Archive for the ‘Cornerback’ Category

Cornerback Desmond Trufant (6) of Washington is projected to be the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, according to On the Clock's Jeff Vinton and Bill Slane

Cornerback Desmond Trufant (6) of Washington is projected to be the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, according to On the Clock’s Jeff Vinton and Bill Slane.                  (Source: sportspressnw.com)

Cornerback Desmond Trufant (6′ 0″, 190 lbs.) out of Washington has risen up draft boards lately thanks to a great showing at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last weekend and is now considered one of the top two corners in the 2013 NFL Draft. Trufant, the younger brother of Seattle Seahawks corner Marcus Trufant and New York Jets corner Isaiah Trufant, played 45 straight games for the Huskies before getting injured and missing Washington’s game against Colorado this past season. He was named captain of the Husky football team this past fall and was named to the All-Pac 12 first team. Now he has healed and is gearing up to join his brothers on Sundays as a prospect in the NFL Draft April 25.

Here are Desmond Trufant’s statistics from Washington and his combine performance:

Stats:

Career- 50 games, 195 total tackles, 151 unassisted, 44 assisted, 2 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles recovered, 33 passes defended, 6 interceptions

2012- 12 games, 36 total tackles, 27 unassisted, 9 assisted, 1 sack, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovered, 9 passes defended, 1 interception

Combine Performance: 4.38 second 40-yard dash, 16 bench press reps at 225 lbs., 37.5 inch vertical jump, 125 inch broad jump, 3.85 second 20-yard shuttle

I will now evaluate Trufant based on these criteria: Agility, Run Defense, Awareness, Range, Coverage, Tackle, Ball Skills, Speed, Burn Rate, and Health.

AGILITY:

Trufant doesn’t get juked easily and that has a lot to do with the quickness of his feet and the looseness of his hips. He can change direction extremely quickly and keep up with any move that a wideout tries to throw to shake his coverage. He’s balanced on his feet and in general, just has some damn good agility.  8.75/10.00

RUN DEFENSE:

This is the area of Trufant’s game that needs the most work. It just seemed like Trufant was very slow at diagnosing the run, even in obvious formations (no wide receiver on his side) and situations. Then once he did diagnose the run, the back would already be at or past the line of scrimmage and he would basically have no impact on the play from there. Now, Trufant is a cover corner, so I am not totally surprised that he is lacking in this area, but I would still expect him to be a little better at this, and with his speed, to have more of an impact on the play. This is something that he will no doubt work on as he advances. 8.0/10.0

AWARENESS:

Trufant possesses great awareness. He can diagnose any pass play and pretty much whatever route the receiver he is covering is running before the snap. He adjusts his coverage to what he reads and does it fairly quickly. He can diagnose play-action and route changes with the best of them and this helps make his coverage that much better. 8.5/10.0

 

RANGE:

Thanks to his 4.38 40 time, Trufant’s range is amazing. He can close in on receivers that get past him and knock balls that seem way out of his reach out the air. On runs, after he takes the time to diagnose the play and see where it is going, he takes good angles, but since it takes him so long to diagnose the play, he usually shows up after the tackle has begun, so sometimes he gets a final hit in there to force the ball carrier to the ground, but sometimes just shows up after the ball carrier has been tackled and the play is over. He gets there, but is not usually there in time to make the initial hit on the run. If a receiver gets behind him, then he can close in on the receiver quickly and then make a play on the ball. I was very impressed with Trufant’s range. 9.0/10.0

 

COVERAGE:

I said this above, I see Trufant as a coverage corner more than anything else. He blankets receivers and makes it insanely hard for receivers to get open and quarterbacks to complete throws. He is better in man, which is the coverage that Washington ran most often, and great against deep throws. QBs will still try to make deep throws, but that attempt is often misguided due to Trufant’s coverage. 8.5/10.0

TACKLE:

Not many people can get away from Trufant’s tackles, but a lot that has to do with where he makes his tackles on the field and how he hits and wraps up. When one is as fast as Trufant, a lot of momentum can be built up when sprinting at or with a man downfield and then hitting them. Since a lot of those hits happen along the sideline, the force that come with Trufant’s hits force receivers the extra foot or two that they need laterally to get out of bounds. When he does actually tackle, his technique is pretty good. He hits low, wraps up and takes down to the ground. Long story short, Trufant is a pretty good tackler.  8.5/10.0

BALL SKILLS:

When defending the ball in the air, one can’t get much better than Desmond Trufant in this year’s draft class. Trufant attacks the ball in the air, is not afraid to dive at any ball that is thrown to his receiver and basically just do whatever it takes to make the throw incomplete. When a receiver does catch a ball and Trufant is trying to take him down, he looks like he is trying to strip the ball pretty much every time. Since he is not afraid to attack the ball in the air, Trufant is fairly good at grabbing interceptions (6 in his career, 1 in 2012). He doesn’t grab as many as he could, but if he works on his hands a bit in practice, I’m sure that number will go up at the next level. 8.75/10.00

SPEED:

Trufant ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the Combine in Indianapolis last weekend, so yeah. He’s fast. He’s fast enough where there is no doubt that he can keep up with any receiver currently in the NFL, coming into the league this year or any year after this. I am hugely impressed with his speed and it is something that I know NFL teams loved seeing last weekend and the team that drafts him will love seeing every Sunday during the fall.  9.0/10.0

BURN RATE:

I pretty much covered his burn rate in the ball skills section, but I’ll sum it up again here. Desmond Trufant doesn’t get burned often. When the ball is thrown to his man, he jumps up in the air, dives, and knocks balls down. Obviously, a corner can’t knock every ball down, but Trufant is a great defender when the ball is thrown to the receiver he’s covering.  9.0/10.0

HEALTH:

He started 45 straight games before getting hurt and missing the Colorado game this past season, so that injury will be something that teams will keep in their minds when thinking about drafting him on April 25. I don’t believe that this will be much of an issue in his career, however. One injury in four years is definitely not a worrisome thing to me, and I think that NFL teams will look past that injury on draft day. 9.5/10.0

 

OVERALL:

From me, Desmond Trufant gets a score of 8.75/10.00. I believe that the youngest brother in the Trufant family will become the greatest corner of the three. I think that he can make a great addition for a team in need of a corner and that he will become a Pro Bowl-level corner. Trufant really needs to work on his run defense, but that can come with time. He has excellent coverage skills and I love his speed. Trufant is a great corner that is going to make whatever team that drafts him very happy. There might be some growing pains right away, but give him time and he will be really good. Now as to where I think Trufant will get drafted? Well, I believe (and this can be seen in our Round 1 mock draft below [also in the “Mock Draft” category]) that Trufant will be drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 13th overall pick. The Bucs are dealing with the best corner in franchise history, Ronde Barber, nearing retirement, and they will need to find someone to take his role on the defense. Trufant could come in and get game experience right away while learning the ins and outs of the NFL from an all time great. It is an awesome situation for Trufant to go into, and the Bucs would be extremely happy to grab a corner with the skills of Desmond Trufant.

HIGHLIGHTS:

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52 @OnTheClockNFL

Next, I’ll be previewing Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas!

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NFL teams are always looking to add a little bit of playmaking ability to their defense. They look for someone who has a nose for the ball, and the tendency to make big plays in big situations. Despite off-field issues, which I believe are really overblown, there may not be a bigger playmaker in this year’s draft class than Tyrann Mathieu. Being a “playmaker” is an extremely intangible thing and can’t be determined through combine drills, but when you watch his tape it becomes clear that the Honey Badger is a difference maker when used properly.

Mathieu is not a big player, standing at just about 5’9”. He doesn’t have blazing speed. He really doesn’t even world-class cover skills. But in two years playing for the LSU Tigers, the Honey Badger earned his nickname through his fearlessness on the field. He gave 110% on every snap that I watched; he never got down on himself and always seemed prepared for the next play. He also had a tremendous knack for forcing fumbles. In his two seasons as a Tiger, Mathieu forced 11 fumbles, the most by any player in the SEC since 2000. A player with a natural ability to rip the ball loose like Tyann does is a very intriguing prospect to an NFL team.

