2010 NFL Draft: Secondary Breakdown
By Lance Epstein
The NFL draft is only eight days away. Each day leading up to the draft, I will breakdown the seven major positions on the field. Those positions are secondary, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, wide receivers/tight ends, running backs/fullbacks and quarterback.
With each position, I will breakdown the best player at the position, two sleepers, a overrated player, a late-round gem, and the player(s) the Eagles should select.
In the first part of the seven part series, I will cover the secondary position. This is one of the biggest needs for the Philadelphia Eagles. Earlier this offseason, the Eagles traded starting right cornerback Sheldon Brown to the Browns. Currently, Ellis Hobbs is penciled in as the starter. Expect the Eagles to take a corner high in the draft.
In addition to Hobbs becoming the starter, Asante Samuel has not been a good solider this offseason. He has called out the front office by saying that they need to improve as well. If that was not bad enough, his former teammate Brown hinted that he was a major part of the chemistry problem in the locker room.
Another position that is in flux is the safety position. Marlin Jackson was signed to be the starting free safety, but his knee might never heal right and his athletic ability might not be the same. Besides Jackson, Quintin Mikell is entering his last year of his contract. He is 30 years old and many fans say his play dropped off dramatically this past season.
Secondary is definitely a pressing issue for the Eagles, so this is a position that they are going to look very hard at in eight days.
The Best: Joe Haden, Florida, 5-11, 193 lbs
Haden is widely considered as the best cornerback coming out of the 2010 draft. He has the size, speed, strength and athleticism to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. In arguably the toughest conference in college football, the SEC, Haden played man coverage against the best athletes and wide receivers in America. However, Haden ran a less than inspiring 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and has problems recognizing routes. Additionally, he gambles a bit more than scouts' would like him too. On the hand, he has a rare talent and is a playmaker. He is expected to go in the top 10 of the draft.
Akwasi Owusu-Anash, Indiana (PA), 6-0, 207 lbs
Coming out of a Division II school, Owusu-Anash is the typical sleeper. He might not gain the exposure or move up the draft boards like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did, but he has a chance to be a steal in the fourth or fifth round. Owusu-Anash has the size and strength for the position, but his long arms allow him to make plays that a shorter cornerback cannot. Also, his arm-length allows him to go up against taller receivers like Larry Fitzgerald since he can prevent a fade route from being thrown. Moreover, he does not mind helping in run support and is a very good tackler. Many scouts are overlooking the small school corner because he used his physical abilities to dominate the weaker Division II opponents. Still, Owusu-Anash can help immediate on special teams and might turn out to be a solid player.
Trevard Lindley, Kentucky, 5-11, 185 lbs
Before his senior season, Lindley was considered to be one of the better cornerbacks in the entire country. Many draft experts had him as a first round pick. Unfortunately, he was banged up most of his final season as a Wildcat. Yet, Lindley has the elite athleticism, speed and size to be a solid starter in the NFL. Furthermore, Kentucky used him in one-on-one coverage against SEC wide receivers. There are downsides to the corners game. He needs to add some bulk to his slender frame. The physical wide receivers like Anquan Boldin will push him around like a rag doll at his current weight. In the NFL he will have to tackle much better than he did in college against the run. In spite of those factors, he was very productive in college and even earned all-conference honors in one of the best leagues in America.
Donovan Warren, Michigan, 5-11, 193 lbs
Even though teams love his versatility to play both corner and safety, Warren does not warrant being a second round pick (expected to go). He has nice size and athleticism for the position, but he does not get off blocks well against the run. Moreover, he lacks the necessary pure speed to play in man coverage against receivers in the NFL. If that was not bad enough, his agility and burst on film are not too impressive either. Many believe he has to go to a cover-2 defense in order to thrive in the NFL.
Devin Ross, Arizona, 5-10, 183
Ross is not expected to go until at least the fifth round, but he has the talent to make an NFL roster and stick on the team. He has a good burst, great athleticism and good hip fluidity, which will help him stay with NFL caliber receivers. What really opened some scouts eyes is his aggressiveness and does not shy away from making a tackle in run support. The biggest knock on Ross is that he lacks the ideal size to play the position, but that has been said by some of the best corners in the league. Ross could be a diamond in the rough.
