Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

From the end of the college season, NFL scouts have been proclaiming this year's cornerback draft class as deep and talented. While the Vikings are set with their starting lineup, they could look for developmental prospects with return ability from the top dozen players we analyze.

Vikings' Cornerbacks — Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot, Brian Williams, Ralph Brown, Ken Irvin.

Vikings' Needs — While the Vikings have seemingly addressed their needs for the position in free agency, don't be surprised to see them get involved in the later rounds for a shot at greatness. By the time the draft is over Sunday, just about every team in the league will have at least one new corner to bring to training camp — and the players listed here could be talked about years from now as the Class of '05 that changed the way cornerback was played.

Class of 2005 — Every season, there is a position that ends up dominating the focus of teams on draft day. Last year, it was wide receiver, as a rush began early and didn't let up until a record number of wideouts, many of whom were thought to be second-round prospects, went off the board in the first round. This year, that position may well be cornerback. While most of the focus has been on potential top-10 picks Adam Jones and Antrel Rolle, the depth of the cornerback position is as solid as any and, by the time the draft is over, 30 or more of these guys will likely be gone — half of more of them on the first day.


Adam Jones, West Virginia, 5-9 1/2, 183 — Third-year junior ... Two-year starter who had 165 tackles, 21 passes broken up and seven interceptions in that span ... Nicknamed Pac-Man ... A very good kickoff and punt returner who averaged almost 25 yards per kick return in his career ... As a junior was named first-team All-Big East and conference Special Teams Player of the Year ... Exceptionally rare quickness and speed ... Can get physical and does a nice job of jamming at the line ... Incredible closing and make-up speed ... Good timing of jumps on passes and seemingly effortless body control ... Strong burst out of his backpedal ... Solid in run support and doesn't mind laying down a big hit ... His biggest drawback is that he is undersized ... Tries to make the big play and will get caught looking into the backfield and being sucked in to play-action and pump fakes ... Some scouts think he's a little too cocky ... Could have used an additional year to refine his talent and could have been the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft ... Ran a 4.41 40 at the Combine with a 38-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-0 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 13.

PROJECTION: There are few corners that have his God-given talent. If he was as tall as Antrel Rolle, he could be a top-two or -three pick. As it stands, his cover ability and return ability make him a top-10 choice, likely to either Arizona at No. 8 or the Washington at No. 9.

Antrel Rolle, Miami, 6-0 1/2 197 — Fourth-year senior who was a high school All-American ... Three-year starter who had 188 tackles, 24 passes broken up and four interceptions ... Three-time first-team All-Big East ... Was suspended twice — once for a charge of felony resisting arrest and another for throwing a punch at Virginia Tech CB DeAngelo Hall after some trash talk ... Ideal size and strength for a cover corner ... Viewed as can't-miss shutdown corner ... Does well in bump and run coverage ... Can eliminate receivers at the line with good hand work and a sharp hand punch ... Plays very well against tall receivers ... Aggressive in run support and as a part-time blitzer with good closing speed on the QB ... Struggles with top-end speed receivers in man coverage ... Takes a few too many risks to make the big play ... Doesn't get burned often, but had just four interceptions in three years as a starter ... Some will question his character after his run-ins with authority ... Small, quick receivers can cause him problems ... Ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine with 15 reps of 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical jump, a 10-3 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 21.

PROJECTION: Rolle is the prototype size for the new shutdown corner and for teams that are looking strictly for a big corner that eventually could be converted into a top-end safety, Rolle is the man. He could end up being the first CB taken — as high as No. 6 to the Titans — and has little chance of making it out of the top 10.


Carlos Rogers, Auburn, 6-0 1/2, 196 — Fifth-year senior who spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy ... Four-year starter who started 44 of 50 career games ... Finished with 183 tackles, 40 passes broken up and seven interceptions ... Had two seasons cut short or curtailed by twice having surgery for torn ligaments in his right thumb ... All-SEC first team in 2004 and the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back ... The school sports information office reported that, of 329 passes thrown against Auburn in 2004, just 65 were at Rogers and, of those, only 18 were completed ... Missed the Senior Bowl after injuring a hamstring ... Prototype size for a NFL corner ... Physical and adept at jamming receivers at the line ... Good make-up speed when he turns and runs ... A tough player who is willing to play hurt ... Good in run support ... Gets burned too often in route recognition and has inconsistent instincts when it comes to reading and reacting ... Has some confidence problems at times when teams threw at him a lot ... Likely won't be an elite shutdown-type corner in the NFL ... Ran a 4.44 40 at the Combine with 15 reps, a 40-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-6 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 14.

PROJECTION: Rogers showed a lot of improvement during his senior season and left a lasting impression at Auburn's pro day workouts. He shouldn't be available when the Vikings pick at No. 18.

