Thursday, April 16, 2015

Top Corners in 2015 Draft

by Derek Rampulla

1) Trae Waynes, Michigan State Spartans
Height: 6'0          Weight: 186
40 Time: 4.31 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.53 Seconds
Vertical: 38 Inches
Career Stats: 101 Tackles, 6 INTs, 13 Passes Defended

Waynes was part of a Michigan State secondary that was dubbed the "No Fly Zone" over the last two years due to their ability to to completely shut down opposing quarterbacks. Waynes took a back seat to Darqueze Dennard last year, but this year he was thrust into the primary corner role and performed well above expectations.The Spartans run a true quarters defense which meant that Waynes was consistently put on an island with a receiver with little to no help on most plays. The top corner is tasked with stopping the top receiving threat on the opposing team, and no one was better than Waynes this past season. In all of 2014, he gave up only one passing touchdown. Waynes is great at man to man coverage and mirrors his receiver incredibly well. He turns his hips very fluidly and runs with his man on every route. As can be shown from his forty time, he can keep up with the fastest of receivers and has the short area speed to make plays on the ball . Waynes complements his speed with good toughness as he fights for position and doesn't let receivers bully him around. This can get him into trouble occassionaly as he does have a tendency to toe the line between legal and illegal contact. This isn't necessarily a bad thing he can also get receivers to bite and get interferences of their own. One of his more underrated abilities is how he plays the run. He isn't one who shies away from contact and is a very sure tackler. The only thing I really haven't seen out of Waynes is how he plays in zone. That is mostly because of the system that Michigan State played, but with how athletic and intelligent he is he could certainly pick it up. He has all the makings of a shutdown corner for the NFL.

2) Marcus Peters, Washington Huskies
Height: 6'0          Weight: 197
40 Time: 4.53 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.61 Seconds
Vertical: 37.5 Inches
Career Stats: 129 Tackles, 13 INTs, 27 Passes Defended

If it weren't for a serious of shithead moments for Peters, he wouldn't have to worry about being drafted in a later round. He is definitely worthy of being taken in the first round based on his talent and athleticism alone, but his other transgressions could come back to bite him. Despite his bad decisions, he is very smart when it comes to the game and can dissect plays and routes. He is capable of making the tough play on the ball and can usually get his hand in on any pass. He has very good short area quickness and really attacks the ball in the air. He gets a hand on everything and makes every catch tough for the receiver. He turns a lot of those into interceptions as well and is very dangerous on returns. Like Waynes, he is very good in man coverage and has a good ability to bump and run with his man. He shadows his man and can make up ground if he gets faked out. Unlike Waynes, Peters is a very reluctant tackler and not very good against the run. He doesn't always give the best effort to shed his block and hit the runner. However, in terms of being just a pure corner, Peters looks like he has the make up of a solid shutdown corner. The ability to play man to man with no other help is one of the most valuable pieces of a defense, and Peters has the athleticism to be that piece for a defense. His red flags could keep him from going where he truly belongs, but many scouts believe him to be the best man-to-man corner in the draft. The potential is definitely there and he has already shown the ability to perform at a high level. 

3) Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest Deacon Demons
Height: 6'0          Weight: 180
40 Time: 4.52 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.60 Seconds
Vertical: 41.5 Inches
Career Stats: 189 Tackles, 7 INTs, 38 Passes Defended

