PFW: Scouting reports on the five highest-ranked defensive backs

Discussion in 'Draft Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Apr 10, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

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    By Nolan Nawrocki
    April 10, 2008

    This is the eighth and final installment in a series of eight articles for this Web site, in which we're presenting excerpts from “the bible of the draft,” our 2008 Draft Preview book, which is on now sale at the PFW store. Please note that the top five players at each position are listed in the order in which they were ranked in the pre-draft issue of our print edition, published March 31.

    E-mail your draft questions to Nolan Nawrocki at He'll be answering selected questions on this Web site every Wednesday preceding the draft.

    1. CB-RS Leodis McKelvin
    (5-10¼, 190, 4.39) Troy
    Notes: Also lettered in basketball as a prep. Appeared in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2004, registering 17 tackles, one pass breakup and an interception he returned 71 yards for a touchdown. Also returned 15 kickoffs for 328 yards (21.9-yard average) and 26 punts for 304 yards (11.7) and two touchdowns. Started all 11 games in ’05, compiling 30-5-0 with one sack and one blocked kick. Also returned kickoffs 24-619 (25.8) and one touchdown and punts 33-417-1 (12.6). Suffered a broken right ankle during spring workouts in ’06 but returned to start all 13 games and total 66-8-1 and two forced fumbles. Also returned kickoffs 27-634-0 (23.5) and punts 28-314-1 (11.2). Still suffers from a lingering left AC joint injury. Started all 12 games in ’07, totaling 60-11-2 with three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Also returned punts 23-421-3 (18.3) and kickoffs 29-610-0 (21.0). His three punt-return scores led the nation. Did not participate in Senior Bowl game because of a hamstring injury.

    Troy CB Leodis McKelvin

    Positives: Good size. Has excellent feet, loose hips and pedals as fluidly as any corner in the draft. Can shadow and mirror receivers without losing any ground. Shows excellent closing burst and plant-and-drive quickness. Is very efficient in press-man or off-man coverage and can cling to receivers. Shows good instincts — sees the quarterback and reacts quickly. Very good transitional quickness. Plants his foot in the ground and pops out of his pedal with explosion. Supports the run hard and will deliver a hit. Has dynamic return ability and can flat-out fly. Finished his collegiate career with seven career kick returns for touchdowns — one shy of the all-time NCAA record. Shows excellent tracking speed — caught Arkansas RB Felix Jones from behind. Shows good run vision and instincts when he touches the ball. Responds to hard coaching. Will work hard to improve.

    Negatives: Needs to be challenged and will coast through the motions at times. Showed some tightness at the Senior Bowl that was not previously seen on tape. Hands are too inconsistent and will, at times, misjudge and misplay the ball. Does not always field the ball cleanly. Does not have a great understanding of the game nor does he articulate it easily.

    Summary: Is very physically gifted with the foot quickness, fluid hips and explosive, top-end speed to develop into a top-flight corner. Has elite return skills to become a game-breaker and the work ethic to continue to improve. Likely will be the first corner drafted and could contribute readily in the pros.

    2. CB-KR Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
    (6-1½, 184, 4.33) Tennessee State
    Notes: Cousin of Chargers Pro Bowl CB Antonio Cromartie. Dominique started all 11 games as a true freshman in 2004 and tallied 33 tackles, five pass breakups and two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. Started 11 games in ’05, amassing 41-5-1 with one blocked kick. Started all 11 games in ’06, collecting 47-13-5 and one blocked kick. Started 11 games in ’07 and totaled 37-13-2, returning both interceptions for touchdowns, and blocked four kicks (three field goals, one extra point), three of which saved games. Also returned 33 kickoffs for 806 yards (24.4-yard average) with one touchdown and four punts for 16 yards (4.0). Also rushed two times for 16 yards and caught one pass for 38 yards.

