Positional Analysis: CBs

The Vikings are surely in the market for a cornerback, but after three virtual locks as first-round selections, the crapshoot for the Vikings will likely begin. Here is the good and bad of the top 16 prospects.

VIKINGS 2003 CORNERBACKS – Denard Walker, Ken Irvin, Brian Williams, Eric Kelly, Carey Scott.

VIKINGS 2003 DRAFT EXPECTATIONS – Clearly, cornerback has been one of the worst positions for the Vikings the last several years. The team made its first big push to turn the corner in the offseason by signing Walker and Irvin in free agency, but it has been understood that the renovation of the CB ranks isn't over yet. The Vikings intend to add another cornerback, which could be in the first round if Terence Newman slides to No. 7 or if both Jimmy Kennedy and Dwayne Robertson are gone – in which case Marcus Trufant becomes a distinct possibility. If the Vikings are able to snag a defensive tackle in the first round, their focus very well could shift to CB in the second, where a player like Sammy Davis is a solid possibility. There has also been talk that Washington, which as of today only has draft picks in the second, third and seventh rounds, is willing to trade Fred Smoot for a second-round pick. However, the team may have to get an assurance that he can be signed to a long-term deal before spending a premium pick on a guy who could be with the team just one or two years. There is also a possibility that the team will take more than one cornerback, grabbing a second on Day Two who is a developmental project that could turn into a gem down the line with some coaching and refinement.

THE CLASS OF 2003 – The good news for the Vikings is that the CB crop runs about as deep as it has in recent years. Three corners – Newman, Trufant and Andre Woolfolk are guaranteed first rounders, and it is likely to be multiple CBs go off the board in each round of the draft. Just about every team is looking for a young cornerback and, by the time the draft is over, perhaps as many as two-thirds of the teams will have one more in their stable – thanks to a strong class of '03.


Terence Newman, Kansas State, 5-10, 189 –
Fifth-year senior…High school and college track star who was an All-American and Big 12 100 meter sprint champion…Two-year starter who had 105 tackles, 28 passes broken up and eight interceptions…Won the Thorpe Award in 2002 – given to the best defensive back in college football…Excellent combination of speed, reaction quickness and leaping ability…Has excellent break on getting under slant routes…An adept special teamer who returned punts and kickoffs as well as blocking field goals and punts…Doubled as a wide receiver in several game situations…Incredible speed that floored a lot of scouts at the Combine and had him mentioned as potentially the No. 1 overall pick…Isn't very experienced as a big-time CB – just two years of starting time…Is a little older than most would like – he'll turn 25 this year…Lacks ideal height…Isn't much of a help in run support and some have compared his athletic ability to Deion Sanders, but also his tackling…Solidified his draft status with a 4.39 40 at the Combine and a tremendous 41-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: While there has been recent concern over reported nerve damage to his injured right shoulder, it won't change his draft status. He likely will be off the board before the Vikings pick – No. 5 to Dallas is sounding like the logical landing spot. But if he is available at No. 7, the Vikings may jump quickly and solve their CB woes that have plagued them for years.

Marcus Trufant, Washington State, 5-11, 199 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year full-time starter who started seven of the 12 games he played as a true freshman…He missed five games as a junior with a broken bone in his right hand…In his four years at WSU, he had 196 tackles and 11 interceptions…His hallmark is his experience, having started 40 games as a collegian…Shut-down man-on-man corner…Very coachable and not arrogant as many CBs of his talent can be…Strong in run support and willing to tackle…Excels in man coverage, but just as strong in zone…Has great run/pass recognition skills…Makes the turn on deep routes without losing a step in the process…Natural playmaker…A little undersized in the era of tall, fast WRs…Doesn't have the sprinter's speed of players like Newman…Doesn't have big hands to be a natural pass catcher…Ran a 4.4 40 at the Combine and had a 39-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: His stock climbed steadily during the 2002 season and he was clearly the most impressive CB at the Senior Bowl – outshining Newman. He has gone from a late-first round prospect to the top dozen or so. He could be the Vikings' choice if the top two DTs and Newman are gone. If not, he could go as high as No. 8 to Jacksonville and won't make it past No. 12 to St. Louis.

