Rolle seems to have slight upper hand
Here is how ESPN.com rates the top 11 cornerback prospects in the draft:
• Antrel Rolle (Miami)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-0 1/8, 201 pounds, 4.48 in the 40.
Numbers game: A Parade Magazine All-American in high school. Started in 36 of 45 appearances, finishing his career with 183 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 21 passes defensed, five fumble recoveries and 4½ sacks. Had one interception return for a touchdown. In 2003, returned 13 punts for a 15.5-yard average and one score. Was twice suspended, once by the Big East and another time by school officials. Charged in July of 2004 after an incident in which people attacked his vehicle and he allegedly resisted arrest. Reinstated to team after he wrote letter of apology to police. Consensus All-American in 2004 and a member of the all-ACC team. Was a finalist for Jim Thorpe Award in 2004.
Upside: Big frame and powerful build through the upper body. Strong, active hands, can jolt a wide receiver with initial contact and pin him at the line. Loves to roughhouse with receivers, and will flat-out beat up wideouts as he runs alongside them. Excellent in bump-and-press coverages. Quicker than a lot of scouts thought. Forces the run and will play off blocks pretty nicely. Some blitz ability, especially when he sneaks up into the slot. Has played some safety, so be can move inside in nickel situations.
Downside: Although he has run well in workouts, lacks top-end speed and closing burst as well, doesn't always recover when he is beaten up the boundary. A little tight through the hips and not quite as fluid as you'd like. Susceptible to double-move routes and will peek into the backfield a little too often.
The dish: Has the kind of size, toughness and mental makeup every team wants at what has become a premium position. Likely a top 10-selection.
|In preparation for the NFL draft (April 23-24, ESPN), Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton will roll out a position-by-position look at draft prospects, along with a breakdown for each position. Click here to see the complete schedule.|
Vital statistics: 5-foot-9½, 188 pounds, 4.43 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played in 36 games and started in 22 of them, had 201 tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight interceptions, 22 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two recoveries and three sacks. Averaged 19.5 yards on interception returns and had one runback for a touchdown. Returned 59 kickoffs for a 25.0-yard average and one score and 37 punts for an average of 10.9 yards and a touchdown. Also had two carries for 31 yards. Named to the all-Big East team in '04 and was also selected as the conference's special-teams player of the year.
Downside: Still very raw in a lot of areas. Not as productive in off-man coverages. Will take some chances because he is always looking for the big play. Will have to learn to use his hands a little better when taking on blockers. Has some "street dirt" on him, and isn't exactly a choir boy, but has never been in any big trouble.
The dish: He and Rolle are neck and neck for the No. 1 cornerback spot. Also figures to be a top-10 choice.
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Vital statistics: 6-foot-0 3/8, 196 pounds, 4.46 in the 40.
Numbers game: Like many of the cornerback prospects, an outstanding track performer in high school. Attended Hargrave Military Academy in 2000 before moving to Auburn. Played in 50 games and started 44 contests. Recorded 182 tackles, eight tackles for loss, seven interceptions, 40 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and one-half sack. Averaged 14.4 yards on interception returns. All-SEC as a senior. Won the Jim Thorpe Award as the country's best defensive back and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award as the best overall defensive player.
Upside: Far better athlete than he was credited with being early in the draft evaluation process. An aware player who has an innate feel for the synergy in the secondary and uses that knowledge to his advantage. Pretty good closing speed. Really plays well when he is able to sit in a zone and read the action in front of him. Solid tackler who can come up and stall the flow. Surprisingly good leaper with 41-inch vertical jump.
Downside: Plays high in his backpedal, not particularly fluid, and needs too many steps to gather himself before breaking on the ball. Only average in man-to-man or press coverage. You wonder if he has the kind of selective amnesia it takes to play corner, because he lets some plays hang with him too long.
The dish: Not a true shutdown cornerback like Jones and Rolle figure to be at the next level, but still a solid, all-around defender. Certain to go in the first round and, if Rolle and Jones go off the board as quickly as expected, that will enhance his standing.
• Justin Miller (Clemson)
Vital statistics: 5-foot-9¾, 201 pounds, 4.46 in the 40.
Numbers game: Was a USA Today All-American in high school and won the state long jump title, while also competing in the 100-meter dash. Started in all but three of his 37 career appearances and posted 169 tackles, two tackles for loss, 13 interceptions, 31 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, one recovery and one sack. Averaged a school-record 30.7 yards on 50 career kickoff returns and scored three touchdowns. On 34 punt returns, had a 12.1-yard average and scored twice. Only the second player in Clemson history to score on both kickoff and punt runbacks. Was an all-ACC pick in 2004. In 2002, pleaded guilty to drunken driving charge and had license suspended.
