Rolling right along as we scour 2011 NFL Draft prospects for the best free safety fit for the Oakland Raiders we now slip South Carolina's Chris Culliver under the klieg lights for interrogation. We aren't the only ones that have brought in Culliver for a closer look. According the National Football Post Culliver had a private workout with the Raiders. And that is not surprising. Culliver is an Al Davis type of prospect.
Culliver is 6' and 200 pounds, and he the dude is a pure athlete. He ran a 4.4 40 at the combine, and that is a conservative estimate. Apparently some watches had him as low as a 4.3. He also put up a 38.5" vert and a 10'3" broad jump.
He never really settled into a position in college. He started off as a receiver, moved to safety and ended as a corner. He is also third in SEC history in kickoff return yards. He probably projects more as a corner in the NFL, but free safety is not out of the question. You will find him in mocks anywhere from the third to fifth rounds. Let's take a look at what others have to say...after the jump.
Culliver has the pure cover skills to eventually develop into a starter but does not display natural instincts and is not willing or productive in run support. Is versatile enough to play corner or free safety. Has the athleticism and speed to shadow in man coverage and the hip fluidity to turn and run but lack of route anticipation allows receivers to gain separation. Has the range to play the deep half or middle in zone but can be sucked in by play-action. Really needs to improve his ability to diagnose run and be productive coming up in support.
Everything about this scouting report screams corner. It is pretty apparent that he lacks the physicality at this point to be a sure bet at FS.
Not an especially physical player, is not a very solid tackler, does not take on blockers with good leverage or pop... Instincts are below average, appears to be lost at times, needs to read keys better and improve reaction time at the snap... Takes poor angles far too often, will get out of position to defend running plays in the open field.
This is another report that would lead us to believe he would be a better fit at corner. However, not everyone agrees on Culliver's lack of instincts.
Showed good instincts as a free safety. While aggressive, Culliver was rarely out of position and showed the discipline to stay home on trick plays and misdirection
Flashes good hands for the press, but gets off-balance and can allow the receiver too easy of a release. Loses a step as he turns to run. A bit grabby with his hands in man coverage. Backpedal is high and choppy. Generally a reliable open-field tackler, but can get out of control in his pursuit and leave cutback lanes.
Sometimes you have to wonder if scouts are just making things up or watching different players. Let's go to another report that trashes Culliver's instincts.
He isn't the most instinctive of defenders in the deep half and is still working on his read and react skills. Rarely gets a great jump on the football and always seems to be the second safety moving on the play. Isn't a real physical tackler either. Will take himself out of some plays in both the run and pass game with some false steps and still has a ways to go from a mental standpoint.
With Culliver we can be sure of little, other than the fact he is a hell of an athlete with a lot of upside. On first impression he reminds me of another Michael Huff waiting to happen. Culliver would do little to help limit the big plays that have plagued the Raiders for years. I couldn't find much in the way of tape on Culliver, but here is a clip that shows his speed and lack of pop in tackling.
Culliver is certainly interesting in that he may be able to fill a need at corner and/or free safety, and he has a high ceiling.