Justin Miller, Clemson, 5-10, 201 — Third-year junior ... Became a starter early in his freshman year and finished with 162 tackles, 31 passes broken up and 13 interceptions ... Named to the Freshman All-American Team after he led the ACC with eight interceptions ... returns kickoffs and punts ... Has experience in both man and zone coverage, but excels one-on-one ... Physical and gets a solid jam at the line ... Good in run support and hits running backs hard ... Has make-up speed when he gets fooled ... Undersized ... Doesn't work hard on the practice field or the weight room — preferring to get by on natural ability ... Tries to make the big play all the time and gets sucked into play action and pump fakes ... Gives up a few too many long TDs ... Ran a 4.42 40 at the Combine with 15 reps of 225 pounds, a 41-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-6 vertical jump, a 10-6 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 22.

PROJECTION: When it comes strictly to talent, Miller is undersized but makes a lot plays and has the potential to be something special. But, he hasn't come across as a player willing to work hard enough to this point to warrant first-round selection. Someone will take him in the second round, but it may be a short wait or a long wait.

Fabian Washington, Nebraska, 5-10 1/2, 188 — Third-year junior ... Started all but two games in his career and finished with 145 tackles, 38 passes broken up and 11 interceptions ... Very athletic and fast — his 4.31 40-yard dash at the Combine broke the record held by Deion Sanders, which attracted a lot of notice ... Very smooth into and out of his backpedal ... Durability hasn't been a question ... Hard worker on the practice field and the weight room ... Makes big plays at critical times of the game ... Good catch-up speed ... Is undersized and doesn't have great physical strength ... Isn't a force in run support ... Doesn't make a lot of plays in traffic over the middle ... Ran the aforementioned 4.31 40 at the Combine with 18 reps of 225 pounds, a 41-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-9 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 25.

PROJECTION: Few players have seen their stock rise more since the Combine than Washington. His phenomenal speed will likely overshadow his lack of height and, for teams that are tuned in more to workout numbers than other intangibles, he could be a player who moves into the first round.

Marlin Jackson, Michigan, 6-0 1/2, 198 — Fourth-year senior who was a high school All-American ... Became a starter midway through his freshman year and finished his career with 186 tackles, 37 passes broken up and nine interceptions ... Played strong safety as a freshman, cornerback as sophomore and junior and free safety as a senior ... Two-time first team All-Big 10 and All-American as a senior ... Was suspended briefly in 2003 after being arrested for hitting a man in the head with a beer bottle during a bar fight ... Excellent size ... Capable of playing both zone or man defense ... Good upper body strength — his 23 reps with 225 pounds at the Combine tied for the best of any of the cornerback crop ... Good closing and catch-up speed ... Doesn't have good ball skills and will knock away passes that could be intercepted ... Doesn't have a lot of experience at corner, but is a better option here than at safety ... Ran a 4.45 40 at the Combine with 23 reps, a 36-inch vertical jump, a 10-5 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 20.

PROJECTION: A versatile player who has a lot of experience at different positions but has mastered none. He is a solid athlete and will likely be a solid contributor. But until someone puts him in one place and keeps him there, he may be a project that goes late in the second or in the third round.

Eric Green, Virginia Tech, 5-11 1/2, 195 — Fifth-year senior who missed the 2002 season after tearing his left ACL ... Didn't become a full-time starter until 2004, when he had 36 tackles, five passes broken up and one interceptions — numbers that were all down from his 2003 production (58-6-3) when he started just five games ... Fluid athlete who doesn't lose much from his backpedal and into and out of cuts ... Physical corner who uses his hands well to jam ... Has experience against top level receivers and has graded out well ... Good timing on jumps and going after the ball on the move ... Good burst off the snap ... Doesn't provide nearly as much help in the run support as he should ... Doesn't have great upper body strength to fight off blockers ... Didn't run or lift at the Combine, but has a 38-inch vertical jump a 10-2 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 18.

PROJECTION: He has a lot of intangibles scouts look for, but has limited experience as a starter and didn't use the Combine to increase his value like some of the other corner prospects, which could drop him out of the second round — or least deep into it.


Corey Webster, LSU, 6-0, 199 — Fifth-year senior who spent his first year as a wide receiver before moving to cornerback ... Three-year starter who posted 115 tackles, 50 passes broken up and 16 interceptions ... Had 14 interceptions in his first two years as a starter, but just two as a senior ... Three-time first-team All-SEC ... Had left shoulder surgery following his sophomore year and was hobbled much of last year with a hip pointer ... A player with a natural pickoff ability when healthy ... Good closing speed and battles for the ball — part of his previous training as a receiver in those scenarios ... Will play hurt, but that could be a problem ... He was exposed as a senior with his hip injury and was one of the players whose stock fell hard at the Senior Bowl ... Isn't physical vs. the run and misses too many tackles ... Doesn't have experience in zone coverage and may not have the required speed to be a regular man-to-man corner in the NFL ... Ran a 4.59 40 at the Combine, with just nine reps, a 39-inch vertical jump and a Wonderlic score of 12.