    Positives: Excellent size-speed ratio and short-area burst. Has world-class speed. Can stick his foot in the ground and accelerate. Excellent closing speed. Outstanding leaping ability (38½-inch vertical). Smooth and fluid pedal. Very good transitional quickness and body control. Can move better in reverse than many defensive backs can move forward. Natural ballhawk — attacks the ball in the air and catches like a receiver. Good feet. Has long arms and a long wingspan. Is a good competitor and showed he could hang with the big boys and was willing to hit at the Senior Bowl. Has legitimate return ability.

    Negatives: Has a very wiry build. Has faced marginal competition and was not regularly matched up vs. NFL-caliber receivers. Lacks lower-body strength and pop as a tackler. Plays soft and with too much finesse. Needs to get stronger. Questionable toughness. His tackling deficiency might never disappear. Has to learn how to play square to the line of scrimmage and pedal instead of bailing all the time and freelancing. Most coverage assignments were very simple in college.

    Summary: Has had a meteoric draft postseason and calmed major fears about his tackling deficiency, showing exceptional cover skills at the Senior Bowl and blowing the doors off the Combine. Clearly comes from world-class bloodlines and has performed like a top-10 talent since his season ended. Could become an excellent cover corner with continued physical development.

    3. CB-RS Mike Jenkins
    (5-10¼, 197, 4.44) South Florida
    Notes: Started 3-of-11 games at right cornerback as a true freshman in 2004 and also saw action at safety, finishing with 27 tackles and nine pass breakups and added two forced fumbles, all despite playing with a sprained ankle. Started all 12 games in ’05 and tallied 38 tackles, five pass breakups and two interceptions, plus one forced fumble and one punt return for 27 yards. Started 12-of-13 games at right corner in ’06, notching 27-15-1 and returning kickoffs 2-27-0 (13.5-yard average). Arrested in March ’07 along with starting SS Carlton Williams, as the pair attended teammate Stephen Nicholas’ bachelor party at an off-campus bar. A large disturbance broke out amongst 200 people outside the venue, and the pair was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and obstructing or opposing an officer without violence and were suspended indefinitely from the team. Started all 13 games in ’07, finishing with 41-12-3 and four tackles for loss. He also returned kickoffs 7-213 (30.4), which included a 100-yard TD return vs. Cincinnati.

    Positives: Has a very good size-speed ratio and can recover easily when out of position. Great top-end and closing speed. Natural man-cover skills. Shows the agility and fluidity to flip his hips. Good ball skills — can stick his foot in the ground and come out of breaks fast.

    Negatives: Lacks consistency — plays down to the level of competition and takes too many plays off. Poor intangibles — poor practice habits, finds excuses not to practice, does not understand why it’s important and relies way too much on his natural talent. Has been coddled throughout college and expects prima donna treatment. Tends to freelance and do his own thing, in part because of his lack of discipline. Will turn down some contact and is a very selective hitter. Only hits when he feels like it. Average ball skills. Marginal hands. Tight in the hips. Does not like to participate on special teams. Lacks mental toughness. Timed faster in the 40-yard dash than in the 20-yard shuttle at the Combine.

    Summary: As physically gifted as any corner in the draft, Jenkins never has lived up to his potential and might never become the player he could because of his lack of heart, desire and work habits. Could emerge as a legitimate man-cover corner, but the risk-taking decisionmaker who spends a first-round pick on him had better have long-term job security and a lot of tolerance for prima donnas.

    4. CB Aqib Talib (junior)
    (6-0¾, 202, 4.49) Kansas
    Notes: Redshirted in 2004 as a true freshman. Started 9-of-11 games in ’05, tallying 54 tackles, eight pass breakups and two interceptions plus two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. In ’06, started 10-of-12 games and racked up 42-22-6, leading the nation in passes defended per game (2.8) and the conference in interceptions. Also recorded a 42-yard TD reception as a wide receiver in the season finale against Missouri. In ’07, started all 13 games, collecting 66-18-5 with 195 yards in INT returns and two touchdowns. Also had one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and caught eight passes for 182 yards (22.8-yard average) and four touchdowns, rushed one time for minus-6 yards and returned two punts for 21 yards (10.5).