Andre Woolfolk, Oklahoma, 6-0, 197 – Fifth-year senior…Started his career as a wide receiver and was a starter as a redshirt sophomore in 2000…Split time between offense and defense as a junior and finally became a full-time cornerback last year…As a senior, he had 26 tackles and two interceptions…Very good natural abilities – size, speed, leaping ability and recognition skills…Excellent reaction skills…Has speed and quickness to be a shutdown type in man coverage…First Oklahoma player in 21 years to play extensive time on both sides of the ball…Still extremely raw – having only played one full season and part of one other as a college CB…Doesn't have great upper body strength and will have to bulk up to be a force on the jam in single coverage…Durability is a question since he missed time with knee, ankle and shoulder injuries in the past…Ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine and had a 35-1/2 inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Because he is so raw for the NFL level, some teams will downgrade his talent. But, with Newman and Trufant going early, teams in dire need of a cornerback with a big upside and top natural talent – like the Chiefs and Saints in the middle of Round One – will give him a long look, and he could well end up being one of the Saints' two first-round choices.


Sammy Davis, Texas A&M, 6-0, 186 –
Fourth-year senior who was a high school All-American…Started 36 consecutive games – a streak that began with the final two games of his freshman year and extended through the next three seasons…In the three years as a full-time starter, he had 174 tackles and 11 interceptions…Two-time All-Big 12…Very strong and plays with a lot of aggressiveness…Can cover deep routes and make turns without losing any speed…Adept at jumping the underneath crossing routes for breakups or interceptions…Willing hitter in running game…Does everything a CB should pretty well…Doesn't have top-end size or speed that scouts look for in a prototype CB…Isn't overpowering in press coverage, which isn't because of a lack of strength, but more in sloppy technique…Ran a 4.47 40 at the Combine and had a 40-inch vertical jump, but perhaps most impressive was his 19 reps with 225 pounds – a number that some defensive linemen didn't match at the Combine. PROJECTION: He doesn't have the great intangibles that star CBs have – blazing straight-line and catch-up speed and physical size – but he does a lot of things right and would be an upgrade for many teams, which is why he could be a sleeper to go early in the second round – perhaps to the Vikings if their scouts liked what they saw on film, at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine.

Dennis Weathersby, Oregon State, 6-0, 204 – (Analysis assuming a full recovery from a gunshot wound Monday night.) Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who was a four-time member of the All-Pac 10 first or second team…In four years, he had 128 tackles and six interceptions…Very experienced CB who always drew the assignment of covering an opponent's go-to receiver…Very good size and adequate speed…Good upper body strength he uses to effectively jam a WR at the line of scrimmage…Very aggressive and jumps a lot of quick-hitting routes as a defensive playmaker…Good hands…Makes too many mistakes because he gambles for the big play and, in turn, surrenders quite a few yards when he makes a mistake…Inconsistent from game to game and series to series…Isn't a powerful tackler, using arms more often than throwing his body into plays…Opened some eyes with a 4.38 40 at the Combine and had a 38-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Didn't move up draft boards as much as some thought he would as a senior, but with his kind of speed and ability to outmuscle wide receivers at the line should be enough for a team with an aging CB in a starter's role to take. He'll probably go somewhere late in the second or early in the third round, but his hospitalization from a gunshot wound earlier this week will make him a huge question mark.

Eugene Wilson, Illinois, 5-10, 187 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 173 tackles and 11 interceptions…Two-time All-Big 10…Returned punts all four years at Illinois…Has many of the classic characteristics coaches look for in a CB…Good closing speed and great instincts on when to jump a route, but not when he gets beaten on a deep route…Smooth transition on turning for deep routes…Willing to jump in and make tackles in run support…Is a little shorter than the ideal CBs and doesn't have top-end speed to match up man on man with the Randy Moss types of the NFL…Is seen as somewhat lax in his work habits in non-game situations…Ran a 4.5 40 at the Combine and had a 38-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Has plenty of experience, but lack of size and game speed are a concern that will likely drop him very late in the second round or more likely into the third.

