NFL draft: Dallas Morning News: Sizing up the cornerbacks
By Rick Gosselin
The Dallas Morning News
Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson,
Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson have an edge in this draft. Playing in the Big 12, they have covered the likes of Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant the last few seasons. Maclin and Crabtree were first-round draft picks in 2009, and Bryant projects as the top wide receiver in the 2010 draft.
"You get to see top-caliber receivers on a weekly basis," said Jackson of his Big 12 days. "These guys all become top draft picks. It just makes you better. If you hold a guy to two or three catches, it makes you feel like you're accomplishing something."
The Sooners' corners also faced receivers Dezmon Briscoe (Kansas) and Jordan Shipley (Texas), who also project as premium picks in this draft.
But the real challenge was surviving daily practice. Franks and Jackson honed their coverage skills competing on a daily basis against Sam Bradford, who projects as the top quarterback in this draft. He led the NCAA in passing in 2007 and '08 and won the Heisman Trophy in 2008.
"That was something else," said Jackson of those daily battles. "It makes you better. When you go out for a game, you're thinking, 'I've already seen the best quarterback in the country every day of the week. This will be nothing. This will be easy."'
Franks and Jackson started together the last two years at Oklahoma. Jackson was an All-Big 12 selection in 2008 and Jackson captured that honor in 2009.
The NFL has evolved into a pass-dominated league, but there's no rush to draft the elite cornerbacks. There hasn't been a corner drafted in the Top 10 since 2005. This is one of the slower cornerback classes.
Rk, Player; School ;Ht.; Wt. ;Noteworthy
1. Joe Haden;Florida;5-10 1/2;193;218 career tackles
2. Kyle Wilson;Boise St;5-10;194;4-year starter
3. Devin McCourty;Rutgers;5-10 1/2;193;238 career tackles
4. Kareem Jackson;Alabama;5-10 1/2;196;4.41 speed in the 40
5. Patrick Robinson;Fla St;5-11;190;6 interceptions in 2007
6. Dominique Franks;Okla;5-11;194;3 career defensive TDs
7. Jerome Murphy;So Fla;6-0;196;4 interceptions in 2009
8. Chris Cook;Virginia;6-2;212;Biggest cornerback in the draft
10. Amari Spievey;Iowa;5-10 1/2;195;Junior-college transfer
11. Brandon Ghee;Wake;5-11 1/2;192;4.37 speed in the 40
12. Myron Lewis;Vandy;6-1 1/2;203;5 career sacks
13. Kevin Thomas;So Cal;6-0;192;21 career passes broken up
14. Vern Verner, UCLA;5-10;189;279 career tackles
15. Akwasi Owusi-Ansah;IUP;6-0;207;8 interceptions in 2008
16. Donovan Warren;Mich;5-11;193;3-year starter
Best of Texas
The Plainview, Texas, product was a three-year starter for the Red Raiders and a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2009, when he intercepted two passes and broke up 15 others. Wall was the Defensive MVP of the 2009 Alamo Bowl when he had six tackles, broke up two passes and intercepted one against Michigan State. He also intercepted five passes in 2007.
Draft projection: rounds 4-6.
Jason and Devin McCourty are identical twins who started together at cornerback for Rutgers in 2007-08. But Jason decided to leave school early in 2009 and became a sixth-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans. Devin stayed in school and projects as a first-round pick in the 2010 draft. Jason started three games for the Titans last season. Devin became a team captain, team MVP and an All-Big East selection at Rutgers last season. Jason has become Devin's tour guide for the draft process. "It was beneficial talking to him throughout the year about football and about life, telling me how to manage my free time," Devin said.
Time to go:
Of the 53 underclassmen who declared for early entry into the 2010 NFL draft, seven were cornerbacks: Joe Haden, Kareem Jackson, Dominique Franks, Amari Spievey, Donovan Warren, Josh Moore (Kansas State) and Jerell Norton (Arkansas).
On the run:
Jamar Wall led the state of Texas in rushing (2,735 yards) and touchdowns (42) as a high school senior at Plainview. He also rushed for 2,024 yards as a junior. But Wall is on the 2010 draft board as a cornerback — by choice. He was a three-year starter there at Texas Tech. "I loved running back and had success there," Wall said. "But I was looking for a long-term deal. I wanted to make it to the NFL. The length of a DB's career is longer than that of running back. The coaches wouldn't let me go both ways so I had to pick one."
Perrish Cox of Oklahoma State led the NCAA in passes defensed last season with 19 (five interceptions and 14 passes broken up). Vern Verner of UCLA led in 2008 with 20 passes defensed (two interceptions and 18 PBU), and Walter Thurmond of Oregon was the NCAA runner-up in 2007 with 23 passes defensed (five interceptions, 18 PBU). All are on the 2010 draft board. Here's the list of the top interceptors at cornerback in this draft:
Player; school; INTs
Vern Verner; UCLA ;13
Walter Thurmond; Oregon; 12
Crezdon Butler; Clemson; 11
Bryan McCann; SMU ;11
Kyle Wilson; Boise St; 11
Perrish Cox; Okla St ;10
Myron Lewis; Vanderbilt; 10
Trevard Lindley; Kentucky; 10
Robert McClain; UConn ;10
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah; IUP; 10
Trevard Lindley of Kentucky wore a medical redshirt in 2005 because of lingering effects from a dislocated kneecap he suffered during his senior year of high school. Then he went on to start all 48 of his career games at Kentucky. "I take a lot of pride in that because I worked so hard for it," Lindley said. "There were a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that."
Joe Haden, Florida
Haden is as complete a cornerback as there is on this draft board. He was a walk-in starter at the University of Florida in 2007 and is skipping his senior season to turn pro. He intercepts passes (team-leading four in 2009) and tackles ball carriers (team runner-up 87 in 2008). He sacks quarterbacks on blitzes off the edge and blocks field goals. He forces fumbles (three in his career) and recovers them (two). He also has NFL size and speed (4.45 in the 40-yard dash). What's not to like?
Tramaine Brock, Belhaven
Care to guess which state Belhaven calls home? I admit I had to look it up myself — Mississippi. Brock intercepted six passes there at the NAIA level last season. But he built his draft stock at his previous stop, having started in the Big Ten for two seasons at Minnesota. He also turned in a seven-interception season in junior college in 2007.