It doesn't take a lot to stand out at Wake, but Johnson is one of the most talented players to come through the program in the last ten years. Although he is very lean, Johnson makes a strong case for the best corner at man to man coverage as he has the speed and solid physicality to run with the toughest receivers. One of his top qualities is how quickly he turns his hips and is able to run with his man on all the routes he can expect to see. The hardest routes to cover in man to man are usually the ones that go across the middle of the field in short to intermediate routes. Johnson sticks to his man and provides tight coverage against all kinds of routes. Other than playing man to man, Johnson saw a lot of zone coverage and has shown the ability to play that at a high level as well. He has great athleticism that allows him to break towards the ball as soon as he makes the read. He has very good football IQ that allows him to dissect the play quicker and get his hand on a lot of passes. His versatility will be highly coveted by teams who try to disguise coverage as best they can. Johnson has a lot of potential, but I think that he needs to add some weight for the next level. He has a very lean frame which could give him some fits against the bigger, more physical receivers he will see. He has not been one to shy away from contact and plays very well against bump and run. Disrupting the timing of a route is crucial, and his ability to make a receiver lose a few steps cannot be underrated. One of the only other weaknesses I see in his game comes in the run game. He is a more willing tackler than Marcus Peters, but his lean frame prevents him from making more plays. He doesn't always get off of his blocks very well and misses plays that he should be able to make. I think once he hits an NFL weight room, he will be fine for the NFL. Johnson has all the makings of being a solid number one or very good second corner for whoever picks him. 

4) Jalen Collins, LSU Tigers
Height: 6'1          Weight: 203 
40 Time: 4.48 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.50 Seconds
Vertical: 36 Inches
Career Stats: 90 Tackles, 3 INTs, 19 Passes Defended

Along with Trae Waynes, Collins makes a case for the most physical corner in this year's draft. Collins is the type of bigger corner that has become more popular in the NFL over the past several seasons. For being one of the biggest corners among his peers, he also has one of the best forty times, a very impressive feat for a corner back. With his larger frame comes his ability to play the run. While he isn't always the most aggressive in plays that go away from his side of the field, he is a very sure tackler who likes to initiate contact on the running back. He carries that over to his ability when playing the pass. Like the other top corners this year, he is at his best when he can play up close to the line against his man. He has very good speed and can press his man at the line to disrupt the route. This is really the strength of his game. He is at his best when he is allowed to stick close to his man and not have to react to a situation. One of his weaknesses is the fact that he isn't as good in zone coverage as he is in man to man. He doesn't always read the play as well others and as such can give up too much of a cushion against his man. This can get him into trouble with the other facet of his game he needs to work on, his raw technique. Collins isn't just an athlete, but there are definitely some technical issues that he is going to have to work on, primarily his backpedal. Collins is still a great athlete who is able to make up his lapses with a lot of plays on the ball. His interception total isn't the highest, but he still manages to get his arm in and make receptions tough. Collins needs some refinement, but his potential is through the roof.  

5) Ronald Darby, Florida State Seminoles
Height: 5'11          Weight: 193
40 Time: 4.38 Seconds
10 Yard Split: 1.47 Seconds
Vertical: 41.5 Inches
Career Stats: 79 Tackles, 2 INTs, 16 Passes Defended

Darby rounds out the top five for corners in this year's draft, just beating out Byron Jones and fellow Seminole PJ Williams. For a lot of the season, scouts had Williams pegged as the better of the two but that has now shifted after Darby's great Combine performance. I hate to jump guys up the rankings simply because they prove how athletic they are, but when watching Darby's tape it became clear that he has harnessed his athleticism into technique and is a very good corner back because of it. As has been the case with other guys in this elite group, Darby is a very good man to man defender. He prefers to play up towards the line where he is able to get his hands on the receiver to jam them and disrupt the timing. While he has the speed to turn and run with his man, he also eats up contact when he goes up against the bigger receivers. He isn't easily pushed around and can fight through the jostling that happens early on and when fighting for 50/50 balls. Where Darby tends to fall a bit short is in zone coverage. He isn't nearly as fluid or quick with his reactions in zone as opposed to when he is playing man. There were a few times last year when he got lost in his assignment and allowed big plays over the top. He doesn't always recognize the help that he is getting from the safety and will let his guy slip past him. Considering how many teams play a mixture of coverage in the NFL, this is a major facet of his game that he will need to improve on. Staying within his ability in zone is the tendency to take some false steps when playing off his man. He has the burst to be able to close the gap on a receiver, but too often he takes an extra step or two which forces him to use that burst. It would be good for him to work on his recognition and how he reacts to a play before the ball is in the air. If he can improve his ability as a zone defender, Darby could be a valued asset for a long time.

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