#26, Antoine Winfield, CB
(5-9, 180, 4.46 est.) Ohio State
Notes: Born 6/24/77, in Akron, Ohio, where he attended Garfield High School and was named All-State and Division I Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. Defensive standout who also rushed for 1,069 yards on 150 carries (7.1 avg.) as a senior and helped lead his team to three Akron city titles and a 10-1 record as a senior. Like many Vikings, Winfield is active in the community. He has visited the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room nurses to recognize their under-appreciated work, volunteered through the Vikings Blood Drive at the Mall of America, donated cars to single mothers through the Minneapolis Urban League Employment and Training Program, and annually hosts the "Camp 26" football camp in his hometown of Akron. He and his wife, Erniece, have three sons, Antoine Jr., Austin, and Ethan.
College: Won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's outstanding defensive back following his senior season, becoming the first Ohio State player to ever earn the honor. Earned All-America honors following his junior and senior seasons and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. Finished his college career with 278 total tackles and was the first non-linebacker in school history (only fifth player ever) to top 200 career tackles. Played in all 50 games and started 29 in four seasons with the Buckeyes. Winfield was named Ohio State's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. As a junior, he became the first Ohio State DB selected as team MVP. Majored in communications at OSU.
Pre-Draft: Measured 5085 (5'8 5/8"), 176-177 pounds coming out of college. Recorded a 1.53 10-yard dash, 2.57 20-yard dash, 4.41-4.46 40-yard dash, 37-inch vertical jump, 10'2" broad jump, 3.95 20-yard shuttle and 6.84 three-cone drill.
Pro: Originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round (No. 23 overall) in 1999. Started 58 of 72 games played in five seasons (1999-2003) with Buffalo and recorded 325 tackles, 43 pass breakups, 1.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and six interceptions during his time with the Bills. As an unrestricted free agent in 2004, Winfield was set to sign with the New York Jets until the Vikings swooped in with their private Jet and a lucrative $34.8 million contract that included a $12.8 million signing bonus (reportedly $2.8 million more than the Jets' offer). It was also reported at the time that his wife preferred living in the Midwest instead of Long Island, N.Y.
Winfield has been a standout ever since joining the Vikings, with the possible exception of a somewhat injury-plagued 2007 season. He gave the secondary an immediate boost in 2004, leading the team in interceptions (three) and ranking fourth in tackles (99) despite missing parts of four games with a sprained ankle. In 2005, he posted a career-high four interceptions and led all DBs with 100 tackles (third-best on the team) and 12 PBU. In 2006, he registered 88 tackles, four interceptions, 20 PBU and added 13 special teams tackles. In 2007 he missed six games yet still managed 67 tackles, one interception (returned for a touchdown) and 13 PBU. In 2008, Winfield had his best season as a pro, finishing with 96 tackles, 11 PBU, two sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions and scored two TDs (one on a fumble recovery, the other on a blocked field-goal attempt); earned Pro Bowl honors. Here's a link to Winfield's year-by-year statistics.
Entering the final year of his initial contract with the Vikings, Winfield agreed to a five-year, $36 million contract extension with Minnesota that includes $16.1 million in guaranteed money on July 23, 2009. The unique contract reportedly decreases if he is no longer a starter, but escalates back up depending on playing time, making it a viable long-term contract that assures he will remain in Minnesota until he retires.
Positives: Smart, consistent, dependable, productive all-around football player. Very intelligent player who understands leverage and technique as well as anyone. Plays bigger than his size. Understands the scheme and plays within the scheme. Provides solid man-to-man coverage and is seldom burned for big plays on coverage. Opponents usually prefer to avoid throwing in his direction. Extremely effective in zone coverages and closes on the ball in front of him very well. Good, not great, hands for the interception. Plays the ball effectively. Very good run-after-the-catch on interception returns. Still has more than adequate speed to run with receivers downfield. Can play outside or move inside into the slot in nickel situations and cover receivers all over the field. Truly outstanding open-field tackler. Very active and aggressive. Despite his size, he supports the run as effectively as any cornerback in the game. Has a knack for taking on or avoiding blockers to make plays in the opponent's backfield. Rarely misses a tackle. Superb timing and anticipation as a blitzer off the edge.
Negatives: Is shorter than you'd like and can be outdueled for the ball up high at times. Is not a true shutdown cover corner with world-class catchup speed or rare ball-hawking skills.
Summary: Pound-for-pound, Winfield is as good an all-around defensive football player as you will find. He is truly a uniquely talented defender with legitimate corner skills but a mini-linebacker presence on run support and as an open-field tackler.
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