Mayock assesses top cornerbacks

The Vikings likely will draft a cornerback, and draft analyst Mike Mayock gave his opinion on some of the top options.

Last season Xavier Rhodes made leaps and bounds as far as his development is concerned. Throughout the season, he quickly became the Minnesota Vikings’ best cornerback. He developed the ability to line up against some of the best receivers in the NFL and all but take them out of the game. Head coach Mike Zimmer even trusted Rhodes to shadow those receivers around the field, which was something Rhodes had not done in his career before.

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Even with the development of Rhodes, cornerback is still a need for the Vikings. The problem is more driven towards Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson. Munnerlyn was originally brought in to play as the nickel defender, but after beating out Robinson in training camp he earned the starting role. While in that role, however, he played inconsistently, even admitting to freelancing at times.

Even though Robinson showed significant improvement in his game during the 2014 season, there are still flaws. He struggled when he was forced to cover bigger receivers.

If the Vikings want an upgrade in the draft, there are a few high-profile cornerbacks available.

“There are three corners that I really like a lot, (Trae) Waynes, Marcus Peters and Jalen Collins,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said in a conference call last week. “Now I’ve said repeatedly, Marcus Peters, I don’t know enough yet about him off the field. That might push him out of the conversation anyway. Trae Waynes is very comfortable in press coverage. He’s got length. He jumps up there like all the Michigan State corners do. He understands the game. He’s played through the field; he’s played into the boundary. He tackles. I know when you get a Michigan State kid coming off that defense; he’s got a tough kid that will tackle that’s been well-coached. So that appeals to me first and foremost. His length, his competitiveness, and the fact that he can play press and will tackle. Beyond that, I am intrigued by the Jalen Collins kid at LSU who has nine or 10 starts in his career. Came out early, but he’s 6-2 and similar to Waynes in that he will compete in press coverage. They’re the three top guys. P.J. Williams from Florida State is in the conversation, but I think he’s a little later. And I think Trae Waynes’ make-up, and the fact that I trust that he’ll come in and compete day one is kind of a difference-maker for me.”

Waynes is considered to be the best cornerback in the 2015 draft by most experts, and his ability to play in press coverage would fit perfectly in Zimmer’s defense. The downside with him, however, is that he is a smaller player. Even though he comes in at 6-foot1, he only weighs 182 pounds and that lack of size could cause him to get pushed around by bigger receivers, with the NFC North home to some of the biggest receivers in the NFL.

Peters is a very talented cornerback from Washington, but has some character concerns that set off red flags for a lot of teams. In 2014 he was suspended for a game after a “sideline tantrum” and was later released from the team for disciplinary issues. Whatever team takes a risk on him could either be rewarded greatly or suffer a big loss as they could have drafted another player that could have helped out their team.

Much like Waynes, Collins is a tall cornerback who plays well in press coverage. He comes from LSU, which has been known for producing good cornerbacks, but he left school early. That inexperience could hurt his draft stock.

“I think Jalen Collins, the underclassman from LSU, is really intriguing,” Mayock said. “He’s 6-2 … He’s a press corner, not afraid to play in your face, will tackle, understands how to play the game, has some physicality about him. I think he’s going to be a first-round pick.”

If the Vikings trade back in the draft, a player that they could target later in the first round would be Williams. He has great length and that will translate well when he makes the jump to the NFL.

“I think P.J. Williams could still be a first-round corner at the end of the day because of his length,” Mayock said. “Some teams are looking at him inside, but I think most of the teams will continue to look at him outside in the NFL’s continuing quest to get longer.”

If the Vikings wait until the second round to draft a cornerback, an interesting pick that they could make would be Quinten Rollins from Miami-Ohio. Rollins didn’t have any football experience but was still able to step onto the field and be named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Minnesota could be the perfect place for him to go because Zimmer is known to be one of the best developers of defensive backs in the NFL, and Rollins is still very raw but shows a lot of promising signs.

“For the kid to not play any college football to step on the gridiron and pick off seven passes and become the MAC Defensive Player of the Year is pretty mind-boggling to me,” Mayock said. “It’s a great story. He’s quick, he’s explosive, he has great jumping skills. I think his skill set correlates to what we’d expect from a point guard in basketball, which is what he was for four years. I think the one question I have with all the scouts is, what is the long speed? I don’t think he’s that fast. If he runs 4.5, I think he’s a second-round pick all day long. There were questions at the Senior Bowl. It didn’t look like he had make-up speed. So he’s one of the kids whose 40 is really important this week. I’m rooting for the kid to run in that 4.50 range.”

Another developmental-type player that the Vikings could look to target in the draft is Nick Marshall from Auburn. He mostly played quarterback in college, but is looking to play cornerback at the next level and has shown some promise so far.

“I think (Nick Marshall)’s intrigue lies almost purely at corner, and I’m intrigued by the kid,” Mayock said. “He had the guts to come out to the Senior Bowl and roll the dice a little bit with about five days of practice at the corner. Now I know he played as a freshman, but to have the guts to roll out there and say I’m going to go cover some of the best wide outs in football, coming off playing quarterback in the last few years, that shows me something, and I liked it. He’s long, he competes. I talked to Doug Graber, the former Rutgers coach and NFL defensive back coach who is training him this offseason, and Doug told me point blank he’s got an NFL skill set at corner, and I believe that. So I’m intrigued by the kid.”

The 2015 draft is a fairly deep one when it comes to cornerbacks. Zimmer loves working with that position, and it is a very important position in his defense. Because of that, the Vikings are expected to draft at least one cornerback, with the options being plentiful.



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