Let's turn our attention to cornerback today as we continue previewing the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine by looking at some of the intriguing players at positions of interest for the New York Giants. This is hardly meant to be a comprehensive look, just a few names to be aware of when the workouts begin.
The first two cornerbacks off the board when the 2014 NFL Draft comes on May 8 will likely by Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State and Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State. Current projections might have either or both in play when the Giants turn comes at No. 12.
'Invictus' likes what he sees in Dennard:
Dennard is the premier man cover corner in this year's draft. Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State might have the greater upside because of his athleticism, but Dennard has the fundamentals, aggressiveness, and intelligence to succeed for a long, long time. Some compare his play style to Darrelle Revis. I don't know that he'll be as great as him, but the style is similar. Using the field and the rules to your advantage. If he has five yards to press you, he'll press you for five and a half and the refs won't notice. He'll interfere with you in every way possible, but at the last second, he'll wrench his head back towards the ball so it won't be called. He's that kind of a player, and one that the Giants could definitely use.
We have yet to post our profile of Gilbert. CBS Sports compares Dennard and Gilbert this way:
Where Dennard may be the country's best lockdown corner, Gilbert is the big-play specialist. An extraordinary athlete with the hands, vision and speed to score any time he gets his hands on the ball, Gilbert led the Big 12 with six interceptions in 2013. He's also returned six kickoffs for TDs during his career.
Let's turn the focus to three other cornerbacks who may not be first-round picks, but about whom there should be a good amount of intrigue in Indianapolis.
Jason Verrett, TCU
In his profile of Verrett, Jesse Bartolis points out that Verrett's miniature 5-foot-9, 170-pound stature is the only thing that will keep NFL teams away from him. Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post agrees. He writes:
Except for size, Verrett has the tools and mental makeup to be a good corner in the league. What will hurt him on draft day is his size. Many teams will not draft corners under 5’10 and that’s what Verrett is. With his speed and quickness I see him as a nickel corner. He can do a great job lined up on many of the quick small slot receivers we see in the NFL. If he has to line up outside and matchup against some of the bigger receivers in the league, he will be at a huge disadvantage. While his play on tape says he should be a first round pick, his size says he will go in the second.
If the Giants still believe Hosley has a future as a regular player, Verrett likely is redundant for them, as Jesse suggests. It will be interesting, however, to see how NFL teams regard Verrett as the draft gets closer.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
We simply have to talk about Jean-Baptiste. First, because nearly everyone look at the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Jean-Baptiste and drops the comparison to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, purely because of size and body type. That isn't fair, to Jean-Baptiste, but it puts a spotlight on him. People will scrutinize Jean-Baptiste to see what the fuss is all about and whether or not he has the goods to become a Sherman-type player.
Secondly, because during these early NFL mock drafts in recent weeks Jean-Baptiste usually goes in the third round, and he keeps being connected to the cornerback-needy Giants.
Jean-Baptiste has rare size (6-foot-2 3/8, 215); he looks like a clone of Richard Sherman. I'm sure the Seahawks, among most NFL teams, will be paying close attention to this player. He's a junior-college transfer who only played cornerback for a season and a half at Nebraska after switching from wide receiver in 2011. Has very long arms (78 3/8 wingspan) and is a willing tackler. Looks fast in coverage and has quickness.
Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
Everybody loves to get a look at the small-school players who are invited to the Combine. These are the guys you have never seen on TV and never really heard of until the draft process gets into full swing.
Desir is a 6-1, 195-pound Division II All-American looking to prove he can compete with the big boys and become a quality NFL cornerback. Currently, he is considered a likely third- to fourth-round draft choice whose size and athleticism fit the Sherman mold popularized by the Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
Desir is probably best suited to playing press coverage at the next level, and because of that some teams have told him they want to see him play more physical. But he has very good ball skills as evidenced by his 25 college interceptions. He plays smart and carries himself with the maturity of a 30-year-old. Being the father of two can do that to you.
One veteran scout in Mobile said Desir needs to work on his footwork, but has good athleticism and has displayed an ability to change directions quickly — something bigger corners sometimes struggle with.
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