Upside: Strong and physical and has all the tools to be a shutdown defender. Is around the football a ton, as indicated by his interception and passes defensed totals. Terrific athlete, with an NBA-level vertical jump. Exceptional burst and acceleration and can close in a hiccup, especially in the flats and out areas. Looks comfortable out in space and plays with a swagger and a nasty streak. Will pound on receivers. Incredible return numbers, both on kickoffs and punts, and that increases his value.
Downside: Shorter than what most teams want now at the position. Probably relies too much on his natural skills and, as a result, inadequate in some key technique areas. Too anxious on the play fakes and will give up big plays. Suffers lapses of concentration and has never been known as a hard worker. Not always in the best of shape.
The dish: Speed and return skills, plus a projected early run on cornerbacks, probably get him into the first round.
• Marlin Jackson (Michigan)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-0 5/8, 192 pounds, 4.49 in the 40.
Numbers game: Was a USA Today All-American in senior year of high school. Also lettered three years in basketball. Played every position in Wolverines' secondary at some point in his career, appearing in 45 games and starting 39 of them. Had 195 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, 34 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two sacks. Returned one interception for a touchdown. In 2001, ran back six kickoffs for a 20.0-yard average. An All-American and all-Big Ten in 2004. In 2003, pleaded guilty to hitting a man with a bottle during a fight and was suspended for the first game of the '04 season.
Upside: Nice size and playing strength. Powerful enough to stop wide receivers in their tracks, or at least force them to throttle down, and can redirect a route. Closes pretty well on the ball. Very alert in zone coverages and feels comfortable playing the "quarter" and "halves" looks with which some of the other top corners have struggled. Good, sure tackler who will wrap up.
Downside: Not as nifty in man-to-man as he is in zones, and seems to hesitate at times before he makes his break coming forward. Not real loose in the hips and, when he plants to turn, has trouble making a fluid transition. Catch-up speed is a little less than you'd like. Gets his hands on a lot of balls but doesn't makes as many interceptions as he should. Progress seemed to stall some in the last two seasons. Like many of the corner prospects, teams will take a long look at his character.
The dish: After slipping early in the offseason, has made a nice recovery over the last two months, and really rehabilitated his stock. The fact he can also play free safety, along with his size, will probably get him into the final quadrant of the first round.
• Bryant McFadden (Florida State)
Vital statistics: 5-foot-11 3/8, 190 pounds, 4.45 in the 40.
Numbers game: Chosen a high school All-American by Parade Magazine and USA Today. Played in 49 games and started 21 of them, finishing with 107 tackles, three tackles for loss four interceptions, 26 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Did not allow a touchdown pass in the last two seasons.
Upside: Tough, physical competitor, goes hard all the time. Solid, compact physique. Pretty good feet. Can mirror most wide receivers and pretty clever in how he uses his hands and the power in his shoulders against bigger wideouts. Reliable tackler who gets off blocks pretty cleanly. Better athlete than he first appears. A really hard worker.
Downside: Lacks on-ball skills and doesn't always play with spatial awareness. Will give up the inside position too easily. Much better moving forward than when he has to plant, turn and run deep with a receiver. Will have some missteps and take poor angles.
The dish: A sure second-round pick and some franchises project him to go late in the first round. Has been on the rise in recent weeks.
• Corey Webster (LSU)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-0 1/8, 199 pounds, 4.48 in the 40.
Numbers game: One-time high school quarterback and also starred in basketball, where he averaged nearly 20 points as a junior and senior. Played some wide receiver very early in his career before switching to the secondary. Despite shoulder surgery following the '03 season and some hamstring problems in '04, started in 29 of 48 appearances and amassed 117 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, 16 interceptions, 51 passes defensed, three fumbles forced and one recovery, and one sack. Ranks No. 2 in conference history for the most career interceptions. Returned one interception for a touchdown. Had seven receptions for 74 yards. Was an All-American and all-SEC choice in 2003. A semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2004.
Upside: Super-productive player. Gets his hands on a lot of balls. His combined 67 interceptions-knockdowns are among the top three totals in the draft. Great instincts. Nice size and long arms. Uses his hands well, both to redirect receivers and to fight off blocks when he comes up to support versus the run. Plays every defense well, but particularly effective in off-man, which is a difficult coverage for many young players. Aggressive in every phase of the game.
Downside: Has improved his speed but still not a sprinter. Will have to work on getting out of his backpedal quicker and on his breaks. Will gamble a little too often.
