The New England Patriots were scheduled to hold a personal workout with Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason over the weekend, signaling that they are at least considering using their first-round draft pick on a top cornerback. New England lost starter Asante Samuel to the Eagles at the start of free agency earlier this month.
Considered by many to be the top cornerback in this year's draft, Cason also has visits scheduled with the Dallas Cowboys and the St. Louis Rams. Dallas lost Jacques Reeves through free agency to the Houston Texans after he agreed to a five-year, $20 million deal. The team had to count on Reeves to step in and start 13 games during the 2007 season following injuries to their usual starters, Anthony Henry and Terence Newman.
Recognized as the top defensive back in the nation when he won the 2007 Jim Thorpe Award, Cason intercepted 15 passes during his college career and started in every game at Arizona since his freshman year. His ability to step in right away was in part due to his determination along with the confidence he had in his skills.
"I wasn't intimidated at all," he told Scout.com during this exclusive interview. "When I was senior in high school and we would go to college games, my father always said, 'You can start in this league, you can play in this league.'
"At that time I probably couldn't have as a high school senior. But having that confidence, hearing him say that, I believed it. So coming into college, I believed it and went out and worked for it. It didn't come easy, but when it happened I was just excited and ready to play."
A league source has told Scout.com that Buffalo, Carolina, Arizona, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Green Bay all have first-round grades on Cason.
Lots of upside: Athletic defensive end Kendall Langford is heading into the NFL Draft arguably a bit raw in talent coming out of Hampton, but that's paying off as teams see him as a player who can be easily "coached up" since he's demonstrated plenty of natural ability at his position. Expected to be no worse than an early Day Two pick, Langford had a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game that helped him earn a late invitation to the Under Armour Senior Bowl game. During Senior Bowl week, he showed that he was able to mix it up with some of the top offensive tackles in college football.
While he's a capable pass-rusher with 17.5 career sacks and 13 quarterback hurries, Langford is truly dominant in the running game. He reportedly yielded just six rushing yards while defending 71 runs that were directed at him during the 2007 season.
The 6-foot-6, 287-pound lineman is drawing interest from both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive scheme teams. According to one league source, he watched film with representatives of the Jets and the Dolphins who flew in for his pro day last week. He's already worked out for the Atlanta Falcons, had a personal workout for the Lions on Saturday and another with the Rams today.
So far, Langford has early-April visits penciled in on his calendar with the Vikings and the Steelers. And while other teams such as the Jaguars, Redskins, Colts and Eagles have all shown good interest in him, the Steelers, Jets and Dolphins appear to be the frontrunners at this point.
Wherever you need him: Toledo's Andrew Hawkins is looking for a chance with an NFL team, wherever they can use his speed and quickness to their advantage. And he's got a unique resume in this year's draft class since he was a two-way player at Toledo as a wide receiver and a cornerback who also returned kickoffs and was a standout as a gunner on punt return coverage.
Toledo's Andrew Hawkins
Photo: Toledo Athletics
If Hawkins wasn't on the radar of NFL teams heading into his pro day, he certainly did all that he could to get their attention when he ran a 4.34-second 40 time, which would have been the second-fastest time among wide receiver and fourth-fastest among cornerbacks had he been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and posted that result. His 38-inch vertical jump would have been second at both positions. His 4.03-second 20-yard shuttle would have placed second among wide receivers and first out of all cornerbacks. And his 6.81-second 3-cone drill would have put him in a tie for sixth among the receivers and fourth among cornerbacks.
"It's a little harder with your first try being your Pro Day," he told Scout.com. "So I wanted to come out with a good time and kind of set the bar a bit."
The younger brother of NFL defensive back Artrell Hawkins, Andrew is also the son of Artrell Hawkins, Sr. who played for the University of Pittsburgh as a running back and is the cousin of former Pro Bowl guard Carlton Haselrig who played for the Steelers during the 90s. So he's getting plenty of advice about how to prepare for making the transition to the NFL.
"We come from western Pennsylvania where football is life. We don't worship it, but at the same time football has been a blessing to our family," he said.
With his family's NFL ties to New England through his brother and Pittsburgh through his cousin, it was no surprise when Hawkins stated that a Patriots scout "was checking me out heavily" and that New England has talked to his agent. He also said that he's talked with a scout from the Steelers at Toledo and drew some interest from the Falcons, Texans, Panthers and Redskins prior to Toledo's Pro Day at the end of February.
At 5-foot-7, 187 pounds, Hawkins' biggest challenge is convincing teams that he can be a success in the NFL playing at that height, just like the Jaguars' Maurice Jones Drew, who is also 5 feet, 7 inches tall. With his pro day performance in front of roughly 15 NFL team representatives, he made significant strides in that area. Following his workout, Hawkins talked to representatives from the Texans, Browns, Jaguars, Eagles and Giants.
"They were impressed with the times and were congratulating me, saying I helped myself out," he said. "And that's pretty much all I was looking for."
Hawkins is hoping to also work out at the University of Duquesne or the University of Pittsburgh's Pro Day near the end of March to give scouts another look at his abilities. To learn more about Andrew Hawkins, click here to read Scout.com's recent feature article on this talented player.