Tyrann played a little bit of everything in his short time at LSU. Outside corner, slot corner in nickel situations and free safety were all positions you could expect to see Mathieu in on any given play. As a pure cornerback, Tyrann is not all that impressive. He often got pushed around by bigger receivers and didn’t cover all that well whether it was on the outside or in the slot. That being said I do think Mathieu is a smart football player. He’s a good tackler, reads offenses as well as anyone, and reacts to the ball faster than anyone you will see. That combination may make him a more likely fit at the free safety position in the NFL.

The Honey Badger was also a very explosive punt returner for the Tigers. In his one and only season as a punt returner, Mathieu averaged 17.2 yards per return, the highest average in the SEC since 2000, with 2 touchdowns, which was second in the SEC that season. Tyrann did make some questionable decisions on punts though, if he gets a shot to be a punt returner in the NFL he needs to learn when to just let the ball bounce in to the endzone, or be aware of when he’s actually crossed the goal line.

Just to talk a little bit about the elephant in the room of his off field issues, I think they were drastically overblown. There have been countless players who had issues in college with marijuana who went on to have successful NFL careers despite dropping on draft day. One recent player that comes to mind is Patriot’s tight end Aaron Hernandez who dropped to the 4th round after failing multiple drug tests while at Florida. Not only is Hernandez now a successful player in the NFL, he is also a model citizen and just got a big contract from the Patriots. I see absolutely no reason why Tyrann Mathieu can’t do the same thing.

I honestly feel the risk with Mathieu is very small. You’re not going to have to spend more than a 4th round pick on him and with that you’re going to get a very good player. At the very worst you’re going to get a solid special teams contributor with a high motor who could inspire the rest of his teammates.

Tyrann Mathieu is going to be a very hungry player after missing out on a year of football. I expect him to do very well in the combine, which starts tomorrow, but probably not enough to raise his stock much. In a recent interview with ESPN, Mathieu said he thinks he can be a good leader both on and off the field in the NFL, in his words “like a Ray Lewis.” Mathieu won’t be going before the 4th round, and honestly even if he didn’t have problems with weed I’m not sure if he is a first or even second round talent. What Mathieu is is a great football player, and that’s all scouts are going to care about. The Honey Badger has the potential to make a huge splash in the NFL if he gets put in the right situation with a coaching staff that will use him in the right ways.

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

Highlights:

Xavier Rhodes (27) chases after Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch during the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL on Jan. 1, 2013. Florida State beat the Huskies, 31-10

Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes (27) chases after Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch during the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL on Jan. 1, 2013. The Seminoles beat the Huskies, 31-10.

Redshirt junior cornerback Xavier (pronounced: Zay-vee-er) Rhodes out of Florida State (6′ 2″, 217 lbs.) is a big, physical corner who punched his ticket to the NFL after FSU’s Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois. He believes that he has done all he can in college and now he is ready to take his talents to whichever team decides to take him in April’s draft. In a draft that does not feature a bevy of cornerback talent, maybe that was a good choice. Maybe he could have risen his stock a little if he would have stayed the extra year in Tallahassee. But, those questions cannot be answered, and I, along with many NFL teams, am A-OK with that.

I will now evaluate Rhodes based on these criteria: Agility, Run Defense, Awareness, Range, Coverage, Tackle, Ball Skills, Speed, Burn Rate, and Health.

AGILITY:

Rhodes is not the most agile corner in the world, but he is agile enough to be a good corner in the NFL. He does get juked sometimes. An example of a time where that has happened is at the 5:33 mark of the USF/Miami video. It is in the Miami portion and Rhodes is in man coverage, covering Miami WR Rashaun Scott throws a juke on a slant and go route that throws Rhodes and allows Scott to get behind the coverage and open for Stephen Morris to hit him with a deep pass. Scott drops the ball on the play, but it still makes my point. Rhodes sometimes lets his hips lock up, but that can easily be improved by some yoga or hip flexibility drills. 8.5/10.0