Rashean Mathis, Bethune-Cookman, 6-1, 202 – Fourth-year senior who was a full-time starter his entire college career…Started nine games at CB as a true freshman before moving to free safety in 2000 and winning All-MEAC honors…Moved back to CB in 2001 and won all-conference honors again and, when the team needed it, he moved back to safety as a senior…In four years he had 194-1/2 tackles and a whopping 31 passes – including 25 picks in his two years playing safety…His 14 interceptions in 2002 was a Division I-AA record…Good combination of size and speed…Has excellent change of direction skills and doesn't lose speed on deep routes when forced to turn and run…Also a punt return specialist…Close very quickly when the ball is in the air – as evidenced by his many interceptions…Biggest concern is lack of competition – he was a man among boys in I-AA…Is seen as something of a ‘tweener because he never spent two consecutive years playing corner or safety…Gets a little two enamoured with the INT and will make some big mistakes that lead to big plays the other way at times…Had terrific numbers at the Combine – running a 4.41 40, doing 22 reps with 225 pounds and flashing a 38-1/2 inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Probably the most intriguing CB prospect in the draft. The knock of playing inferior competition will drop him in some teams' eyes because he will obviously be taking a bigger jump to the pros than most. But his numbers at the Combine all around were as good or better than anyone, which will make him a guy who could go as early as late in the second round or as late as the end of the third round.

Kevin Garrett, SMU, 5-9, 194 – Fifth-year senior…Started all but three games the last four years…In that time, he had 270 tackles, seven interceptions and six blocked kicks…He comes from a good CB bloodline – his cousin is 2002 first-round draft pick Quentin Jammer of the Chargers…Excellent speed…Very smooth in transition on deep routes…Is good in run support…Strong special teams player…Is viewed as a couple of inches (or more) too short for NFL CB standards…Isn't big or strong enough to be an effective jammer at the line with physical WRs…Ran a 4.32 40 at the Combine (the fastest of any defensive back) and had a 35-inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: If he was three inches taller, he would likely be a first-round pick because of his speed and athleticism. As it is, he will likely be a third-round project who has a lot of upside other than his lack of NFL measurables.

Nnamdi Asomugha, Cal, 6-2, 210 – Fourth-year senior…Broke his ankle midway through his freshman season…Three-year starter who had 183 tackles and seven interceptions…Played both safety and cornerback and some scouts project him at each position…Very good combination of size and speed…Aggressive player with good physical strength at the point of contact with receivers…Has adequate speed as a CB and excellent ball skills as a safety…Isn't a solid, wrap-up tackler…Doesn't play with great natural d-back instincts…Needs to improve on run/pass recognition…Ran a 4.51 40 at the Combine and had a 37-1/2 inch vertical jump. PROJECTION: Seeing as he never completely settled at one position, he will need time to adjust to the demands of the NFL game. But, because he has experience in both, he could become a valuable member of an NFL secondary that could give the versatility to play either position. He won't be an immediate starter, but will be a good value and likely will go off the board late on Day One.


Drayton Florence, Tuskegee, 6-0, 198 –
Fourth-year senior who spent his first two years at Tennessee-Chatanooga…In two years at Tuskegee, he had 72 tackles and nine interceptions…Excellent ratio of size/speed/strength…Is capable of playing both man and zone coverage…Upper body strength makes him hard to beat in press coverage…Has good catch-up speed when the ball is in the air, as well as leaping ability…Isn't strong in run support…Very little in the way of lower body strength…His work ethic has come into question and he isn't fundamentally sound…Had some problems at the Senior Bowl vs. the top WRs in the country…Ran a 4.4 40 at the Combine, did 18 reps with 225 pounds and had a 35-inch vertical jump…He has the raw skills to be a first day selection, but the lack of top competition and questions about his willingness to dedicate himself to getting better will likely drop him into the fourth round.

