I have not spent much time looking at cornerbacks as the 2011 NFL Draft approaches. It is, however, a position where the New York Giants could use additional depth. So, let's look at a cornerback today who could be a mid-round type selection. If you read the post by Matt Bowen of the National Football Post the other day you understand the growing importance of the cornerback position. In the NFL there is no such thing as having too many quality coverage guys.
North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney drew a lot of positive attention during the Senior Bowl, and NFL.com draft guru Mike Mayock compared him to Brandon Flowers. He was, by most accounts, one of the most impressive players during Senior Bowl practices. Burney is a smallish guy at 5-foot-9, 181 pounds, but maybe he fits as a nickel guy in the slot on passing downs.
Let's take a look.
CB, North Carolina
5-foot-9, 181 pounds
From Sideline Scouting:
Positives: Good speed for the position... Very good at recognizing run and getting in position to make a play... Aggressive and feisty, likes to stick his nose out and fight to get to the ball carrier, plays with intensity and passion for the game... Very productive four years (209 tackles, 11 interceptions), is a pretty good playmaker with above-average instincts... Good tackler for his size, breaks down well and gets in position to make a lot of hits, flies to the ball with aggression and purpose... Athletic in coverage, has good range and ability to recover when giving a step on deep routes... Ball skills are solid, does not miss a lot of opportunities to make a play on the ball... Generally stays in very good position, plays off the receiver a lot, has good instincts in zone coverage.
Negatives: Is undersized, at least an inch too short for the position... Was suspended for NCAA rules violations, stock may have fallen slightly due to suspension... Has difficulty getting off blocks at times, size is really a major factor in run defense, makes the effort, but simply gets outmuscled at times... Height is a disadvantage in jump-ball situations, has decent leaping ability, but gives up too many inches to taller receivers... Is below-average in press coverage, mostly plays off the ball, not very physical in man coverage.
From CBS Sports:
Positives: Savvy, experienced cornerback. Rarely out of position. Reacts to the body language of the receiver and is typically ready to turn and run deep - even against play-action. Quick to read run. Avoids the block of the receiver and is an active defender willing to mix it up with the big boys to make plays near the line of scrimmage. Has a low, smooth backpedal and fluid hips to turn either direction and keep up with the receiver. Changes direction fluidly. Willing to match up with bigger receivers. Competes for jump balls. Shows a late burst to the ball. Times leaps well to compete with bigger receivers. Good vertical leaper. Shows good hands for the interception. A natural with the ball in his hands, showing good vision, agility to elude and the speed to run away from the pack. Has returned two of his 10 career interceptions for touchdowns (76, 77 yards) and has 347 career interception return yards, which ranks second only to Duke's John Talley (395) in ACC history. Good athlete. Played baseball for North Carolina as a freshman.
Negatives: Might be too short to operate as anything more than a nickel or dime corner. Appears to have good but not great straight-line speed. Typically maintains the proper cushion, though he bites on double-moves. Generally a reliable cut-and-swipe tackler; he can get himself in trouble lunging in run support. Scouts would like to see him wrap his arms more securely around the ballcarrier. Has only marginal strength overall for the position and can get tied up when blockers get their hands on him.
From the National Football Post:
A smart, savvy defender who exhibits good overall fluidity and a real feel in zone coverage. Does a nice job of baiting quarterbacks, reading his pass keys and quickly clicking and closing on the football. Exhibits the ability to keep his feet under him, remain balanced and quickly click and close on the play, with the ball skills to come down with the pass.
Showcases good fluidity when asked to turn and run down the field with receivers in man coverage, gets up to speed quickly, locates the football and makes it tough for wideouts to cleanly go up and try to make the catch. However, isn't as impressive when asked to quickly change directions and get out of his breaks. Isn't as smooth, balanced or compact in his back-pedal as you would like, and he gets overextended and high in his drop. And the further down the field he goes the more he struggles to quickly regain his balance and redirect. Gives up significant separation initially and tends to drift too much from receivers in his drop. Isn't real comfortable when asked to press off the line either.
Impression: He does have some holes in his game, but because of his natural athleticism, ball skills and savvy, he's a very good zone and off player who can find the football on plays in front of him. Looks like a potential starter if given a chance to play in a predominantly zone scheme.