RUN DEFENSE:

I feel as if Rhodes reads the play for too long. There were plays throughout his tape when he would get locked up with the receiver and then try to read the play. He would then not be able to react to the run in time, and sometimes it would get past him for a big gain. When any receiver tries to lock up with him and block him, he should immediately throw a move to get the guy off of him, because it’s a run. That made it look like he could have had more tackles. He is a solid run defender when he does shed his blocks. He is a power hitter and usually a fundamental tackler. 8.0/10.0

AWARENESS:

Rhodes has pretty good awareness. He can see what play is coming typically, and adjusts himself accordingly. FSU played a lot of soft coverage (meaning he starts with the receiver having a 5-10 yard cushion), which allows him to see more of the play and adjust more and faster. Rhodes recognizes play action very well and he rarely bites, if ever. FSU also runs a lot of man (some of which started out in the soft coverage), which helps out with his awareness, since he just has to react to what his man is doing. He was not often used as a blitzer, but when he was, he was committed to the QB, usually, and didn’t try to read the play. As one can see in the Miami play, he can fall victim to route changes (that pass was on a slant and go route, as I stated above). But overall good awareness. 8.5/10.0

RANGE:

Rhodes possesses very good range. He has the ability to see the ball and his reactions are great, but sometimes he has to pull off of his man to try to make plays. An example of that is in the Wake Forest/Clemson tape at the 4:49 mark, Rhodes has to pull off of his man and try to knock the ball away from Clemson TE Brandon Ford. He misses and Ford scores, but the fact that he almost knocked the ball down impressed me. His angles on those plays aren’t the greatest but it’s not his fault that he has to make up slack for his teammates. He takes great angles on run plays and is usually in on or near the play unless he’s in deep coverage. He keeps up with receivers when the ball is in the air and he closes very quickly on those. 8.75/10.0

COVERAGE:

Rhodes is a very skilled cover corner. Coverage is definitely one of his best assets, and the team that drafts him. When he’s in coverage, QB’s shouldn’t usually throw to receivers that he is covering, since they are not usually open and Rhodes is a decent ball hawk, but they do anyway. Rhodes is very physical and always on his man. He is better in man coverage than in zone, but he is still very good in both. 9.0/10.0

TACKLE:

Rhodes is a solid tackler. He is a power hitter, as I mentioned earlier, and his only flaw is that there are times when he just goes for the huge blow and doesn’t wrap up, but that’s a problem a lot of DBs have, even at the pro level. He delivers fierce hits, doesn’t let receivers or running backs break many tackles, and is usually a good form tackler. Finished with 112 tackles in 2012, 39 of which were in 2012. 8.5/10.0

BALL SKILLS:

Rhodes is very good at attacking the ball at the highest point and knocking the ball down or picking the ball off. He had 3 picks in 2012 (8 total in his career) and 7 other passes defended (23 in his career), also forced one fumble. He attacks the ball when it gets to his receiver. That’s the best way I can put it. 9.0/10.0

SPEED:

Rhodes is fast. His 40-yard dash time currently is 4.55, fast enough to keep up with just about anybody in pads. Definitely something that NFL teams will like about him. Surprising with speed like that, that he is considered a second round prospect. 9.0/10.0

BURN RATE:

Where coverage is how well the receiver does preventing the QB from throwing the ball to the WR Rhodes is covering, Burn Rate is how well Rhodes (or any other corner for that matter) does when the ball is thrown to the WR he is covering. And thanks to his speed, ball skills, and tackling ability, among many other factors, Rhodes has a great burn rate. Basically, he doesn’t get burned often. There are times (The Miami play) where he does, but usually he’s right there with his man making a play. He’s there breaking up passes, picking off passes, and not allowing his receiver to catch the ball. This is a great skill for him to have going forward. 9.0/10.0

HEALTH:

Rhodes missed the Savannah State and Maryland games in 2012 (I cannot find the actual injuries) and this may be something to watch. Maybe it won’t be, but until I know the actual injuries, one cannot be sure. I’m sure that NFL teams know what the injuries were (and if anyone knows what they were, it would be awesome if they could tell me in the comments below), and that they are not worried about them being an issue. 8.0/10.0

