Breon Borders was a three year starter at Duke and consistently racked up interceptions during his time in Durham. He never had less than two interceptions in a season and peaked last season when he racked up 4.
Those aren’t jaw-dropping figures by any stretch, but they are indicative of the kind of player Borders is—solid and reliable. That’s the exact kind of player the Raiders’ secondary needs, substance over flash.
The Raiders’ secondary was ranked 24th in the league last season, yet starting corners Sean Smith and David Amerson are set to earn $9.5 and $8.5 million this coming season respectively. Though they played well at times last season, they also both disappeared for stretches, a recipe for disaster against the talented receivers of the AFC West.
Furthermore, with the status of Raiders’ first round selection Gareon Conley still unclear, there’s ample reason for the team to try out several prospects at the CB position.
There’s reason to believe that Borders might be one of the best undrafted CB’s in this years crop. According to his draft profile at NFL.com, in addition to the solid INT numbers, Borders also held receivers he lined up against to a 38.3 completion percentage in 2016.
**Testing scores are from Duke Pro Day on 03/22/2017
2016 - 12 GP, 26 TKL, 4 INT, 0 FF
2015 - 13 GP, 39 TKL, 3 INT, 0 FF
2014 - 12 GP, 57 TKL, 3 INT, 0 FF
2013 - 9 GP, 27 TKL, 2 INT, 1 FF
All-ACC team 2016
With so much of the NFL evaluation process focused on what players might become, sometimes what they’ve already accomplished becomes secondary. This appears to be the case with Borders, whose measurables and testing at his Pro Day likely did very little to galvanize his draft stock.
Still, there’s a lot to be said about a high level of production in the ACC and 12 INT’s in that conference shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should the fact that two of those INT’s came against future first overall pick Jameis Winston...in one game.
Borders plays with good instincts and never appears satisfied on the football field, playing with a tremendous amount of passion and energy during his career with the Blue Devils.
Also, the fact that Borders went undrafted may have lit a fire under him, as S&B Pride’s Levi Damien has already tweeted about several big plays he has made during the Raiders’ rookie minicamp, as seen below.
Struggled in deep coverage during his time at Duke. Primarily suited for shallow zone or man coverage inside ten yards, which could severely cap his upside at the next level. His speed is just good, not great, so he will really struggle to recover in the pros if he is beat off the line.
At only 180 pounds, he might not be able to match up physically with big AFC West pass-catchers like Demaryius Thomas, Travis Kelce and Mike Williams.
His game is actually eerily similar to Oakland’s former first round pick D.J. Hayden, who departed for the Detroit Lions this offseason. He is, at times, a vicious hitter whose ideal spot will be as a slot corner, but whose lack of elite speed could leave gaping holes in the back half of the field.
On the bright side, the Raiders have taken on no risk by signing Borders as an undrafted free agent, whereas the Hayden selection was catastrophic having come with the 12th overall pick.
What he brings to the Raiders
Borders lack of NFL size and average testing scores could be nitpicked forever, but at the end of the day he was able to be a highly productive ACC corner despite these limitations.
When you combine the 12 INT’s with his impressive durability (he played 46 games over four seasons at Duke), Borders make perfect sense as a target for the Raiders. Get him in the building and see what’s more evident on an NFL field, Borders’ proven playmaking abilities or his lacklustre testing scores.
Borders played on a pretty terrible Duke team that went 4-8 overall in 2016 and 1-7 against the conference, so it’s also conceivable that he might’ve been drafted by a team had he been on a more talented roster.
According to NFL insider Aaron Wilson, the Denver Broncos were high on Borders, which is yet another reason this signing makes a lot of sense. The Broncos have arguably assembled the NFL’s premier secondary, so if they were high on Borders it stands to reason that there is something there. Not to mention this will keep him out of the hands of John Elway’s coaching staff.