It was just one play — in a no-pads practice at a rookie orientation camp, at that — but Ladarius Gunter made the type of eye-opening play that an undrafted rookie needs to make to get noticed.
Lined up in press coverage to the left side of the defensive formation, Gunter got his mitts on a receiver, drove him out of bounds and pushed him to the turf.
“With more faster guys, I can get my hands on them and slow them down,” Gunter, who started 30 games in three seasons at Miami, said on Saturday. “With the bigger guys, I can use my body and jump to play with those guys, as well. It plays a role in both situations.”
At 6-foot-1 1/2, Gunter has the size that teams covet. In fact, he was tied for the third-tallest cornerback in the entire draft class. His height stands in contrast to the cornerbacks the Packers drafted, with first-rounder Damarious Randall checking in at 5-foot-10 7/8 and second-rounder Quinten Rollins at 5-foot-11 1/8.
Nonetheless, Gunter went undrafted due to a disappointing senior season and scouting season. For the Hurricanes, he allowed four touchdown passes. He had a decent week at the Senior Bowl, especially when in press coverage, but his Scouting Combine sent his draft stock tumbling.
While teams are looking for bigger, faster and stronger cornerbacks to cover the bigger, faster and stronger wide receivers that have been joining the NFL in droves during recent drafts, Gunter’s performance in Indianapolis had teams wondering if he is capable of even handling safety duties, as they are convinced his lack of foot speed will not translate to corner.
Of the Combine total of 54 defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties), Gunter’s 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds was third-worst in that group, with his 10-yard dash clocking of 1.68 seconds ranking at the bottom of the heap. He also had the worst broad jump (9 feet), worst 20-yard shuttle (4.41) and worst 60-yard shuttle (12.44) and the third-worst three-cone drill (7.18). His vertical jump of 33.5 inches ranked in the bottom fourth.
“Some people are fast on a straight line (but) I feel like I’m just a football player,” Gunter said. “I’m not a track star. Im a football player.”
Give Gunter credit for having guts. In part because of the success the Packers have had with undrafted cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, Gunter took the Packers’ offer — even though they had spent their first- and second-round picks on corners.
“I’m a competitor,” Gunter said.
With his lack of speed, a move to safety might make sense. In fact, about half of the teams, Gunter said, liked him more at safety. But he has issues there, as well. Only three of the defensive backs at the Combine put up fewer than Gunter’s 12 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
“Gunter has the size to match up one-on-one versus bigger receivers in the NFL, but definitely lacks the quickness,” reads a portion of his scouting report, which was provided to Packer Report by the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas. “He does not have smooth hips and, for a tall cornerback, he has to be conscious for sinking and opening better. He also has to plant-and-drive on the ball quicker. He displays a good burst out of his pedal and closing on the ball in front of him, leaving a chance he can adjust to life as a safety.”
firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.