OVERALL:

Rhodes’ overall score from me is an 8.63/10.00. I said this earlier, but I am very surprised that Xavier Rhodes is a second round prospect. He is a solid tackler, fast, and has very good coverage skills. I really like Rhodes and I believe that he will be off of the board by the end of the first round. Now where exactly do I think he will go? I don’t think that many teams in the top half of the first round will be looking to take a cornerback that high, so look for him to be hanging around in the latter half to quarter of the first round. I would take him as a first rounder and not let another team grab him in the second round. I think he’ll make a great corner in the NFL. The team that I think will take him: the New England Patriots at #29. The Patriots need a deep threat wide receiver more than anything, so they’ll be looking for that first, but I don’t think they’ll find it in the draft. I see them taking Rhodes and letting him learn behind Kyle Arrington, Aqib Talib (who I believe they will re-sign), and Alfonzo Dennard. And if Dennard is sentenced to prison time for assualting an officer and resisting arrest (he was found guilty, sentencing is set for April 11), then it will be even more likely that the Patriots will go after a corner in the draft. They could also turn him into a safety like they did with Devin McCourty.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I’ll be previewing Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri!

Finding a cornerback with good cover skills is very hard to do in the NFL. For that reason players that maybe don’t deserve a big payday but are decent in coverage have received some big contracts recently. Brandon Carr, Jason McCourty among others have received some sizeable contracts simply because they are OK in coverage and far better than some of the other players available at the position. There are really only a select handful of players in the NFL who are great in man-to-man coverage, and teams are always looking to add someone like that on their roster. The organization that has the opportunity to select Dee Milliner this year will have that player on their team.

When isolated man-to-man, there isn’t a better player in this year’s class than Dee Milliner. On film it seemed like he was nearly always in the hip pocket of his man, always in the perfect position to make a play. He is very fluid in his movements, has great speed for someone his size at 6’1”, and has some great ball skills. One of the things that impressed me the most was his willingness to play at 100% until the whistle was blown. On several plays the receiver made the catch, but Dee kept fighting until the ball was knocked loose and ruled incomplete. Giving an effort like that will cause a lot of NFL scouts to salivate.

Milliner did just about everything that he is going to be asked to do in the NFL while playing for the Crimson Tide. He played on the outside as well as the inside. He blitzed the quarterback on several occasions with some moderate success; recording 1.5 sacks this past year. He played special teams on the punt coverage unit. He seems like a team player who will be willing to do anything and everything to help his future NFL team.

Taking a look at Dee’s numbers truly does not do him justice. Milliner only recorded 2 interceptions this past season along with 20 passes broken up, 1 blocked kick, and 4 tackles for loss. Those aren’t mind-blowing numbers on paper, but lucky for Dee football isn’t played on paper. Dee is going to be one of the best players on any given football field on any given Sunday.

Just to pump the breaks a little bit, Dee is not God’s gift to defensive backs. He has wrinkles just like any other player. On film he got blocked far too easily on running plays, completely getting taken out on some plays altogether. His biggest issue though may be his tackling. Far too many times I saw Dee fail to wrap up his man and miss tackles. For younger players it seems that good form tackling is a common problem, but it really seems like an issue with Dee. To really live up to his potential, he needs to work on wrapping up his man; when taking notes on Milliner I wrote “NEEDS TO WRAP UP” several times in all-caps and with exclamation points. If Dee can get over this issue there is really no good reason why he can’t be in the conversation for the best corner in the league in a few years.

Dee Milliner is a top-5 talent who will likely not be taken in the top 5. He has unbelievable reaction time, great speed, and good hands. He appears to have a good work ethic, seems to be a good teammate, and has a great motor. You don’t often see a player he can stay on his man as well as Dee can. Milliner has all kinds of potential and whoever picks him in April will be getting a stud in their defensive backfield, someone to build their entire defense around. I believe that the Lions would be very wise to take this kid at number 5, if he hasn’t already been taken.

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

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