The dish: Had he gone into the 2004 draft, which he came close to doing, Webster would have been a first-round choice. Instead he had to fight through injuries and regain some of his confidence. Will be a second-round pick but still an outside chance he could sneak into the first round because his recent auditions have been solid.
• Fabian Washington (Nebraska)
Vital statistics: 5-foot-10½, 188 pounds, 4.29 in the 40.
Numbers game: As a high school senior, returned five kickoffs for touchdowns. A starter in all but two of his 37 college appearances, finishing with 145 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 11 interceptions, 38 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two recoveries and one sack. Returned one interception for a score.
Upside: Real burner with Deion Sanders-level straight-line speed. Super athlete with loose hips, quick feet and nice change of direction. Natural recovery speed allows him to get back into plays on which it appears he might be beat. Smooth, fluid, plays under control. Can blanket receivers. Great leaper, with 41½-inch vertical jump.
Downside: Doesn't have great size and isn't as physical as some of the other corners in terms of moving and redirecting receivers. Much better at playing the deep ball than he is moving forward on routes. Not very strong through the hands and shoulders. Has been known to slide off some tackles.
The dish: Has the tools and the warp-speed acceleration to be a terrific NFL corner. Not quite as polished as some prospects, but you can't ignore that 4.29 time in the 40. Some teams have him sliding a bit, maybe because they're looking too hard for warts, but still looks like a first-round pick.
• Eric Green (Virginia Tech)
Vital statistics: 5-foot-11 3/8, 198 pounds, 4.49 in the 40.
Numbers game: Was a quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back in high school. Also a standout track performer in the hurdles. Started in 27 of his 47 appearances, including seeing action as a true freshman, and registered 143 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, eight interceptions, 25 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one sack. Averaged 33.0 yards on interception returns and scored twice.
Upside: Nice, compact build and knows how to hang it on receivers. Plays a little faster even than his stopwatch speed. Aggressive and physical, will use his hands to push people around and re-route wideouts. Tracks the ball well and has soft hands. Plants hard and really bursts forward.
Downside: A little hitch in his turn-and-go, and has to get better in general with his footwork. Not as aware in zone coverages. Only a decent tackler and doesn't exactly look anxious to get up and stop the run at times.
The dish: Quality defender who will be chosen in the second round.
• Stanley Wilson (Stanford)
Vital statistics: 5-foot-11¾, 185 pounds, 4.39 in the 40.
Numbers game: Top-shelf track performer in high school and for much of his college tenure as well. His best times in the 100 meters (10.46) and 200 meters (21.4) are among the top performances in school history. Also anchored the Stanford 4x100 relay team in its school-record performance. Played in 39 games and started 27 times, chalking up 115 tackles, 2½ tackles for loss, five interceptions and 16 passes defensed. Averaged 20.6 yards on interception returns.
Upside: Superb natural athlete, loose in the hips, and hits his top acceleration numbers very quickly. Can stick to a receiver up the field. In fact, probably more fluid when he is in reverse than he is bursting forward to the ball in front of him. Plays good positional defense and doesn't give ground on the inside routes.
Downside: His speed is more straight-line than functional and has to work more on his change of direction, particularly in short and intermediate zones. Not as aware as he will need to be at the next level. A pull-down tackler who doesn't drive his body through people and doesn't play the run that well.
The dish: Making strides and has had good workouts. Could get into the second round and is certainly a first-day selection.
• Stanford Routt (Houston)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-1 3/8, 192 pounds, 4.31 in the 40.
Numbers game: A high school All-American in track and also starred for Houston in that sport for two seasons. In 2003, was an NCAA qualifier in the 60- and 200-meter sprints. In 42 appearances, 27 starts, had 136 tackles, three tackles for loss, seven interceptions, 23 passes defensed and one fumble recovery. Returned three kickoffs for 36 yards.
Upside: Outstanding build for the position. Terrific speed and can mirror even the swiftest wide receivers deep down the field. Good break and recovery. Nice hands and usually does a solid job reading the quarterback.
Downside: For all his size, doesn't play very physically, and doesn't muscle receivers off the ball. Gives ground way too easily. Footwork needs a ton of work. Takes poor angles and, worse, gets tangled up and looks awkward in change of direction situations. Very raw and too often looks like a track guy trying to play football. Does not play with discipline and, because he's so anxious to make a play, gets out of the framework out of the coverage. Not a sure tackler.
The dish: There's a lot with which to work and, frankly, he'll need to get to a team that will display patience with him. On the flip side, his size and brilliant speed make him too hard to ignore. Probably a third-rounder.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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