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New York Giants 2007 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Backs

by KWALL for BigBlueInteractive.com

SAFETY: The value of a good safety has really increased over the past five years because of the type of athletes we’re seeing at the tight end position. There is more speed at tight end than ever before. Most teams line up at least one athletic tight end who can run and make plays downfield in pass game. The emphasis on speed at tight end forced teams to match-up on the other side with more athletic safeties. With more speed at tight end, you need more speed and better coverage from both safety positions. If you don’t have the athletic safeties teams will isolate the fast tight end or slot wide receiver and take advantage of the mismatch. It’s a must to have safeties who can play in space and run with athletic tight ends and slot wide receivers.

The next trend on offense? I’ve got two of them. And both can exploit a coverage liability at safety or force you to pull a safety and bring in a nickel cornerback.

  1. More Brian Westbrook and Reggie Bush types in a two-running back set. Split the back out wide or in motion to get match-up advantages versus a base defense. Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker is exactly this type of player.
  2. Two-tight end sets with speed at both tight end positions. The tight end moves to the slot versus the base defense and you have fast tight end in space versus a linebacker or safety. We saw this with Dallas Clark in the Colts run to the Super Bowl.

In both cases, advantage to the offense versus a base defense. Without substitutions, the only way to counter is with solid coverage and speed at your safety position. The safety position has evolved in the NFL. Forget about the strictly in-the-box player or a one-dimensional centerfield-type. You need players who can man up and cover. And you need two of them on the field at the same time. Interchangeable safeties are the way to go in 2007. Versatility wins at safety. The safeties with the most value are the guys who can stay on the field in all of these situations and match-up in coverage.

You also want two safeties who can come up and play the run tough – players who chase the ball with outstanding closing speed and guys who play downhill and play fast. Many times the safety is unchecked in the run game. If you have an aggressive guy with speed he can run past linebackers to get to the ball and limit yards in the run game. It will help get the defense off the field. Keep those 3rd downs at 3rd-and-5 instead of 3rd-and-2. This is huge for a defense. In the 2006 playoffs, we saw this kind of game changing effect with safety Bob Sanders of the Colts. Sanders was the primary reason the Colts won that Super Bowl. He was the playoff MVP of that team. Without him? Another playoff disaster for the Colts and Peyton Manning.

In my opinion, safety is one of the most important positions on your football team. I’d certainly rank it higher than cornerback. On draft day the NFL hasn’t agreed with that opinion. For the last 10 years, the NFL invested a much larger number of high draft picks at the cornerback position. The NFL has also poured an enormous amount of cap dollars into the free agent market at cornerback. Safety was the overlooked position on draft day and on the free agent market. Safety was the last position to fill on defense. Not any more. If forced to choose, I’d use more resources on the safety position over cornerback. I really hate the idea of the Giants using a #1 pick at cornerback in this draft. A first round safety? I love it. Let’s get an impact safety and dominate the middle of the field.

For the past several years, the Giants failed to keep up with the change at the safety position. To the dismay of many fans, they signed a very slow and aging Brent Alexander. It was an awful signing. He was finished before he got to NY. There were better players available that year for the same price tag (i.e., Mark Roman). After Alexander flopped, the Giants followed it up with another weak signing with Will Demps. Once again, there were better options (i.e., Chris Hope, Ryan Clark). Demps was the weak link on the Giants defense in 2006. He is not the answer at safety for the Giants in 2007. He’s not starting material. He’s too slow, too stiff, and a liability versus the pass and run. The easiest way for the Giants to improve the team in 2007 is to find a more athletic player to replace Demps. It’s really that simple and there are several options in rounds 1-5 in this draft.

Gibril Wilson ability to play strong safety and free safety gives the Giants some flexibility in the draft. Wilson can play both positions. We need another player like Wilson – a guy who plays physical and fast. There weren’t many reasonably-priced options on the free agent market. I felt one guy who could have been a low priced option was Bengals’ safety Kevin Kaesviharn. This guy can give you the coverage and run support you need. The Giants could have saved a huge need on draft day by signing Kaesviharn. They could have used him for a couple of years. Now they must look at the 2007 draft to fill this need.

Safety is the deepest position on defense in this draft. There are several immediate impact players at this position – one top-10 pick (LaRon Landry) and another in the 15-25-range (Reggie Nelson). Brandon Merriweather is probably the third safety in round one. Michael Griffin is knocking on the first round door. There is plenty of help in rounds 2-5 as well. It’s an absolute must for the Giants to find a year one starter at safety in this draft. I feel it’s the top priority of this draft.

