This is the third in a series of position-by-position stories on the 2011 NFL Draft by newyorkjets.com.
Patrick Peterson may be on top of many teams' draft boards, but it's highly unlikely the gifted Louisiana State cornerback will be the No. 1 overall selection in April's NFL Draft. History is not on Peterson's side since no cornerback has ever gone No. 1 in the draft as teams typically build from the inside out.
Darrelle Revis, inarguably a top-five player in the league, was actually drafted 14th overall by the New York Jets in 2007. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum made one of the most significant trades in club history when he moved up to get Revis in the fold. And now four seasons later, New York's AFC representative has the game's best corner on its roster.
While Revis is a good-sized 5'11", 198 pounds, Peterson stands 6'0" and is a thick 219 pounds. But those safety-like proportions have not been a limitation as Peterson was timed at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine. In 30 career games for the Bayou Bengals, he totaled seven interceptions, 22 pass deflections and 135 tackles. The 2010 Thorpe Award winner also returned two punt returns for scores last season and his 932 kickoff-return yards were the fifth-highest total in SEC history.
"I just don't want to be a cornerback. I want to go to the next level and show the teams and the GMs that I can play pretty much every position on the field," Peterson said on ESPN's "First Take." "If they need me to play safety, I'm down to play safety. If they need me to blitz off the corner, blitz off the edge, I'm down for that as well."
Perhaps he'll play safety at some point, but Peterson will play corner and contribute immediately on a pro defense next season.
Amukamara's Up to Speed
Nebraska's Prince Amukamara (pronounced ah-MOO-kuh-MAR-ah) is expected* *to be the second defensive back picked in the opening round. There were questions about Amukamara's play speed after some receivers got behind him last season, but the former 'Husker was timed at 4.43 in Indy. He was an All-Big 12 selection, breaking up 13 passes and totaling 59 tackles but there were no interceptions his senior campaign.
"My junior year I had five interceptions and that was my career high," Amukamara said at the combine. "I played mostly off my junior year and gave the receiver a little room so I could make plays. In my senior year I mostly played all press so I could eliminate my receiver out of the equation and that's what happened."
The player who figures to be the third corner to come off the board continues to draw hot debate. Jimmy Smith, a Colorado product, enjoys playing press man coverage and quarterbacks weren't anxious to throw to his side when he was locked up in 1-on-1 duty. A 6'2", 211-pounder, Smith intercepted a trio of passes during his collegiate career and had 16 breakups and 183 tackles.
But Smith's character has been questioned due to a failed drug test and two alcohol-related violations at Colorado.
"I hope he gets his off-the-field issues squared away and I hope he gets his mind right and is able to focus on playing football," said NFL Network's Mike Mayock, "because if he does, he has the chance to be a really good starting cornerback in the NFL."
Moore, Black: Safeties Who Made Plays
There doesn't appear to be a star safety in this year's class, but UCLA's Rahim Moore may prove to be the best of the bunch. Moore was a master thief for the Bruins, leaving school as its fourth-leading interceptor. He did most of his damage his sophomore season, hauling in 10 of his 14 picks.
"I just felt like it was time," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Leaving UCLA is hard, but it's like I had a mediocre job and now I'm going for a great job. It's not that I think UCLA is mediocre, but I have dreamed about playing in the NFL my whole life."
While some scouts may think Ahmad Black's speed (4.7 in the 40 at the combine) and size (5'10", 184) combo is mediocre, the former Florida Gators safety standout had enough to continually produce during his college career. Black had three interceptions his senior season after amassing seven as a sophomore and then five more in 2009. He finds a way of getting into the action as evidenced by his team-leading 102 tackles in 2010 and 244 stops in his career.
"At the end of the day, it's how many plays you make and if you make plays," Black said at UF's pro day. "I just make plays, and that's all I can do."
Oklahoma S Quinton Carter was a proficient tackler for the Sooners, accumulating 217 stops to finish eighth all-time among OU defensive backs. Carter (6'1", 208) had four interceptions each of the past two seasons and earned all-conference first-team honors his senior campaign. He can fill multiple roles in the secondary because he can cover, he is rangy and he's solid against the run.
Aaron Williams, a corner who made 23 starts at Texas, is an intriguing prospect because of his versatility. Williams (6'0", 204) is an aggressive player who brings a lot to the table when you consider that his five career blocked punts rank second on UT's all-time list. The early entry, who started 23 times and had four interceptions, 24 pass breakups and six forced fumbles for the Longhorns, has some experience inside at nickel as well.
'Canes' Harris Very Coach-Able
Many coaches will love Miami CB Brandon Harris' football acumen. His father, Tim, was USA Today's national coach of the year in 2007 at Booker T. Washington HS in Miami, FL. Harris (5'10", 191), is as instinctive as they come and had a team-high 10 pass breakups for the 'Canes last season. But he struggled mightily in a Sun Bowl loss against Notre Dame's Michael Floyd (six catches, 109 yards, two TDs) and it's said he often shies away from contact.
Injuries have taken their toll on Ras-I Dowling. The Virginia product (6'1", 198) had a solid junior campaign with three interceptions and 11 breakups as the Cavaliers finished 21st nationally in pass defense. But injuries have been the story since as he played in just five games in 2010 due to hamstring, knee and ankles problems. Then Dowling, not considered a burner, posted an impressive 4.4, 40 time at the combine, only to pull up lame with a right hamstring injury and subsequently miss his pro day.
After three years at Utah and two as a starter at corner, Brandon Burton decided to leave for the pros. In 37 career starts, he tallied 18 pass breakups and three interceptions.
An All-Big Ten first-team performer, Iowa S Tyler Sash has been praised in various circles for his leadership ability. The 6'0", 211-pounder is a physical presence who had 13 interceptions in 37 career starts for the Hawkeyes.
Due to an NCAA investigation at North Carolina, S Da'Norris Searcy missed his team's first three games and still paced UNC in picks (four) and pass breakups (nine). Searcy (5'11", 223) also served as the Tar Heels' primary kickoff and punt return man the past two seasons. His 14.6-yard PR average in 2009 ranked fifth nationally.
West Virginia's Robert Sands has some uncommon size at safety, standing 6'4" and weighing in at 217 pounds. Despite the lanky build, Sands likes to mix it up and plays with a good motor. A two-time All-Big East performer, he had 151 tackles (88 solo), six interceptions and eight pass breakups in three seasons in Morgantown.
According to reports, Temple S Jaiquawn Jarrettis scheduled to visit the Jets at their Atlantic Health training facility. Jarrett, who was the Owls' MVP last season and also on the athletic department's honor roll, averaged 75 tackles the past two seasons while collecting five interceptions.
Curtis Brown, CB, Texas; Chris Culliver, DB, South Carolina; Davon House, CB, New Mexico State; Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers; DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson; Buster Skrine, CB, Chattanooga.
Friday, March 25 —Defensive Linemen
Tuesday, March 29 — Linebackers