Cornerback: Best, Sleeper, Overrated

Dee Milliner is the cream of the crop, but who is the sleeper and who will turn out to be a big dud? Our scouts weigh in with their predictions.

Here is a closer look at the cornerbacks, compiled from conversations with scouts and the NFL's longtime lead scout, Dave-Te' Thomas.

Best in class

Dee Milliner, Alabama (6-0, 201): Early entrant was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2012 with two interceptions and 20 breakups to lead the nation with 22 passes defensed. In 2011, he allowed 14 completions in 74 passes thrown his way. In 2012, he allowed 13 completions in 76 passes thrown his way. Keep in mind the SEC might have six receivers taken in the first three rounds, so he was matching up against premier performers most weeks. He ran a 4.37 with a 36-inch vertical at the Combine before having surgery to repair a torn right labrum. "He's tall, he's long, he's fast, he makes plays on the ball and he'll hit you," a scout said. "What more would you want?"

Overrated

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 186): A top Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season, Mathieu was kicked off the team in August for failing multiple drug tests. Then, he was arrested on drug charges in October. In 2011, Mathieu was a Heisman finalist — the first defender invited to the ceremony since Charles Woodson. In just 26 games, he forced 11 fumbles — seventh-most in NCAA history — intercepted four passes and averaged 15.6 yards (with two touchdowns) on punt returns. Has Mathieu changed his ways after flunking so many drug tests that the school finally shoved him out the door? Our scouts aren't buying what he's selling. "No way I'm risking a high draft pick on him or even a middle-round pick. For what? If he can't stay out of trouble when he doesn't have money, what's he going to do when he has a lot of money? I hope (his team's top rival) takes him (laughs)." Thomas called Mathieu a "blight" on the locker room, among other things, and didn't think he was a good football player, anyway. "The talent level is no better than fourth round," Thomas said. "He had that really good year because of the forced fumbles and (stuff) like that, but outside of that, there's nothing in that guy's game whatsoever. I can give you just on football ability at least 20 cornerbacks that I'd take before him, and that's not even taking character into the assessment." Due to the character issues and his height, he almost certainly isn't on the Packers' board. Ran 4.50 with a 34-inch vertical and pitiful four reps on the bench at the Combine.

Sleeper

Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut (5-11, 201): Intercepted eight passes, forced three fumbles and added 10 tackles for losses in 41 career starts. He was all-Big East second team during his final two seasons. As a senior, he allowed 22-of-91 passing with three interceptions, and allowed just one completion of longer than 18 yards. He had a pick-six against Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Scouts like his versatility and ability to play cornerback, safety and nickel, and he's arguably the best run defender in this draft class. Thomas, comparing him to a bigger version of Green Bay's Casey Hayward, said Gratz could become one of the top free safeties in the league. Ran 4.47 with a 38-inch vertical and eye-popping 22 reps on the bench at the Combine.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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