they will with Van Dyke, taken in the third. At that point in the draft, I belive the stakes were too high to make this gamble.

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