I debated for a couple days on which position was the bigger need, WR or DB? I recognize a receiver is harder to project whether or not a player can catch on quick enough with the speed of NFL defenses much like a QB as we unfortunately know all too well. I also assumed that a college WR can pad their stats for years playing in spread offenses so often that they rarely have to go up against press coverage where their true value is realized. Therefore I came to the conclusion because of this that based on the depth of the corner position in this draft that more game-changers are going to be available at that position this year than the receiver position will be able to provide. Also since free safety is another situation where the nation is not too pleased I’m including a couple of players of note as well in my breakdown. So here we go.
Patrick Peterson – LSU
I haven’t seen such impressive film of a draft prospect since Charles Woodson’s Heisman trophy campaign at Michigan. He is a human-highlight reel. I recommend you google this man just because he is just that entertaining to watch. His awareness on pass plays around him is beyond his years as he the true definition of a ball-hawk with his closing speed and positioning making him look as if he is the intended receiver at times. He can jam his man, not lose ground and still give himself a chance to make the play. He is a sure tackler as well and is an intimidating presence at 6’2, 215 LBs. Did I mention he is a special teams marvel not only in the return game but as a head hunter on coverage? If a team is smart they will utilize him in the rover/ slot blitzer/ corner role that Green Bay uses with Woodson. I know we have no shot to draft him as he is expected to go in the top 5 but I have to give the man his due.
Prince Amukamara – Nebraska
I was very high on this prospect until I saw film against a bigger, more explosive receiver like Oklahoma St.’s Justin Blackmon. His size is an issue. He is also very aggressive in coverage that he will bite on double moves as well as getting flagged for PI’s. Due to his size he is much better playing off his man than in press. All of this makes him possibly the perfect nickel corner at the next level because he does show good technique in his back pedal as well as fluid hip turn. He is a solid tackler in the open field on edge runs and doesn’t look like Deion doing it. He will be a top 13 prospect as Detroit will be foolish to pass on him with their corner issues.
Brandon Harris – Miami – FLA
On December 31, 2010, I headed out to the Sun Bowl and braved the below freezing temperature and slow flurries consistently flowing nonstop to watch two of college football’s most storied programs do battle when Miami took on the University of Notre Dame. I didn’t go just for that but also to scout the top match up on the field as ND’s Michael Floyd was going head to head with Miami’s shut down corner in Harris. What I came away with was the belief that the 2012 NFL Draft is going to be ridiculous with Andrew Luck, Michael Floyd and OSU’s Justin Blackmon all likely coming out. Brian Kelly rarely had them matchup however the only time of notice that they did was in the first quarter, following the first of Jacory Harris’s 50 interceptions Notre Dame had Floyd go in motion and out-leaped Brandon Harris on a 40 yd TD grab. Don’t get me wrong, Harris displays brilliant technique in his back-pedal and timing on pass plays in his direction. He like the Prince is smaller at 5’11 therefore might make the prototypical 2nd corner on most teams and not a very great situation if he is their #1.
Jimmy Smith – Colorado
AWWWWSHITSON!!!!!! Raider nation wants Nnamdi Asomghua and may I present to you Nnamdi Asomugha at a fraction of the price! At 6-2, 205 lbs Smith provides the prototypical size looked for in today’s cover corners and has been compared to Nnamdi by several draft scouts. Like Asomugha, Smith is the lone bright spot on defense for the Buffs and because of stellar sophomore and junior years, was not challenged his senior as he had 0 interceptions and only 5 passes defended. He uses the sideline better than any corner on film in coverage as well as on edge tackles. He will wrap up his man as evidenced by his 70 tackles which is a high number for a corner on a college schedule with no bowl game. He will give up short slants in front of him but not much else. On press coverage he will mirror his receiver while keeping his eyes in the backfield. He is very aggressive in coverage and this season film looked rather bored almost assured the play wasn’t coming his way. He won't have to worry about that as a rookie I'm sure. He also missed a game with a concussion this season which also may have contributed to his draft stock not being higher than the top three. I’d hate to imagine what a player of his caliber would mean for a great defensive team like Pittsburgh or Baltimore. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.
Rahim Moore – UCLA
Moore like Smith made the majority of his stats as a sophomore when he led the nation with 10 interceptions. He didn’t blow you away on film. He is not a big hitter but he will stick his nose trying to shut down short yardage as well as run plays to his side. He is adequate in coverage as he rarely lets receivers get behind him and will show good closing speed in the open field. He shows good ball awareness on deep balls in zone. He is a solid player that will rarely whiff on big runs and is basically all you can ask for at the safety position.
Deunta Williams – UNC
"The Hit Man" is a great safety prospect but has dropped on most draft boards because of character concerns having missed time due to suspension for receiving special benefits however you can say that about the majority of the Tar Heels football roster this past year. Another factor dropping him is he is coming off surgery for a broken leg in a bowl game so we will watch his progress. On film I swear I am watching Ed Reed in powder blue. He shows great awareness and times his jumps on the ball as well as anyone in this draft class. He has a knack for making the big plays as evidenced by his 12 interceptions, 6 tackles for losses, and 3 forced fumbles over the course of his career. He needs to work on his back pedal but with a good secondary coach and environment around him; can potentially be a great defensive backfield stalwart for a decade if healthy.
Ras-I Dowling – Virginia
I like to refer to him as the Frankenstein’s monster of this year’s corner prospects because of his large frame and his stiffness on his release. I project him as more of a zone corner or free safety at the next level than what we Raiders fans look for in our man corners. He simply isn’t fluid in his hip turn and looks like the type of player that may struggle against savvy veteran receivers. He hits with ferocity but seems to lead with his helmet too often that balanced runners with a powerful center of gravity will bounce off him regularly. He should go somewhere in the 2nd round since there are several defenses that don’t ask as much of their corners as Al and the Raiders do and will like his size.
Brandon Burton – Utah
I am surprised this kid has been so overlooked by scouts. His man to man experience playing with the Utes makes him a great fit for the Raiders vaunted man to man coverage. He was manned up the entire game versus the bigger Jonathon Baldwin in the season opener and more than held his own other than one bad skinny post pattern where his safety did not help him at all. His closing speed is sensational and will hold his own in run support. He can contribute on special teams with his ability to block field goals as well. He can be a steal if developed properly and if there’s one thing Al Davis knows, its finding great corners.
So now with the first two likely gone by the time the Raiders pick who do you want sporting silver and black in 2011? Also your feedback is welcome.