Chimdi Chekwa slides under the spotlight as we continue getting to know the Oakland Raiders 2011 NFL Draft picks. In case you missed them, and you care, you can find Joseph Barksdale's here and DeMarcus Van Dyke's here. I started off with Barksdale and Van Dyke, because they are the two I had the most questions about and two players whose success is really going to define this draft class. Looking back on that maybe it was a mistake. The information on the rest is a little more vanilla.
I contemplated stopping, before realizing that would be foolish. And if you think I should stop I will tell you the same thing I told myself: chimidi chek wa-self before ya wrek wa-self. So jump over....
One of the first thing that stands out about Chekwa is that he is by all accounts a hard-working and high-character young man, and this is a trait that has been apparent his entire career. Here is his high school football coach, Bud O'Hara in an article by Abe Brown of Football News Now:
He’s just got so much character it’s unbelievable. His faith is strong. He’s a strong-willed kid. He never played football before he got to us, but he worked hard and deserves everything he’s gotten.
He was heavily recruited coming out of high school, but he was not one of the premier prospects. Besides Ohio State he received scholarship offers from Clemson, Maryland, Iowa State, Mississippi, South Carolina and Wake Forest. He redshirted as a freshman and then played in the nickel his redshirt freshman year. He took over starting duties from there.
He made the honorable mention Big-Ten team as a junior and first-team as a senior. He was second-team All-American as a senior. Chekwa was very durable in college, but suffered his worst injury in his last college game, the Sugar Bowl. He dislocated his wrist. The injury caused him to miss any post season games like the Senior Bowl.
The lack of these post season games hurt his draft stock.
Gil Brandt was quoted by Tim May in an article in The Columbus Dispatch:
"The kid probably would have been a first-round pick" before the injury, NFL draft analyst Gil Brandt said. "I know there are a lot of people who like him a lot. We'll see how it goes now."
Chekwa did a lot to limit the damage caused to his draft stock with a solid combine. While his wrist was still in a soft cast and he couldn't participate in most of the drills he could still run. And his 4.38 40 time generated some buzz.
Dave Biddle, in Bucknuts.com, mentioned that Chekwa's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, thought Chekwa may have even moved into the first round with his Combine performance. Here is Chekwa's thoughts in that same article:
I’m hearing second day (rounds 2-3) and hopefully early on the second day. Being a second-round pick would be great and if I can sneak into the first round, even better. I’m just blessed that I was able to increase my stock at the combine, especially after the injury and all.
Of course, as the draft proved, this analysis was hopeful if not a little delusional. The reality is closer to Pro Football Weekly's Draft analyst Nolan Nawrock:
If you go through and look at how he played, most teams put a sixth or seventh round grade on him. But I think he helped himself and he could go as early as the fourth round with the way he ran. Teams are willing to roll the dice with a player who has speed like that.
I think the sixth or seventh round grades were probably a little low. I didn't see anyone else mention him that low even pre-Combine. Overall, you'd have to say the Raiders got a solid value with this selection. Rob Rang of CBS Sports even had the Raiders taking him with their No. 48 selection in one of his mocks. Here was his last thoughts on Chekwa leading up to the draft.
...recording a 4.40 second showing in the 40-yard dash and reinforcing the belief that he's one of the nation's most underrated cornerbacks and a potential second round pick.
So now the question is how and where he will fit with the Raiders. Naturally, with the Raiders need at safety the question comes up about Chekwa's ability to play safety. Hue Jackson addressed that right away in the press conference following the draft:
He’s like you said a guy that plays in the Big Ten and the Big Ten is known for running teams and all that. But I think he can do anything we need him to do. obviously we’re going to play him at corner. The guy has an unbelievable skill set because he’s a big guy, he’s a physical guy. He can get up in your face and put his hands on you and redirect you and get after you and run. So if wee needed him someplace else we’ll find that out as we move forward. But right now he’s just going to play corner for us.
Alright, so Chekwa is going to be a corner, at least initially. The next question has to be how is he at man coverage? Some scouts believe he is stronger in zone coverage. He has great closing speed, and he showed a strong ability to read QBs. And, as I mentioned earlier, he needs to work on his ball skills.
Chekwa certainly isn't worried about playing man, or any other kind of defense. After he was drafted Chekwa was asked about his man-to-man coverage skills. Chekwa:
I think I’m good at that. I’m a corner. That’s what I do. I’ve been there, I’ve played zone. I do whatever they ask of me.
Okay, but does Chekwa have much experience in man? Chekwa:
We [Ohio State] played a lot of man. We played zone coverages, we played man, we mixed it up. We played some zones where one corner was playing man and the rest of the team would be playing zone. We do a lot of different things at Ohio State but we played a lot of man.
Chekwa certainly has the skills to play man. Here is the best scouting report I could find on his man coverage skills. CBS Sports:
Man Coverage: Has quick feet and fluid hips to stay with most receivers throughout most routes. Smooth, quick pedal when not in press-bail, patient waiting for his man to make the first move off the line. Maintains contact down the sideline, but needs to find the ball in the air more consistently. Needs to know where his help comes from on a given play -- gets in trouble playing inside position and getting beat outside. Will give up strength to many NFL receivers, who will shield him with their bodies on slant patterns and go through him on jump balls (though his vertical gives him a chance to break up those passes). Plays well off the line and in press-bail. Will mix it up just inside the five-yard mark, but does not usually get his hands on his man at the line of scrimmage, backpedaling or bailing per the team's scheme.
Chekwa will need to get stronger and work on locating the ball in the air if he wants to flourish in the Raiders system, but he has a solid foundation and natural ability. And by all accounts he is going to put in the work to do it.