By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
Today College Scout looks at the cornerbacks who we rate the highest around the college football landscape. The Patriots found a gem in the first round last year in Devin McCourty. But after a promising rookie year, so far another young corner of theirs, Darius Butler, is having a disappointing second season. They’re starting young corner Kyle Arrington, but probably will be looking to select at least one, maybe two, fairly high next draft. Lets see this year’s prospects.
1.) Patrick Peterson (#7), Cornerback: Its not often a cornerback is a Heisman Trophy candidate. And while Peterson won’t win, the fact he is even mentioned tells you how good he is. Only a junior, there is a decent chance he’ll come out as he is a sure-fire Top 10 pick, maybe top 5. He’ll be 20 years old at the time of the draft. At 6’1″ 212 he is much bigger than most corners. Don’t make the mistake thinking he is not fast though, he is and is an electrifying kick returner as well. He is very athletic and can jump very high as well. A perfect “outside” corner who can match up with big, fast, stretch-the-field receivers. His only weakness is occasional mental mistakes, but he plays hard and is tough and works at it, so that should improve. He is a great run defender. NFL players Santana and Sinorce Moss as well as Bryant McFadden are his cousins. The Patriots found one great corner prospect in the draft this year in Devin McCourty. If they could get their hands on another like Peterson, that would make their young defense look to be on the verge of dominance. Watch Peterson and LSU when rival Alabama visits on November 7th at 3:30 PM on CBS.
2.) Prince Amukamara (#21), Nebraska: A very good, smooth cover corner who can lock down a receiver and is quick enough to play inside in the slot. Has very good size at 6’1″ 205 and not afraid to make plays against the running game. Amukara is considered a leader for the excellent Nebraska defense and reportedly is well-regarded by all involved with the Nebraska program. He is mature beyond his years and of very good character. Also loves football and works at it. The Patriots will be interested. Watch him and Nebraska try to deal with undefeated Missouri at 3:30 PM EST on ESPN.
3.) Rashad Carmichael (#21), Virginia Tech: A 5’11” 186 lb. ball hawk who has picked off 9 passes between this year and last. And of course there is still quite a few games left this year for him to get more. Reminds somewhat of Asante Samuel the way he jumps routes. Knows his position and is a smart kid who is well respected on the Hokies team. Could be a bit more physical in run support and doesn’t measure up to the top 2 corners on this list in that regard. Reportedly runs a 4.44/40. Would definitely be another guy the Patriots would consider. Watch him next Thursday, November 4th, at 7:30 PM on ESPN when Georgia Tech visits.
4.) Ras-I Dowling (#19), Virginia: Only a junior, Dowling was already second team All-ACC and was projected to be second team All-American headed into this season. He is another big corner, which seems to populate most of this list, at 6’2″ 210. Of course Dowling was recruited by and played for head coach Al Groh at Virginia before this season, when Groh was let go. Groh has ties to Patriots coach Bill Belichick and has been a source of information on his players before. Dowling had 8 interceptions coming into this season, but has frustratingly been very limited by a knee injury and then a hamstring injury. He sat out the first two games, came back, got reinjured and has played sparingly the last two weeks. So, with that spotty record of playing this year its unlikely he’d come out in the draft. He will probably stay another year unless he gets healthy quick and can show what he can do before this season is out. But when he does, the Patriots would like this player.
5.) Brandon Harris (#1), Miami: Miami has a history of producing highly drafted corners and Harris will likely add to that list. Harris is another junior who has been starting since midway thru his freshman year. Last year as a sophomore he ranked second nationally with 1.31 passes defended per game. Came into this season with 3 career interceptions and he’s added 1 this year but ball skills is an area he could improve. He is 5’11” 195 and very quick and fast and is physical versus the run.Harris is versatile to play in the slot or outside. He should probably stay in school another season and become one of the top corners in next year’s draft. But if he comes out he’ll still go high as teams project him to improve with his great natural talent.
6.) Curtis Brown (#3) Texas: Brown is a smaller, quicker corner who would be an ideal slot corner. One thing the Patriots will love about him is he’s been a starting corner (starting 23 of the last 26 Longhorn games) but remains on every single one of their return and coverage special teams units. Not only does he play on those units, he excels even this year when he came into the season as one of the top corners in the country. That shows a good attitude and that he doesn’t feel he’s above the game. On the downside, his ball skills need to be evaluated as he has only picked off two passes in his career (one of which he returned 79 yards for a TD though). Has blocked a few kicks in his career. Brown could develop into a starting NFL corner and I see him as a second round pick, but he’ll certainly be versatile and valuable in many different ways for whatever team gets him.
7.) Emmanuel Davis (#38) East Carolina: A 5’11” 190 lb. Junior, Davis has really come on as a prospect this year. He is a redshirt junior, so a senior academically. Another corner who is a good special teams player. A willing run defender, he will stick running backs and receivers with everything he has. Reportedly runs a 4.5/40. Possibly a late first or early second round pick he’d be a good pick up for the Patriots and should eventually be a NFL starter.
8.) Janoris Jenkins (#1), Florida: Another junior, but he is a bit old as he’ll turn 23 during next NFL season. Probably doesn’t want tro wait until 2012 to come out because of that. He’ll also have two full seasons of starting experience when this season is over. We know Patriots coach Belichick has shown a fondness for Florida players due to his relationship with Urban Meyer and looks like he struck gold in this year’s draft with three of them. It seems likely he’ll go back to that well this draft and Jenkins would be a prime target. He’s not overly big at 5’11” 188 but he may be the most athletically gifted corner on this list. Fast, quick, shifty in his change of direction and compact but solidly built, he could develop into a top-flight NFL corner but will probably take a little more time. Came into this season with 5 career interceptions and added one this year.
9.) Kendric Burney (#16) North Carolina: Burney is the shortest corner on this list at 5’9″. He weighs a stout 190 however. He came into this season with 9 career interceptions and known as a hard working, tough, physical corner who despite his size won’t back down to anyone. Started all three seasons coming into 2010. This year, he’s yet to play as he was suspended by the NCAA for receiving benefits from agents in past year. However, he was cleared this past Tuesday and will make his debut versus William and Mary today. He really is a terrific prospect and not a bad kid who made a mistake. Watch him play in a bigger game next week versus Miami on ABC time to be determined.
10.) Kenny Okoro (#6) Wake Forest: Okoro is a redshirt sophomore who could come out if he wanted as he is a junior academically. A supremely talented kid who is now in his second year of starting he checks in at 6’0″ 195. Could probably add a bit of muscle to his frame, but he is strong already versus the run and in playing physically with receivers. Looks very smooth in his movements for a kid who is 6 feet tall and has unusual quickness for that size. Has average to decent straight away speed, but his quickness is the key to his game. The son of Nigerian immigrants, Okoro is a smart kid, disciplined and with a wide variety of interests. This year, teams have avoided him and he only has 1 interception and 4 passes broken up. He likely will stay in school, but if he did come out he would be an outstanding mid-round selection as he has a ton of upside. Watch Wake Forest and Okoro visit Maryland today at 3:30 PM on ESPNU.