PROJECTION: In an era where you need a lot of corners who can make plays, until last year Webster looked like a lock for the first round. But, unless he impressed teams in private workouts, his poor showings at the Senior Bowl and the Combine could drop him into the third round or beyond.

Bryant McFadden, Florida State, 5-11 1/2, 188 — Fifth-year senior who was a high school All-American ... Two-year starter at left corner who had 54 tackles, 20 passes broken up and one interception in that span ... Did not allow a TD pass on him in his two years as a starter ... Very strong upper body and uses it to jam receivers at the line ... Has long arms to maintain and redirect receivers ... Doesn't have the elite top-end speed when wearing pads ... Freelances a little too much and will make mistakes ... Doesn't have great ball skills and will try to swat away some passes he could have picked ... Had just one interception in two years as a starter ... Wowed the scouts at the Combine and at his pro day, where he ran a 4.41 40 with 23 reps, a 39-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 11-3 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 19.

PROJECTION: He was a player the Vikings scouts were especially interested in at his pro day workout and, because of his phenomenal numbers across the board at the Combine and his pro day, he could go higher than this ranking and be off the board in the second round.

Stanley Wilson, Stanford, 6-0, 185 — Fifth-year senior who is the son of former Bengals RB Stanley Wilson ... Part-time three-year starter who finished with 113 tackles, 17 pass breakups and four interceptions ... Has outstanding speed ... Can turn out of his backpedal and lose nothing in the process ... Tall and a good leaper to fight for jump balls ... Good closing and makeup speed ... Isn't as physical as he could be and doesn't give his all in run support ... Has problems picking up on receiver cuts ... Doesn't have top pass/run recognition skills ... Wasn't a full-time starter until last year ... Inconsistent tackler ... Ran a sparkling 4.36 40 at the Combine, with 14 reps, a 39-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-5 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 31.

PROJECTION: His lack of experience and tendency to make critical mistakes make him something of a project, but like players like Fabian Washington and Bryant McFadden, teams that put a lot of faith in workout numbers could push him into the second round. But his downsides are pronounced, so some teams won't consider him until the third.

Darrent Williams, Oklahoma State, 5-8 1/2, 176 — Fourth-year senior who started four games as a true freshman ... Three-year starter who missed all or part of seven games following a broken forearm ... In his two full seasons as a starter, he had 119 tackles, 33 passes defensed and nine interceptions — four of which he returned for touchdowns ... Returned kicks and punts as a junior — averaging 18 yards per punt return and 21 yards per kick return ... Was suspended from his final game for a team violation ... Incredible quickness, he ran a 4.31 at his pro day workout after a 4.34 at the Combine ... A big-time playmaker who intercepts passes, forces fumbles and recovers them ... His ability as a punt returner adds to his cache ... Good closing and makeup speed ... Adept at anticipating and jumping routes ... Had a very good week at the Senior Bowl ... Is vastly undersized ... Doesn't have required strength ... Durability and character will both be red flags ... Missed time in each of his three full-time seasons ... Ran a 4.31 40 with 16 reps of 225 pounds, a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10-4 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 25.

PROJECTION: His lack of size and injury history make him a big risk before the third round, but his playmaking and potential as an explosive punt returner make him a commodity for a team with depth — like the Vikings — that could try to mold him into a nickel back or No. 2 corner.

Brandon Browner, Oregon State, 6-3 1/2, 221 — Third-year sophomore ... Two-year starter who had 87 tackles, 15 passes broken up and six interceptions in that span ... Pac 10 Freshman of the Year in 2003 with six interceptions ... Second-team All-Pac 10 last year ... Very good size and long arms ... Good in tight man-to-man coverage ... Has sustainable speed to stay with receivers deep downfield ... Good in run support ... Inconsistent technique and, when he gets beat early, he has trouble catching up ... Isn't very effective in zone schemes that call for him to read and react ... Doesn't have good change-of-direction skills ... Killed himself at the Combine when he ran a slow 4.63 40 (worst among the cornerback prospects for the draft) with 13 reps, a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 10-0 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 19.

PROJECTION: For those who questioned why Browner would leave after two years, especially in a year so deep in cornerback talent, was a mystery. But, with his size, had he performed well at the Combine, he could have been a late first-round pick. Following that awful performance, he may still be on the board into the third round and possibly beyond.

Ellis Hobbs, Iowa State (5-9, 192)
Dustin Fox, Ohio State (5-11, 191)
Antonio Perkins, Oklahoma (5-1, 190)
Kelvin Hayden, Illinois (5-10 1/2, 197)
Ronald Bartell, Howard (6-1, 211)
Domonique Foxworth, Maryland (5-11 1/2, 183)
Travis Daniels, LSU (6-0, 192)

Viking Update Top Stories