    Positives: Excellent size with long arms. Very naturally athletic. Great instincts. Very disruptive — always around the ball. Reads the quarterback’s drop, shows great route recognition and anticipation to jump routes. Moves well for his size with very good ball skills and great hands. Has a smooth backpedal and can sink his hips. Good versatility — has lined up at receiver and has five career TD receptions. Is an instinctive runner — returned two interceptions for TDs in ’07. Extremely confident and competitive.

    Negatives: Has manufactured speed and does not play to his 40-time. Tends to freelance too much. Very soft and inconsistent at the line of scrimmage — whiffs too much in press coverage and lets receivers release cleanly. Lacks recovery speed (see Kansas State, Nebraska games). Does not show an extra gear and can be challenged vertically. Can be aggressive and run himself out of position biting on play-action fakes. Does not play to his size in the red zone and can be posted up. Not a quick-twitch athlete. Lacks upper-body strength — only bench-pressed 225 pounds 10 times, the lowest total of any cornerback who lifted at the Combine. Not a physical tackler and rarely faces up ballcarriers. Very arrogant, thinks he is better than he is and needs to be managed closely.

    Summary: Prolific college corner made a lot of plays on the ball but was exposed by Kansas State’s Jordy Nelson and Nebraska’s Maurice Purify — solid, but not spectacular, athletes — as being glaringly weak in press coverage and lacking the speed and quickness to isolate in man coverage in the pros. Talib’s size, instincts, and ball skills are clearly best-tailored for a zone-coverage scheme, but his aversion to contact and inconsistencies as a tackler are causes for concern. Reputation could surmount substance, and Talib might be overdrafted. Character questions could come into play.

    5. CB-RS Reggie Smith (junior)
    (6-0½, 199, 4.55e) Oklahoma
    Notes: Also lettered in basketball and track as a prep. Started 10-of-12 games, including the final nine at strong safety as a true freshman in 2005, totaling 47 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions with one fumble recovery. Also returned 18 kickoffs for 377 yards (20.9-yard average). Started 13-of-14 games at cornerback (three) and strong safety (10) in ’06 and posted 41-11-3, highlighted by a 42-yard TD return against Baylor. Also had one fumble recovery and returned kickoffs 12-271 (22.6) and punts 37-287 yards (7.8) with one touchdown. Started all 13 games in which he played at cornerback in ’07, totaling 78-14-3 with seven tackles for loss, one sack and returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown vs. Miami (Fla.). Injured his left knee while returning a punt vs. Iowa State but didn’t miss any games until a broken toe kept him out of the Fiesta Bowl. Returned punts 30-203-0 (6.8) and kickoffs 3-73 (24.3). Was ruled a medical exclusion and did not participate at the Combine.

    Positives: Very good size with a muscular build and good bubble. Physical supporting the run and will face up ballcarriers and hit with power. Shows good ball skills, coverage awareness and playing instincts. Squats on routes and can drive on the ball. Has shown nice range to come off the hash. Has lined up at cornerback, free safety, nickelback and as a punt returner and provides great versatility. Very experienced — has more than 30 career starts in three seasons with extended time at both cornerback and safety. Has punt-return ability.

    Negatives: Shows some lapses in concentration at safety and will be late getting over the top. Takes some poor angles to the ball. A bit tight-hipped and straight-linish and does not possess great speed to close on the ball. Does not show an extra gear. Does not sink his hips easily and dart out of breaks and possesses too much hip stiffness to ever get much faster. Could struggle to keep stride with receivers down the field. Freelances too much. Has a prima donna attitude and thinks he is better than he is.

    Summary: Held his own at cornerback as a junior but lacks great burst, fluidity and transitional quickness to make a seamless transition to the pro game. Possesses the size, toughness, awareness and tackling prowess to fit best as a zone corner and could prove most capable at free safety. Rehabilitation process from toe injury limited ability to work out and could affect draft status.

