Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

The cornerback class of 2004 is one of the deepest positions this year, so the Vikings could look for depth in the early rounds despite their big free agent acquisition of Antoine Winfield. We break down the top 14 corners available, from athletic instincts to physical gifts.

VIKINGS' CORNERBACKS — Antoine Winfield, Brian Williams, Ken Irvin, Eric Kelly, Rushen Jones, Jermaine Mays, Rhett Nelson, Horace Willis.

VIKINGS' NEED — The Vikings got the one player in free agency (Winfield) that they felt could best help the team. As a result, Denard Walker's agent whined and he was allowed to take his ball and go home — or at least to Oakland. The Vikings are confident in their top three players, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're willing to sit tight on corners. Depth is a concern, because there's no guaranteeing Jones, Mays, Nelson or Willis will end up on the final roster. While cornerback isn't the pressing issue it was in the past, depth is still a relatively big problem.

THE CLASS OF 2004 — If not for the monster wide receiver crop, the scouts would be talking about the CB class as the best individual position class in years. There could easily be a dozen players going on the first days and eight to 10 in the first two rounds alone. The class is deep and talented and, with the sudden premium league-wide on corners — more than a dozen veterans got contracts worth $2.7 million or more this offseason — getting the best players available will mean this class will get picked through pretty quickly. Expect to see plenty of activity and, if the Vikings live up to their best athlete available philosophy, one of these guys could end up a Day One pick of the Vikings.


DeAngelo Hall, Virginia Tech, 5-10, 202 —
Third-year junior…Two-year starter who had 105 tackles, 17 passes broken up and five interceptions in that span…Incredible speed, he ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine…Has rarely seen makeup speed when the ball is in the air…Shut down Larry Fitzgerald in when they met in 2003…Comfortable in day-long man-on-man matchups…His numbers were down in '03, but that was attributed to teams simply not throwing his way…Decent upper body strength…Doesn't get fooled often on play-action…Takes a lot of chances that he won't get away with in the NFL…Cocky player who talks a lot of smack on and off the field — to the point of drawing comparisons to Deion Sanders…Did 15 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine with a 39-inch vertical jump a 10-9 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 23.

PROJECTION: He has as good of NFL-ready skills of any CB in the Class of '04, but his attitude and risk-taking might make some teams at the top shy away, but he shouldn't make it out of the top 10.

Dunta Robinson, South Carolina, 5-11, 186 — Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 99 tackles, 22 pass breakups and five interceptions in that span…Excellent speed, he ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine…Very fast in his backpedal and has ability to make explosive turns and runs for the deep ball…Good tackler…Team leader…Doesn't have good upper or lower body strength and will struggle trying to jam big receivers…Is getting better at his run/pass recognition skills, but gets burned in risk-taking a little too often…Only two years playing CB — he came to SC as a safety…Has trouble beating blocks in the running game…Needs to try to add a little bulk without sacrificing speed…Did 15 reps at the Combine with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.

PROJECTION: He is a first-round talent who only needs a couple of minor adjustments to be a very good NFL cornerback.


Chris Gamble, Ohio State, 6-1, 197 —
Third-year junior…Played wide receiver his first two years and, as a sophomore, he started six games at CB and 12 at WR — finishing the year with 24 tackles and four interceptions on defense and 31 catches for 499 yards on offense…In only full season at CB, he had 41 tackles, 12 passes broken up and three interceptions…Extremely versatile, he had four games in which he took part in more than 100 plays on offense, defense and returning punts and kickoffs…Good size and build…Has extremely good closing speed on the deep ball…Has the range to chase down run plays on the other side of the field…Needs a lot of work on run/pass recognition because he gets caught on play-action too often...Doesn't have ideal turn-and-run speed…Viewed by some scouts as a player who will have to sit early…Did 16 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine with a 4.53 40, an impressive 39-1/2 inch vertical jump, but an awful Wonderlic score of 8.

PROJECTION: If he ends up in the right system — i.e. isn't thrown into a starting role immediately — he could be a steal in this year's draft. He has all the size and speed a player needs, but doesn't have the game experience at corner to make the jump effectively to the NFL. He got burned too often in college. It would be worse in the NFL. That said, with his athletic ability, a virtue the Vikings preach, he might be hard to pass up at No. 19.