Players the Eagles Should Select:
Kyle Wilson, Boise State, 5-10, 194
Over the last couple months, no player has seen his stock rise more than Wilson. Wilson dominated the receivers at the Senior Bowl and put on a show at the combine and his Pro Day. He possesses tremendous athleticism, is very durable and plays with great instincts. At Boise State, he was the ultimate playmaker and was always around the ball. In addition, Wilson will allow DeSean Jackson to solely concentrate on being a wide receiver since he can return punts.
Kareem Jackson, Alabama, 5-10, 196 lbs
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Jackson has jumped from mid-second round pick all the way into the mid-first round. One of the reasons is that Jackson has the rare combination of size and athleticism for the position. On the field he plays with confidence and it is evident by the fact he can play both man and zone coverage. Another aspect of Jackson's game that is impressive is his ability to jump routes and anticipate where the quarterback is going with the ball. Jackson went to Alabama and played under coach Nick Saban, so he will be able to perform from day one.
Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State, 5-11, 195 lbs
If Cox did not have off-the-field issues, he would probably be a first round pick, but since he got into trouble he is projected to go in the second round. Still he has the ideal height and bulk to help in run support and be a playmaker in the NFL. His speed, agility and soft hands will allow him to be a special player. Additionally, he was an excellent return man for the Cowboys and can help any team that drafts him immediately. Although he must refine his technique and learned to play the game with a high motor at all times.
The Best: Eric Berry, Tennessee, 6-0, 211 lbs
Scouts and draft gurus have said Berry could be the best player coming out of this draft. He is the most polished player coming out of college. While Berry does not have the freakish size like Taylor Mays, he makes a lot more plays than him. Also, Berry plays run and pass extremely well. His ability to recognize routes and jump them makes him an elite prospect. The thing that makes Berry the best player at this position are his intangibles. He is a leader very much like an Ed Reed or Brian Dawkins. If Monte Kiffin has signed off on Berry that is an indication of just how good of a player he is.
Larry Asante, Nebraska, 6-0, 212
Asante is a very muscular safety that also does not have great speed, which means he is probably better suited to play strong safety than free safety. However, he reacts very quickly and has the speed to close in on run support. What makes Asante a sleeper is that he is very aggressive, will make a huge hit and wraps up carriers well. He needs to work on reading routes and anticipating where the quarterback is going with the ball.
Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech, 6-1, 209 lbs
Not many safeties in the draft have the combination of size, strength and athleticism that Burnett possesses. One top of that, he has great instincts and is able to help support against the run and jump routes. However, his strength is playing in coverage, locating the ball at his highest point and eliminating the deep ball. If Burnett can learn to not take plays off, he could be a steal for any team in the third round.
Chad Jones, LSU, 6-2, 221 lbs
One of the biggest issues for safeties in the NFL is lack of pure speed. Jones has average speed, which is the reason why teams are turned off by selecting him. Moreover, he has limited range will get him beat deep. In addition, the NFL is a pass happy league, so teams want their safeties to play in and outside of the box. On the next level, he will have difficulties covering slot receivers, backs and tight ends in man coverage.
Jonathon Amaya, Nevada, 6-1, 203 lbs
Amaya is a natural athlete that has played free safety, strong safety and cornerback. He has such great athleticism that MLB teams are considering drafting him as well. Amaya has decent speed, but does not have the greatest fluidity of the hips to cover the speedy receivers. Additionally, he struggled to put up eight reps of 225 lbs at the combine. Despite all the negatives, he is an aggressive player, which is willing to contribute on special teams. Some team will take a chance on him late in the draft based on his versatility.
Player (s) the Eagles Should Draft:
Earl Thomas, Texas, 5-10, 208 lbs
NFL Network's Mike Mayock ranks Thomas ahead of Eric Berry, so the Eagles probably will have to move up to acquire him. Many scouts have thought that Thomas' lack of size would make him the best cornerback in this draft. Still, he has great fluidity of the hips and has a knack for coming up with the big interception. Even though he lacks the ideal size for a safety, he is an adequate tackler and does not shy away from laying the wood.
Nate Allen, South Florida, 6-0 203 lbs
While safety Nate Allen does not get the recognition of Berry and Thomas, he still has the tools to be a very good safety at the next level. He has the toughness, size and athleticism to play man or zone coverage. His skill set would fit in very well with the Eagles because they currently lack a player at free safety that can support in run defense and be able to cover tight ends, slot receivers and running backs.
Look for the linebacker breakdown tomorrow….