For today's 2011 NFL Draft prospect profile, let's take a look at a talented defensive back that, despite the surrounding hype, has been downgraded a bit due to a history of injuries.
Ras-I Dowling is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound cornerback who spent his four collegiate years at Virginia. In his first two, he led the Cavaliers in interceptions and passes broken up. After his junior year in 2009, Dowling was a second-team All-ACC selection. With his size and ball skills, Dowling was widely considered a first-round prospect entering his senior year.
Yet, his final season at UVA was derailed by injuries, including a fractured left ankle, a right knee problem and a lingering hamstring injury. He finished with just 12 tackles, despite averaging more than 48 in each of his first three years.
At the recent NFL Scouting Combine, Dowling ran an impressive 4.40-second 40-yard dash - but suffered another injury as he pulled his hamstring. So, while Dowling may have quieted concerns about his size and potential lack of speed making him a better fit as a safety, he still has to answer questions regarding his durability.
Scouting reports after the jump.
6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Projection: Round 2
From CBS Sports:
Read & React: Experienced corner who has seen all the tricks. Rarely out of position, even against double-moves, due to his instincts and vision. Keeps an eye on the quarterback and breaks on the ball quickly. Height and long arms make it very difficult to beat him over the top.
Man Coverage: Has the long arms and good upper-body strength for an effective jam at the line of scrimmage. Is often able to disrupt route timing. Good balance and opens up his hips smoothly. Can lose a step in transition but has surprisingly good acceleration and at least fair straight-line speed. Rides the receiver downfield, keeping good contact throughout the route. Faster on the field than he'll be on the stopwatch.
Zone Coverage: Savvy zone coverage defender. High in his backpedal, but is surprisingly fluid. Keeps his eyes on the quarterback, but has a good sense of where his receiver is. Will bait the passer into making the throw. Reacts quickly because of his vision and acceleration.
Closing/Recovery: Lacks elite recovery speed, making him susceptible to double-moves by NFL route-runners. Shows good instincts, however, and his rare height and arm length make throwing over the top of him dangerous. Locates the football quickly and is an explosive leaper with good timing and good ball skills.
Run Support: Reads run quickly and fights through receiver blocks efficiently through lateral agility and good upper-body strength. Willing to take on bigger ballcarriers with no hesitation. Uses the sideline to help defend the run. Understands his role in keeping contain and pushes the action back inside when he can't make the play. Willing to take on blocks to free up teammates for the easy stop.
Tackling: Good balance and lateral agility to handle tackling smaller, quicker players in the open field. Breaks down well and makes strong, secure tackles. Likes to intimidate his opponent with big hits. Will hit-lift-drive the ballcarrier into the ground when he can, resulting in impressive stops. Good pursuit and takes good angles to the ball, masking a lack of elite straight-line speed.
Intangibles: Played a post-grad season for coach Robert Prunty at Hargrave Military Academy following his senior year at Deep Creek High School. Had appeared in 35 of a possible 37 games for the Cavaliers prior to his senior season. Only started twice in five games played in 2010 due to injuries. Fractured his left ankle Nov. 13 against Maryland. Well-respected teammate. Hard worker. Team captain in 2010. Nominee for the 2010 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
From National Football Post:
A tall, well-built defensive back with a broad upper body and long arms for the position. Showcases good ball skills and body control when asked to make a play on the throw down the field. Locates the football quickly and showcases the timing and coordination to consistently go up and get his hands on the football. Displays good instincts in zone-coverage, reads the quarterback's eyes well, gets early jumps on the pass and does a nice job putting himself around the action.
Is a sound, wrap-up tackler who isn't afraid to attack downhill at the line of scrimmage. Generates a good thrust through his hips and creates a pop on contact. Also does a nice job fending off blocks on the outside. Uses his length well to play off opposing wideouts and make his way toward the football.
However, isn't real flexible when asked to sit into his stance, doubles over at the waist and allows his pad level to get too high when asked to turn and run. More of a strider who needs a couple steps to get going to begin with, but his lack of fluidity and balance when asked to turn and run really limits his initial burst down the field. Isn't real clean with his footwork at this stage as well. Has a tendency to open up his hips prematurely in man coverage, struggles to consistently stay compact and balanced in his lower half and it really takes him a while to regain his footing when asked to redirect. Consistently is overextend with his footwork and too easily allows wideouts to separate down the field on him. Now, he is physical and tracks the football well, but he won't see the consistent amount of underthrown passes vertically in the NFL that he sees in college.
Impression: A physically strapping corner with good size and ball skills, and he knows how to tackle in the run game. However, I wouldn't trust the guy at this stage in man-to-man coverage at the next level. Looks more like a cover-two type corner only to me or a potential free safety prospect. Not as high on him as most.
Dowling entered the 2010 season as one of the nation's top cornerbacks, but after playing in only five games due to injury, his draft stock may have taken a hit. He is a monster of a cornerback who seeks out contact in run support and is a sound tackler. He really excels in zone coverage with terrific instincts and has the ball skills to make plays on underneath routes. He does not have the recovery speed to play in a man-heavy scheme at the next level, but he should be a good fit in a Tampa 2 system. A potential first-round pick before the season, Dowling still likely will be a second-round pick.