Charles Tillman, Louisiana-Lafaeyette, 6-1, 199 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his freshman year and started ever since – registering 284 tackles and 12 interceptions…Played cornerback his first three seasons and moved to free safety for much of 2002…Had shoulder surgery following the 2001 season…Good combination of size and speed…Likes to get physical with receivers in bump coverage…Durable…Is capable of adding bulk without sacrificing speed…Very solid in run support…Struggles against top speed WRs…Having been moved around, he lacks the full-time experience many other CB prospects have…Bites too often on fakes…Ran a 4.4 40 at the Combine and had a 40-inch vertical jump…Another small-college player with big-time ability, he could also go on the first day. But his lack of full-time experience at either corner or safety will likely make him a project player and will drop him into the second day of the draft.

DeJuan Groce, Nebraska, 5-10, 192 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 69 tackles and seven interceptions in that span…Very good at changing directions without losing speed…Excels in bump and run situations…Solid in run support…Special teamer who named second team All-American in that capacity last year…Doesn't have the height or straight-line speed of the top cover corners…Struggles against big WRs…Isn't a player who spends a lot of time learning the little things that make a CB a better defender…Ran a 4.5 40 at the Combine and had only a 32-inch vertical jump…A player who isn't blessed with top-end speed or ideal size, so he will likely be available in the middle rounds on the second day of the draft.

Ricky Manning Jr, UCLA, 5-9, 180 – Fourth-year senior who has spent the last four years in the Minnesota Twins minor league system…Became a starter four games into his freshman year and started ever since…In his four years, he had 192 tackles and 13 interceptions…Very good at changing directions and adjusting to the ball…Very good recognition skills and doesn't get fooled too often by play fakes and double moves…A punt returner all four years at UCLA…Has a mean streak and is a powerful tackler…Doesn't have the size of an NFL CB or the upper body strength to muscle up big wide receivers…Isn't a strong run support CB…Ran a 4.53 40 at the Combine and had a 35-1/2 inch vertical jump…While most scouts believe his best chance at making the pros is in football, not baseball, but since it remains an option to him, it may be enough for some teams to fear they could be wasting a pick. That, and being undersized and not very physical will make him a late-round selection who has a good chance to catch on with someone.

Roderick Babers, Texas, 5-9, 192 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who started 38 straight games…In that span, he had 107 tackles and five interceptions…Has decent speed and doesn't lose much when forced to turn and run…Very good at jumping underneath routes and taking them away…Solid in man coverage…Size is a huge concern because some teams threw floaters and allowed bigger receivers to take away passes in jump-ball mode…Isn't overly physical…Is viewed as too small to be effective in run support…Doesn't have the upper body strength to outmuscle bigger WRs…Ran a 4.46 40 at the Combine and has a 37-inch vertical jump…Played in a lot of high-profile games as a collegian and has experience, but size and physical limitations make him something of a longshot for the NFL.

Shane Walton, Notre Dame – 5-11, 184 – Fourth-year senior who was a walk-on from the Fighting Irish soccer team in 1999…Three-year starter who had 148 tackles and 11 interceptions – including seven last year…All-American and Team MVP last year, as well as a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award…Aggressive defender who excels in bump and run coverage…Physical corner who knocks WR off their routes…Solid in run support…Impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with a 99-yard TD return…Doesn't have ideal size or speed…Loses a step when forced to turn and run…Struggles vs. speed receivers…Had an awful Combine – posting a slow 4.67 40 and just a 31-inch vertical jump…Walton was a team leader who played very well for Notre Dame, but has serious limitations and his poor showing at the Combine may have taken him completely off some teams draft boards.

Torrie Cox, Pittsburgh, 5-9, 181 – Fourth-year senior who spent his freshman year playing running back…Two-year starter at CB who had 130 tackles and three interceptions….Very hard worker who showed a lot of improvement in '02…A team leader respected by coaches and teammates…Excels on special teams and was named special teams MVP of the Panthers as a sophomore and junior…Decent in run support…Like to lay the wood to opponents…Lacks the size, strength and speed most coaches want in NFL corners…Still learning the position…Gets beat over the top too often…Didn't run at the Combine and had just a 32-inch vertical jump…His limitations are numerous and his best shot to hook on with a team and try to work his way into the lineup is as a late-round pick that can be put on the practice squad or make the roster for his special teams prowess.

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