Wednesday, April 20, 2005

2005 NFL Draft coverage - Defensive backs

There are a number of first-round prospects in this class. I'll profile the top three, and take a look at some other interesting prospects.

Top dogs
1. Adam Jones, West Virginia. "Pac-Man" is undersized, and he caused some concern by scoring an underwhelming 13 on the Wonderlic, but Jones is ready for the NFL. His coverage skills are excellent, and he has the speed and athleticism to overcome a lack of height and bulk. He does a great job locating and closing on the ball, and he also has tremendous ability as a kick returner. Jones doesn't have the ideal size of an NFL cornerback, but his cover skills and kick-return ability will make him the first cornerback off the board. Projected: 1st round.

2. Antrel Rolle, Miami. Bigger and stronger than Jones, Rolle is another solid prospect. He has good cover skills, solid speed for his size, and is very good at locating the ball in the air and going after it. Rolle is a more physical player in coverage than Jones, which might cause some concern because of the NFL's recent crackdown on illegal downfield contact. He's also not as fluid in man coverage as Jones is. The two are virtually interchangeable, but I rate Jones a little bit higher. Rolle, though, has great potential in the NFL. Projected: 1st round.

3. Carlos Rogers, Auburn. Rogers is the forgotten player of this class. He has good size and is a physical player at the line of scrimmage. He's a willing participant in run support who can get the job done, and he also has the speed to make plays downfield. He's not as fluid in coverage as Rolle or Jones, and his college career was a bit inconsistent. His size and strength, along with more-than-adequate speed, make Rogers an intriguing prospect who could quickly become a solid NFL starter. Projected: 1st round.

Corey Webster, LSU. Good athlete with tremendous downfield coverage ability. He has a 39-inch vertical, long arms, and has shown very good ball skills downfield. Webster doesn't have ideal top-end speed, but makes up for it with his fundamentals and aggressiveness in coverage. There are concerns, as Webster had nagging leg and foot injuries that set him back in 2004, and he only scored a 12 on the Wonderlic. Webster has a chance to be a solid pro if he can stay healthy and overcome a lack of elite speed. Projected: 2nd or 3rd round.

Brandon Browner, Oregon State. Browner is a good athlete for his size. The tallest corner in the class, Browner has shown some good coverage skills, especially in press coverage, and he is a physical player who is strong in run support. Browner isn't a factor in zone coverage, and he is not a fluid athlete; he will be susceptible to double-moves by faster NFL receivers. Browner's size virtually ensures that he will come off the board by the middle of the second round, but he might have trouble developing into more than a role player. Projected: 2nd round.

Other notables
Fabian Washington, Nebraska - 1st round
Marlin Jackson, Michigan - 1st or 2nd round
Justin Miller, Clemson - 1st or 2nd round
Bryant McFadden, Florida State - 3rd round
Stanley Wilson, Stanford - 3rd or 4th round
Scott Starks, Wisconsin - 4th round
Ronald Bartell, Howard - 4th or 5th round

Top dogs
1. Thomas Davis, Georgia. A tremendously physical player at the line of scrimmage, Davis is the best safety on the board, and he has the skill to eventually move to linebacker if he gets bigger. Davis is a solid open-field hitter and is better in coverage than a lot of people think. He needs work in man coverage, because he does sometimes get lost against quicker receivers. He has good range in zone coverage, and he locates the ball well. Davis should be the first safety off the board, and he could start in a hurry if he goes to the right team. Projected: 1st round.

2. Brodney Pool, Oklahoma. Unlike Davis, Pool is best suited as a "centerfield" safety. He has great sideline-to-sideline range and locates the ball as well as any safety in the class. Pool is a bit of a liability against the run because he's not as physical as he needs to be, and he doesn't do a very good job of shedding blockers. But Pool's ball skills make him an attractive prospect. He won't be ready to start right away, but should contribute immediately in nickel and dime packages. Projected: 1st or 2nd round.

3. Ernest Shazor, Michigan. Shazor is an intimidating force in the secondary. He hits hard everywhere on the field, but is better against the run. He is hard to block. He does a good job diagnosing run plays and explodes into the ball carrier. Shazor is not a fluid athlete and he struggles in coverage, especially when he's one-on-one with slot receivers. Shazor would work well coverage-oriented safeties that would allow him to play closer to the line of scrimmage and blitz on occasion. Projected: 2nd round.

Oshiomogho Atogwe, Stanford. Atogwe is an interesting prospect because of his playmaking skills. He had nine interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries in three years as a starter while leading Stanford in tackles each year. He's not a real big hitter, and he lacks the athleticism of other prospects, but Atogwe's work ethic, understanding of the game, and his playmaking skills make him a good candidate to come off the board late in the first day, and he has a chance to become a starter. Projected: 3rd round.

Sean Considine, Iowa. Considine has some ability. He has decent size and good straight-line speed. Considine plays bigger than he is, and he's a big factor in run defense because of his reliability as a tackler. He needs to improve his recognition skills, and he has to take better angles in the open field because he doesn't have the pure speed to run guys down. Considine is a decent prospect, but his lack of experience and questionable coverage skills, along with a lack of size, should relegate him to the second day. Projected: 3rd round.

Other notables
Josh Bullocks, Nebraska - 2nd or 3rd round
Vincent Fuller, Virginia Tech - 3rd round
Dustin Fox, Ohio State - 4th round
Kerry Rhodes, Louisville - 4th or 5th round
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin - 5th round
Matt Grootegoed, Southern California - 6th round

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