Will Poole, USC, 5-10, 192 — Fifth-year senior…Began his career at Boston College and started as a redshirt freshman…Was thrown off the team in 2001 and went to junior college in California for a year…One-year starter for USC, amassing 80 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 19 pass breakups, seven interceptions, three sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries…Very physical with receivers at the line…Did it all defensively last year…Very solid in coverage and can turn and run without losing any speed…Gambles too often looking for the big play…Doesn't have great distance speed…Is a little shorter than scouts like…Off-field issues will come into play for some teams, since BC threw him out of the program for rules violations…Did 16 reps at the Combine with a 4.52 40 and a weak 28-1/2 inch vertical jump.

PROJECTION: Emerged last year from nowhere to jump his way up to the end of the first round or early second. But some teams will likely stay away because of baggage — real or perceived — that he brings to the table.

Matt Ware, UCLA, 6-2, 210 — Third-year junior…Multi-sport athlete who got a $200,000 signing bonus for the Seattle Mariners to play baseball during the summer…Three-year starter — both at cornerback and safety — who had 117 tackles and seven interceptions in that span…The biggest CB in the draft…Has long arms and is physical enough to battle receivers…Shut down first-round WR prospect Reggie Williams in their only meeting…Likes to play man coverage…Is still very raw at both the CB and safety positions…Doesn't lay the big hit as often his size would make you think he would…Doesn't have great recovery speed…Can be moody if things go poorly…Did 15 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine, along with a 4.48 40, an impressive 39-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-1 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 22.

PROJECTION: His lack of full-time experience at the position and perception as a 'tweener will drop him into the second round, but his versatility to play both and play them well won't keep him on the board at that point for very long.

Derrick Strait, Oklahoma, 5-11, 197 — Fifth-year senior…Four-year starter who won the Bronko Nagurski Award (best defensive player) and Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back) in 2003…In four years at OU, he had 267 tackles, 51 pass breakups and 11 interceptions…Extremely durable…Has a lot of football intelligence…Physical and tough…Has good upper body strength to jam receivers…Doesn't have top-end speed…Has posted vertical jumps of almost 40 inches, but could only manage 35-1/2 at the Combine…Lack of ideal bulk and elite speed are his major drawbacks…Ran a 4.52 40 at the Combine, didn't lift, and had a Wonderlic score of 15.

PROJECTION: He is probably the most complete, well-rounded CB in this year's class. His lack of ideal size and top-end speed will drop him into the second round, but whoever takes him will be getting a lot of football experience from a rookie.

Ricardo Colclough, Tusculum, 5-11, 191 — Fourth-year senior who spent two years at junior college before moving up to Division I-AA…In two years, he had 106 tackles, 25 pass breakups and 15 interceptions — 11 of those coming last year…Excellent straight-line, backpedal and turning speed…Excellent hands and goes after passes like a wide receiver…Earned his bone at the Senior Bowl vs. some of the top wide receivers in the college game…Is still very raw…Has great makeup speed, but needs it too often because he will get burned by QBs who effectively mask plays…Doesn't give a big effort in making tackles in run support — throwing his body into some plays and not on others…Doesn't have good upper body strength — his eight reps with 225 pounds at the Combine was the lowest total of anyone who lifted…Ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine with a 39-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-7 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 11.

PROJECTION: His performances in the speed/jumping aspects of the Combine, his week at the Senior Bowl and his ability to return kicks will improve his stock into the second round, but his downsides will keep him no higher than that.

Ahmad Carroll, Arkansas, 5-10, 195 — Third-year junior…Two-year starter who had 98 tackles, seven for a loss, 15 pass breakups and two interceptions…Strong in bump-and-run coverage…Has good backpedal-and-turn technique and doesn't lose ground going deep with receivers…Has a nasty streak…Still a little raw when it comes to technique…Gets burned by his own aggression and sneaking a peak into the backfield at the wrong time…Isn't a consistent tackler…Saw his stock shoot up at the Combine when he did 15 reps with 225 pounds, ran a sparkling 4.34 40, had a Combine-best 41-inch vertical jump and had a 10-8 broad jump.

PROJECTION: Would have been a top 15 pick had he spent one more year, but, even as it stands, his athleticism and speed will have him off the board in the second round and perhaps higher than some of the other players listed above him.