Here are some of the best players at safety:

Reggie Nelson/Florida (6’0″, 198lbs; Combine: 40: 4.48, 10: 1.46, Vert: 34.5; Pro Day: SS: 4.15, 3 cone: 6.70): Junior college transfer. Only two years at Florida because he failed to qualify. Prior to 2006 seasons, college football expert Phil Steele only ranked him #35 at S. By the end of the year? One of the best defenders in all of college football. Outstanding year in 2006. Jumped out in every game he was tested. By mid-season, Nelson was my #1 target for the Giants in the first round of the draft. Flashes across the screen in coverage situations. Ideal range. Makes plays all over the field. Fluid athlete and very fast to the sidelines. Elite ball skills. High points the ball and brings it down. Can match up with slot WRs. Can defend the most athletic TEs. Strength and weight was a pre-Combine concern. Came in at a solid 198lbs at combine. Did not bench. Will deliver big hits and high-speed collisions. Wrapping up needs a little work. Good special teams performer with a few blocked punts. One of the top defensive playmakers in this draft. NFL starter from day one. Future Pro Bowler. This kid must be on the short list of targets for the Giants at #20.

Brandon Merriweather/Miami (5’11″, 195lbs; Combine: 40: 4.47, 10: 1.53, Vert: 35, SS: 4.33, 3 cone: 7.06): Outstanding versatility increases draft value. Played CB and S at UM and can play both in NFL. Plenty of experience with 30+ collegiate starts. Very flexible and agile. Moves like an NFL CB. Quick. Long arms. Extremely tough. Thin but very physical. Excellent football speed is evident in run and pass game. Solid open field tackler. Best coverage S at Senior Bowl practices. One of the most impressive players at Senior Bowl while playing both S and CB. Like Nelson will excel in the slot and in coverage versus NFL TEs. Needs some weight room work (only 11 benches). Suspended in 2006 because of a fight with Florida International. At the end of the college season, I was hopeful the suspension and off-field concerns would push him down to Giants range in round 2. Strong post-season rise ended that hope. He’s a late round 1 prospect. No chance he’ll be there in round 2 for Giants. If Giants could swing a trade down, Merriweather would be a valuable addition in the 30-40 range.

LaRon Landry/LSU (6’1″, 213lbs; Combine: 40: 4.35, 10: 1.47, Vert: 37.5: Pro Day: SS: 4.36, 3 cone: 7.11): 4 year starter. True frosh starter on National Championship team. Imposing player. Physical and intimidating. Describes his game as playing like a “wild bull.” Goes for knockout hits and delivers many. Occasionally misses a tackle because of it. Loves to mix it up in all phases of the game. Downhill player. Closes extremely hard versus the run. Strong in the box. Football smart. NFL coaches and scouts were “blown away” by his ability to break down film. Combine star. Before the workout, I questioned his sideline-to-sideline speed and change of direction especially after he ducked the Senior Bowl. Not much to question after the 4.3 and an all around outstanding workout. I still feel he’s not as fluid as Nelson and Merriweather. Can’t match these guys in coverage. Stiff in his turns. Despite playing some CB early at LSU, I think he’ll struggle in some coverage situations versus NFL talent because of stiff hips and only average ball skills. Mike Mayock commented on Landry being a “little stiff in the W drill” (DB drill which emphasizes a DBs backpedal and his ability to flip his hips and break). However, Mayock said it was probably nitpicking. Mayock recently listed Landry as his #1 overall defensive player in the draft. Mayock believes he’s a top-10 lock. My NFL comparison? Donovan Darius and I feel he’ll have a similar career as a hard-hitting top-10 NFL safety. However, I believe he’ll fall short of the truly elite players at the position because of his coverage.

Michael Griffin/Texas (6’0″, 202lbs; Combine: 40: 4.45, 10: 1.49, Vert: 36, SS: 4.10, 3 cone: 6.60): Another slightly undersized but versatile S prospect. The type of interchangeable S the NFL is looking for in 2007. Played FS, SS, and CB at Texas. Very strong special teams player as well. Somewhat down senior year but Senior Bowl week and great Combine moved him back up into the top 40-50. Showed off excellent coverage skills during Senior Bowl practices. Flexibility of a CB. And his speed and overall athletic ability impressed at Combine. Plays fast. Very willing tackler. Comes up hard but misses some open-field tackles. Ideal speed and range. Can man up in the slot in NFL and run with any NFL TEs. Pro Bowl potential. Day 1 starter in NFL. #4 S in class. Early round 2.

Tanard Jackson/Syracuse (6’0″, 200lbs; Combine: 40: 4.52, 10: 1.55, Vert: 32.5, SS: 4.28, 3 cone: 6.89): Syracuse struggled the past few years but don’t put that on the defense. They’ve lined up plenty of quality players on this side of the ball with Jackson being their top NFL prospect in several years. A 3-year starter at CB for Syracuse. Played S at Senior Bowl practices and shined. Most draft guys still list him at CB but I believe his NFL future is safety. Very physical in run support. And he’ll give you outstanding range. A small step down from Merriweather and Nelson athletically. Like Nelson, Merriweather, Griffin, and Weddle, a lot of value with Jackson as a S who can also stay on the field and handle the slot WR and any TE. Depth at S, average workout at Combine, and position change pushes him down. Early round 3.

