Backwards Draft Day Strategy: Round 4

Here's the thing about early Day 2 and late Day 1 cornerback prospects: they're usually not ready to step in right away. But, they usually have the instincts and athletic ability to contribute early (on special teams or in nickel and dime packages) and possibly start later on in their careers. Charles Gordon and Demario Minter are no different.

Round 4:

 

Cornerbacks:  Charles Gordon, Kansas, Demario Minter, Georgia.

 

Gordon could contribute as a punt returner and sub-package defender, especially in dime defenses early on.  He's pretty scrawny (5'10", 180) and didn't run particularly well at the Combine or at his on-campus work-out (4.69 in the 40).  The film never lies, though, and it shows that he has excellent natural cover skills, better than average ball skills (probably from his experience as a return man), and that he plays faster than his 40 time.  Is he ever going to be a superstar?  Probably not.  Is he good enough to draft 116th overall?  You bet.

 

Minter, on the other hand, has more ability on the cornerback side of things and better work-outs, but there are other issues.  He, along with a number of other Georgia players of that era, was involved in a drug conspiracy in 2003.  That, and his ball skills leave a lot to be desired.  It seems as though Georgia coach Mark Richt puts a lot of faith in the old saying that you take your best athletes that can't catch and put them on defense.  The knock on Minter, aside from the drug charges, is that not only can he not catch, he doesn't seem particularly adroit at going up for the ball and at least knocking it down.  This is, of course, a skill that can be taught to him by the coaches in Arizona, but the question remains: if he hasn't learned how to go up for the ball yet, will he ever?  I'd say it's worth a 4th round pick to find out.

 

Other Possibilities:  Derrick Martin, Wyoming, Anwar Phillips, Penn State.

 

Linebackers:  Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech, Leon Williams, Miami (Fla.)

I've turned my attention to the MLB position.  That's because, once again, I think the Cardinals need help up the middle.  While these two prospects may or may not be able to help, they'll add depth and special teams potential if nothing else.

 

Wilkinson is the more stable, less athletic option.  He has a great deal of versatility, having played all three linebacker spots and defensive end at Georgia Tech.  He has good football intelligence and instincts and seems to have a knack for finding the ball.  However, he's a bit undersized (6'3", 233) and underathletic (4.65 in the 40) to be considered a true middle linebacker in the NFL.  He's about the right size to fit the Cardinals' scheme, but he's definitely not fast enough, at least if 40 times are anything to shout about.  With his versatility, they could do an awful lot with him in sub-packages and on special teams.  However, he doesn't seem to possess the speed necessary to cover all the territory that the MLB needs to cover in the version of the Cover 2 that the Cardinals deploy.  Given his college production, though, he's worth a shot.

 

Williams does possess the speed and natural ability to succeed in a scheme like the one the Cardinals deploy.  He has good instincts and flows well to the football, running around blockers or taking them on as necessary.  The problem is that he doesn't seem to want to harness all of this natural ability on a consistent basis.  He takes plays off, has mental lapses, and also has some injury concerns.  The one thing that makes me think it's worth it for the Cardinals to take a shot on him in the 4th round is Clancy Prendergrast, the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.  The man seems to bring out the "hidden hustle" in all his charges.  If he can do that with Williams, it's a steal.  If he can't… maybe Williams will do some good on special teams.

 

Other Possibility: Kai Parkham, Virginia (third round prospect).

 

Free Safeties:  Bernard Pollard, Purdue, Anthony Smith, Syracuse.

 

Pollard is a big kid (6'2", 224) that runs well (4.59 in the 40) and is a big hitter.  He excels at the point of attack and is a sure tackler.  He functions best as an "in the box" defender, though, and is something of a liability in coverage.  Whether or not you can cover up such a deficiency in the Cover 2 is the big question.  If you can either cover it up or improve Pollard's technique, he's a heck of a bargain in round 4.  If not… maybe he can contribute on special teams?

 

Smith is a safe pick with a much lower ceiling.  He's not all that big (6', 194), not all that fast (4.71 in the 40), and not a big hitter, though he is a good tackler.  As a "last line of defense," which is often what the free safety amounts to, he's an excellent option.  He rarely gets caught out of position, possesses excellent football intelligence and technique, and flows to the ball very well.  He's just not flashy.  He's not a playmaker or a game breaker, he's just someone that will very rarely look stupid on national TV when he blows an assignment or misses a tackle.

 

Other Possibilities:  Greg Blue, Georgia, Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska (third round prospect).


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