Draft 2001: Cornerbacks Analysis



An area the Vikings have ignored over the years, even with a pressing need the past couple of seasons, the crop this year is deep enough and good enough that there is every reason to believe the Vikings will use one of their top two picks on a cornerback, perhaps getting lucky enough to grab Fred Smoot or Nate Clements if the draft falls their way or a player like Jamar Fletcher if the top few start going off the board. As many as five or six corners could go in the first round and up to 10 could be gone by the end of the second round — making grabbing one while the getting is still good vital. Corner was and still is the team’s top need and the draft looks like a good one to address that concern.

FRED SMOOT, Mississippi State, 5-11, 173 —
Played two years in Starkville after transferring from Hinds (Miss.) Community College...All-SEC in last two years, All-America in 2000 and a Thorpe Award finalist...In two years, he had 112 tackles and 10 interceptions...Reminds some scouts of Corey Fuller type, because he talks smack from the start of the game until the end...A student of the game, he studies receivers from other teams...Extremely quick and a great cover corner...Improved his stock at the Senior Bowl by being an aggressive, popular player who played the best receivers in college head up...A little smaller than most coaches want for a d-back, but he makes up for it with excellent bump and run coverage and closing speed...Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: The only thing the separates him from the other top corners coming out of college the last few years is that he is on the frail side at only 173 pounds, but that won’t keep him from making it out of the first round.

NATE CLEMENTS, Ohio State, 5-11, 208 —
Third-year junior who came out a year early...A two-year starter, he had foot surgery after the 1999 season, but didn’t show any ill effects last year...All-Big 10 last year...In two years as a starter, he had 158 tackles and six interceptions...Will benefit from the OSU tradition of first-round CB’s in recent years, including Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield and Ahmed Plummer...Still a little raw and gets beat sometimes because he’s willing to gamble...Has great speed and acceleration to the ball...Is big enough to be physical with wide receivers and has the speed to take them in bump and run coverage...Gets burned a little too often for being one of the top corners and will have to learn to be more instinctive instead of straight-line aggressive...Didn’t work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: Has better size than Smoot, but is a little rough around the edges, so a team will have to live with some rookie mistakes. However, he could end up being the best CB prospect in the draft.

WILL ALLEN, Syracuse, 5-10, 195 — Fifth-year senior...Extremely fast, he has been timed at 4.3 at Syracuse in the 40-yard dash...Started every game the last two years and was an All-Big East performer last year...In two years as a starter, he had 97 tackles and four interceptions...Also a dangerous kick returner...Has benefited from staying in school, because he has learned the skills to be a top cover corner when a lot of the top CB’s tend to leave school early for the lure of big money...Learned his position while practicing against Donovan McNabb his first two seasons...Main drawback is that he can be beaten deep, despite his great speed...Isn’t the best at run stopping...Didn’t jump at the Combine, but ran a 4.38 40 and did 14 reps with 225 pounds.
PROJECTION: The most experienced corner in the draft, he has a lot of skills that will allow him to step in immediately and play for a good team with a bad defense. He should go late in the first round.

JAMAR FLETCHER, Wisconsin, 5-9, 180 — Fourth-year junior who played quarterback in high school...Freshman All-America in 1998 and two-time All-America and All-Big 10 selection, winning the Jim Thorpe Award — given to the best defensive back in the country — last season...In three years, he had 123 tackles and 20 interceptions — five of which he returned for touchdowns...Was the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year last season...Great instincts and nose for the ball, leading the country is interceptions the last three years...Excellent jumper, which he needs to make up for his lack of height...Doesn’t have long-term speed down the field and can get beat by QB’s who can throw 50-yard bombs...Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: A player who can make big plays and return picks for touchdowns, his biggest drawback is his size, which should drop to bottom of the first round.

KEN LUCAS, Mississippi, 6-0, 200 — Fifth-year senior who spent most of his first two seasons as a wide receiver...Two years as a full-time CB, he had 77 tackles and seven interceptions...All-SEC first team last year...Perfect size and strength combo coaches look for in cover men...Is big enough to play safety if needed, but is fast enough to be a solid corner...With only two years of playing CB, he still has a lot to learn, which could make some teams shy away from him...Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: A player who is likely to develop into a solid corner because he has all the prototype intangibles coaches want, his lack of experience is a problem, but his ability to do double duty as a safety will likely allow him to slide into the end of the first round or early in the second.

WILLIE MIDDLEBROOKS, Minnesota, 6-1, 201 — Fourth-year junior who started all three years for Golden Gophers...Missed end of the 2000 season after breaking his ankle, but has shot up the depth charts of many teams with very impressive individual workouts since rehabbing the injury...In three seasons — two shortened by lack of starting time and injury — he had 127 tackles and four interceptions...A converted safety...Ran many 40-yard dashes in under 4.3 seconds before his injury and since...Got burned by Koren Robinson for two TD’s in the Micronpc.com Bowl...Good physical corner...Still needs some refinement on his technique...Not as hard a tackler as you would expect from a converted safety...Didn’t run or jump at the Combine, but did 17 reps.
PROJECTION: A player who likely would have made millions more by staying in school one more year, he would have been a mid-first round pick next year. This time, because of his lack of playing time and ankle problem, will likely fall to the second round — unless one of his private workouts was just too good for a team late in the first round (Minnesota, St. Louis, NY Giants) to pass up.

MICHAEL STONE, Memphis, 5-11, 193 — A fourth-year junior who was a walk-on...Two-year starter who had 134 tackles and three interceptions...Has been rumored to be seen as a free safety at the NFL level...Excellent leaper who has the speed to be physical corner...Looks to be climbing the charts thanks to excellent performances in front of pro scouts at the Blue-Grey Classic and the Senior Bowl...Not a great man-on-man corner, he tends to get lost in coverage and beaten over the top...Only three picks in two years is a concern...Ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine, along with doing 17 reps and an impressive 41-inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Because of his lack of big-time college play, he would have likely been a third-rounder, but, after showing what he could do against the best in the post-season all-star games, he’s moved himself into the second round.

ANDRE DYSON, Utah, 5-10, 178 — The brother of Tennessee WR Kevin Dyson and fellow Utah draftee Patrick Dyson, who is also coming out in this year’s draft...Fourth-year senior who started as a sophomore...In three years as a starter, he had 138 tackles and 11 interceptions...Two time All-Mountain West Conference pick...Set a school record with 43 passes broken up...Four of his interceptions were brought back for TDs...Technically superior to most corners...Didn’t miss much time in practice or games with injury...Has deep coverage ability...Didn’t have great 2000 season, but looked very good at the Senior Bowl...A little immature when he gets beat on a play and takes himself mentally out of games at times...Not extremely physical, so playing bump and run will be tough... Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: Hasn’t faced a lot of the top talent during his career, but has a lot of ability, which could be enough to take him off the board by the end of the second round.

Brock Williams, Notre Dame, 5-10, 185
Bhawoh Jue, Penn State, 6-0, 195
Jamie Henderson, Georgia, 6-1, 200
Dwight Smith, Akron, 5-10, 211
Tay Cody, Florida State, 5-9, 178
William Peterson, Western Illinois, 6-0, 197
Raymond Walls, Southern Mississippi, 5-10, 176
Leonard Myers, Miami, 5-10, 188
Jimmy Williams, Vanderbilt, 5-10, 189
Eric Kelley, Kentucky, 5-10, 198
Fred Booker, LSU, 5-9, 190
Ligarius Jennings, Tennessee State, 5-9, 198

Viking Update Top Stories