  2. Avery

    Avery The Dog that Saved Charleston

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but saying Jenkins never lived up to his potential is strange to me as he wasn't that highly recruited out of HS and went to South Florida (not a banner program historically). Isn't it a bit odd saying that someone in that situation has disappointed when they're about to cash in on being a first round pick in the NFL?
  3. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki "You want some?" Staff Member

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    Other than the first two guys... I go "bluegh" on the rest of them. Cason doesn't even make the list. Ouch. Personally I think the safety from Miami is a better player than the Smith kid.
  4. lkelly

    lkelly Well-Known Member

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    From the department of redundancy department.
  5. Avery

    Avery The Dog that Saved Charleston

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    I'd rank these guys as follows:

    1. DRC
    2. McKelvin
    3. Jenkins
    4. Cason
    5. Talib

    The top three I could take at #22, the other two at #28.
  6. Goldenrichards83

    Goldenrichards83 Active Member

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    They lost me with Reggie Smith ranked as the 5th best DB.
  7. CaptainAmerica

    CaptainAmerica Active Member

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    I've read a lot of reports and it's interesting that this year you don't get a consensus on who the #1 corner is in this draft. That would concern me if I were picking a CB in the top 10.
  8. Chocolate Lab

    Chocolate Lab Run-loving Dino

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  9. Tex

    Tex Active Member

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    We keep getting linked with Talib. This scares me very bad.

  10. McCordsville Cowboy

    McCordsville Cowboy Pro-Quinn

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    Phillips should be on that list.
  11. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    That is exactly why I don't want Talib. I just don't think he will be able to play catch up if he is beaten and because of his attitude, I think he will take many chances and end up out of position often until he learns he isn't Primetime.
  12. ThreeSportStar80

    ThreeSportStar80 Benched

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    And you would be correct dear sir about that last statement, Kenny Phillips is the real deal!
  13. btcutter

    btcutter Well-Known Member

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    Cason at 28 would be a very good pickup. He has the least bust potential of these CBs. He could end up being a very good NFL starting CB or at worse a very good FS. Can't complain about either.

    Jenkins scares me with finding excuses to not practice and take plays off. Talib is worrisome because of his speed or lack thereof and cockiness (NFL WRs will blow by him if he freelance).

    Only guy I really like is DRC but he won't get out of the top 15.

    The kid from Troy is basically a poor man's Newman. Newman at least will judge the ball and knock it down. If you can't judge the deep ball flight, you look at RW.

    I LOVE ME SOME ME! Benched

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    Brandon Flowers is being slept on way too much. Depending on what team he goes to he will be the best corner in the draft.
  15. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    Those who want this guy better read that very closely.

    Every word of it is true.

    You really want to spend a first round draft pick on him? I don't.
  16. Avery

    Avery The Dog that Saved Charleston

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    I don't have a problem with Flowers, just not in the first round. He's going to struggle in one on one coverage against the burners in this league.
  17. Cowboys&Caps

    Cowboys&Caps New Member

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    I hate stuff like this where the writer comes off as talking out of his butt.
  18. Chuck 54

    Chuck 54 Well-Known Member

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    I'm very leary of DRC...everything I've read says he underperformed and wasn't impressive throughout his college career, BUT has performed like a blue-chipper since the season ended....since the season ended?

    Sorry, that one really bugs me.
  19. dbair1967

    dbair1967 Arch Defender

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    he obviously has a huge upside, but I think people expecting instant impact from him are going to be sorely disappointed...he has a giant leap up in competition awaiting and as you mention, there are numerous reports that say his college game film is less than impressive

    2-3yrs from now he may pay off, but if we dont trade for Pac Trash and use a 1st on this kid, he might not make much of a difference for awhile and we'd end up with the same problem as we've had the past yr or two


    I LOVE ME SOME ME! Benched

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    Newman checks the burners. Pac man will check the burners. Flowers would check the Reggie Browns and Amani Toomers of the world and do a heck of a better job than Reeves did.

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