Cornish An Expected Seventh-Round Selection

The world of the NFL is a harsh one. College standouts fail by the hundreds, and often, it's not how good you are, but whether you have the athleticism to succeed in a league filled with other supreme athletes and former college stars.

That’s what former scout Russell Lande said Kansas running back Jon Cornish will find challenging in the pros.

Oh, Lande watched film on Cornish. Saw him break long run after long run after long run on his way to leading the Big 12 in rushing. But he also saw what Cornish didn’t have … and what Lande said will stop Cornish from becoming a starter in the league.

“Cornish’s top speed is excellent,” Lande said. “When you see him at top speed, he’s usually not being caught. What he lacks, what he doesn’t have is that explosion, that burst, through the hole.

“In the NFL, your top speed isn’t as important as how fast you get to top speed,” Lande said. “Cornish will get caught before he reaches top speed in the NFL.”

Lande’s time scouting started out of college when he wrote up a book on that year’s prospects, mailing them to teams begging for a job. There were no takers, but Lande was able to grab a job as an unpaid gofer for UCLA for one year, then took up a similar job with the Rams during their last year in Los Angeles.

From that spot, he worked up to scouting administrator before giving television a try, working with the NFL Today Show.

“But I wanted to see if I could get out on the road and do scouting that way,” Lande said.

Lande took a job as the midwest college scout, scouting Kansas and Kansas State for the Cleveland Browns, until the travel became too mcuh. Lande then decided to produce the book again, GM Jr's Guide to the NFL Draft, which this year includes more than 450 players covered over 340 pages.

He also produced the scouting reports for The Sporting News Draft Guide this year, and has received praise from Dick Vermeil, former Rams and Kansas City Chiefs coach, for his scouting abilities.

Lande said he bases 90 percent of his opinion on a player based on that player's college film, with the other 10 percent coming from opinions from other scouts and sources from how each player performed at bowl games following their senior seasons.

"You can tell pretty much everything you want to know from film," Lande said. "I think the bad scouts (put too much emphasis on numbers). I don't think the good ones do."

That’s why Lande said he didn’t sweat too much when Cornish turned in two times over 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. It was also why he didn’t jump up and down when Cornish ran 4.5-flat at Kansas’s Pro Day.

“You should know the kind of player you have before they go run,” Lande said. “Some of it can help for comparison purposes, but a guy doesn’t go from not being explosive to blazing fast just because he runs well in shorts. There are a lot of guys who play slower than they run, and there are a lot of guys who play faster in pads.”

Lande said Cornish showed what it took to produce in the NFL.

“I like a lot of what he does,” Lande said. “He can be a hard runner, a tough runner and he’s got nice balance and vision. He’s also quicker moving side to side what you think and can pick up yards after contact.

“He was a very good college running back,” Lande said. “He could likely be a solid backup tailback in the league if he wanted to work at it. He’s a sixth- or seventh-round guy, but he can play in the league.”

But what Cornish didn’t have also stood out, Lande said.

“Explosiveness is when you slow film down and you see the moment the running back decides on his hole, when he puts one foot on the ground and explodes into it,” Lande said. “Darren Sproles, when he saw the hole, he was through it in a flash. Cornish doesn’t just hit it and zoom through it. He has to run through it.”

Lande said Cornish could add value by adding 10-15 pounds so that he could play fullback in special situations.

But one thing Cornish has already done will help his value, Lande said.

“His special teams ability helps a huge amount,” Lande said. “It’s not just a huge value now, it gives him a big leg up on 90 percent of the players coming out. You can make the team based just on special teams play.”

Again, Lande said Cornish’s lack of explosiveness would come into play.

“He doesn’t have the speed to play gunner in the NFL,” Lande said. “He’s going to be inside on punt teams. He’s going to have to go out and bust wedges.

“You look at Rock Cartwright, he’s not an exceptionally great player,” Lande said. “But they can’t cut him because he’s so damn good on special teams.”

Lande said special teams ability can also give a player a couple of years to develop into a quality backup, and would allow Cornish to have a lengthy career. He said Cornish’s best fit as a running back would be with a one-cut team, such as Denver, which would allow him to stretch things out and take advantage of his vision.

“But in that offense, you will not be a star without great speed,” Lande said. “They’re always looking for that next guy who can run in the 4.3s.

“It’s real hard to be a top-level guy in the league without great explosion,” Lande said. “At best, you are probably going to be a journeyman backup. There are rare occasions when those players succeed. Most of the time, they fail. He’s got a chance to stick.”


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