[Note by Ed Valentine, 05/01/14 12:17 PM EDT:]
After three seasons in the NFL, can New York Giants' cornerback Prince Amukamara really be called a "disappointment?" In a look back at the performances to date of players taken in the 2011 first round, long-time NFL scout Greg Gabriel did just just.
Writing for the National Football Post, Gabriel said this about Amukamara:
"Amukamara broke his foot early in training camp during his rookie year. That caused him to miss half the season. He has been a starter the last two seasons with solid, but unspectacular results. At this point in his career, he has to be labeled a bit of a disappointment. This season will be very important for him."
We often referred to Amukamara as the Giants' best cornerback last season. That was true, by default. The Giants made it pretty obvious that they agree with Grabriel that Amukamara is "solid, but unspectacular" by signing big-name free-agent corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and immediately announcing that he, not Amukamara, would shadow opposing wide receivers in 2014.
The question, though, is can you really call Amukamara a disappointment? That depends on what your expectations were, or are. Amukamara received a +4.0 grade from Pro Football Focus last season, a middling number when you consider it put him 34th among graded cornerbacks. His passer rating against was a good, but not great, 87.7. Trumaine McBride graded at +6.6 and had a 57.4 passer rating against. The troubling number with Amukamara is really that he has only three interceptions in three seasons.
To really answer the question you have to consider what the expectations were when the Giants selected him 19th overall back in 2011. Let's go back in time and read some of what was said when the Giants selected Amukamara:
Scouting Director Marc Ross:
"It was a shock. It was a shock. It was a shock. I know we come in and say, "We picked the best player, and we were surprised." This one truly was a shock. Because you go through scenarios leading up to the draft where you kind of have realistic scenarios, somewhat unrealistic scenarios, of what could happen. And this one was just completely out of left field. We never thought this kid would have been still on the board at 19."
GM Jerry Reese:
"We were really surprised that he was there when we picked. We thought he would get picked a lot higher than that. But it happens like that sometimes in the draft. Guys can fall right in your lap. We think that is what happened. Everybody is excited up there. Our defensive staff is really excited up there. Our entire room is excited about it. His height, weight, speed - this guy is big and he is fast. There was some concern about his production on the ball this past season because he had more production on the ball the year before. But we think he can still play the ball really well. He is a good tackler; physical player. So there are a lot of things we like about Prince."
Head coach Tom Coughlin:
"The value of this pick, where he was ranked, there wasn't any question about the fact that this player should be on the New York Giants. At one point there were probably four or five players in position there, where we felt real good about it. Then, as we got close and our pick matured, there was Prince and he was clearly the highest rated player that we could take on the board. ... You can never have enough cover guys because if you watch the way people play today with the addition of the receivers, they go one, two, three, four, until they figure out what you're going to cover some of these third, fourth receivers with. The more cover people you have, the better off you're going to be."
The way I read all of that is it's clear the Giants thought there was a chance Amukamara could be special, which has yet to pan out. He has definitely been good, and might still get better, but he has yet to be anything close to special. Reese also hinted that there were some concerns about Amukamara's ball skills, and the lack of interceptions appears to bear that out
As we pointed out recently, the Giants have yet to pick up Amukamara's fifth-year option. They have only until May 3 to do so.
To this point in his career Amukamara seems to have shown that he is a quality player with solid cover skills and a willingness to play the run and to tackle. He is a solid NFL corner who deserves to be a starter, but to this point not one NFL quarterbacks have any fear of challenging.
Does that make him a disappointment? If you were expecting the second coming of Darrelle Revis, maybe. If you were expecting him to simply be a good, dependable player, probably not.
Your thoughts, Giants fans? Which side do you fall on?