Keith Smith, McNeese State, 5-11, 200 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 120 tackles, a whopping 66 pass breakups and seven interceptions…Good combination of size and speed…Closes out plays with combination of speed and jumping ability…Was like a man among boys at his level…Being a Division I-AA prospect, the level of competition was much lower than most — making him a project…Deficient in run support and seemingly doesn't like to initiate big-hit contact…Had shoulder surgery following the 2002 season…Did 12 reps at the Combine with a 4.49 40, a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 17.

PROJECTION: Looks to be a third-rounder thanks to his skill level, but because he hasn't played the top competition, he may need a year or two to adequately adjust to the NFL and be trusted as a starting CB.


Jeremy LeSueur, Michigan, 6-0, 197 —
Fifth-year senior…Tore his left ACL and MCL as a freshman…Didn't become a full-time starter until last year, when he had 48 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble…Good combination of size, strength and speed…Very strong in run support and on the blitz…Viewed as a 'tweener who may have to choose one position and stick with it…Although he played the last three years, the knee injury remains a concern…Doesn't have the flat-out speed to recover when he makes a mistake on a double move…Didn't lift at the Combine, but had a 4.53 40, a 35-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 16…An intriguing prospect, his knee injury might keep him on the board until the second day, despite playing three years injury-free.

Joey Thomas, Montana State, 6-1, 194 — Fifth-year senior who transferred from Washington without ever playing for the Huskies…Four-year starter who missed time with injuries in two of those seasons…Finished with 114 tackles, 41 pass breakups and 11 interceptions…The classic "upside" corner because of his size and speed…Fluid hip movement will allow him to run with fast NFL wide receivers…Adept at swatting a ball at its highest point on deep passes…Very adept at man-on-man coverage…Still viewed as raw and unpolished…Suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee in 2002…Had a very strong Combine performance with 17 reps with 225 pounds, running a 4.44 40, a 38-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-2 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 19…He is still a raw talent, but has so many positives, he might go on a Day 1 to a team willing to let him learn for a year or two.

Nathan Vasher, Texas, 5-10, 178 — Fourth-year senior and three-year starter…Played safety as a sophomore and corner his final two years…In his last three seasons, he had 132 tackles, 59 pass breakups and 17 interceptions…Always seems to make big plays when needed…An excellent punt returner…Can change directions and pivot his hips quickly and without losing time…Is too short and bordering on frail when it comes to matching up with bigger more physical receivers…Doesn't have good upper body strength…Didn't lift at the Combine, but ran a 4.65 40 with a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 13…Has a chance to go on Day 1, but, in an era of wide receivers who are routinely 6-2 and 210, he seems even more undersized and will struggle to be a starting NFL corner.

Greg Brooks, Southern Mississippi, 5-10, 174 — Fifth-year senior who enrolled at Michigan in 1999 and sat out to transfer to SMU…Two-year starter who had 74 tackles, 26 pass breakups and six interceptions in that span…Snake bit — or should it be spider bit — he missed the Combine after an allergic reaction after being bitten by a spider…A playmaker…Has good speed (4.45 40) to make up for his mistakes…Has great lower body strength — he had a 480-pound squat…His upper body strength is another story — he did just nine reps with 225 pounds in a school day workout…Has a lot of trouble jamming receivers at the line…With the NFL making it tougher for weaker corners to grab, push and hold receivers coming off the line, Brooks may be a victim and forced to wait until Day 2 to hear his name called.

Shawntae Spencer, Pittsburgh, 6-1, 180 — Fourth-year senior who only became a full-time starter as a senior despite starting eight games as a freshman…In his four years, he had 203 tackles, 53 pass breakups and eight interceptions…Has good size and speed combination…Has the type of body frame that could add 10-20 pounds of bulk and muscle and not lose a lot of speed…Has long arms…Doesn't have good upper body strength — he did just nine reps at the Combine…Doesn't have a fluid turn-and-run move on deep passes…Inconsistent…Ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine with a 34-1/2 inch vertical jump and an impressive 10-8 broad jump…He's an enigma — he has the talent to go off as early as late in the third round, but could still be on the board as late as the fifth or sixth round.

Viking Update Top Stories