Sabby Piscitelli/Oregon State (6’3″, 225lbs; Combine: 40: 4.47, 10: 1.49, Vert: 34.5, SS: 3.90, 3 cone: 6.84): Looks like Tarzan…plays like Tarzan. One of the top workouts at the 2007 Combine and he backs it up on the field. Huge and fast. Ultra-aggressive S. Always around the ball. Throws his body around. Outstanding in run support. All-out hustler. I’ve seen some Archuleta comparisons but Piscitelli is much better in coverage. Small hands at under 9″ but catches everything. Plenty of plays versus pass with 29 pass defenses and 15 interceptions. Allowed very few completions at Oregon St. Displayed elite agility and quickness in shuttles with a Combine-best 3.90 in short shuttle. Superior burst will make him an effective blitzer from the S position. Has the size and strength to move to OLB. One of best players at the Shrine Game. After off-the-charts Combine and All-Star showing, I’m surprised he isn’t getting more pub as a top S prospect. As of March 10, NFL Draft Scout only rates him in the round 4-5 range. I think he’s a day one lock. #5-6 safety in this class and a late round 2 pick. If Giants pass on S in round 1, Piscitelli has to be on the round-2 list of targets. Would form an athletic and tough S tandem with Wilson. Round 2.

Eric Weddle/Utah (5’11″, 203lbs; Combine: 40: 4.48, 10: 1.43, Vert: 33.5, SS: 4.12, 3 cone: 6.78): Played all over for Utah including RB, PR, S, and CB. In the NFL, I believe his future is a S who can also handle the nickel job. Outstanding football intangibles and intelligence. Great college player but plenty downgrade him for a perceived lack of athletic ability. Simply not true with Weddle. Not just a football player. He’s an athlete. Quick. Explosive in the short area (1.43/10 yard split was the fastest at Combine – not only in 2007 but for many years). Excellent change-of-direction skills. Fast break on ball. A gamer. Consistently made big plays. Good hands. Lack of size/strength only drawback. Not a big hitter but solid open field tackler. For a S, excellent man coverage skills with a smooth backpedal. Can stay on field and play the slot in NFL. Will immediately help on ST. Two-time conference defensive player of the year. Round 3.

Marvin White/TCU (6’1″, 200lbs; Combine: 40: 4.54, 10: 1.53, Vert: 33.5; Pro Day: SS: 4.30 , 3 cone: 6.98 ): Another junior college guy with only two years of Division-1 ball. Two-year starter. Coachable and a hard worker. Made big improvements each year. By the end of his senior year he was an all around force on the field. One of my favorite mid-round prospects at any position in this draft. He’s going to be very effective for a long time in the NFL. Jumps out in games I’ve seen. Comes up in a flash to support run and brings plenty of power. Fundamentally sound tackler. Does a great job of limiting yards in the run game. Plays hard. Powerful hitter who seems to love the contact. Explosive open field tackler. Expected better measurables but playing speed remains a big plus. Smooth and quick in coverage. Can handle man situations in NFL. Plenty of range to cover deep. Former all-state basketball player knows how to compete for the ball. Still improving with a lot of upside in the NFL. I think he’s a day one player. Could be there in round 4. Would be a steal.

Josh Gattis/Wake Forest (6’1″, 206lbs; Combine: 40: 4.51, 10: 1.56, Vert: 34.5, SS: 4.27, 3 cone: 6.72): Good size/speed/strength ratio for the position. Big-time playmaker. One of the core guys on a tough Wake Forest defense. Strong. Tough. Plays hurt. Respected by teammates. A physical player and big hitter. Hands are a negative. Coverage skills exposed at Senior Bowl practices. Not as fluid as the top guys at S. Coverage skills knock him down. Early round 4.

Melvin Bullitt/Texas AM (6’1″, 202lbs; No Combine; Pro Day: 40: 4.48, Vert: 40.5, SS: 3.97, 3 cone: 6.90): Two-year starter. First-team Big 12 safety. Good size and ripped. Can play in box or cover deep. Fast to the ball. Plays hard. Lights out hitter and open field tackler. Coming off very good Shrine performance he deserved a Combine invite. And he proved it again with the pro day workout. Pro day was outstanding in every drill. Displays excellent athletic ability for a safety. Workout will push him past guys like Johnson, Stone, and Payne. Rounds 4-5.

Michael Coe/Alabama State (6’1″, 190lbs; Combine: 40: 4.53, 10: 1.53, Vert: 35, SS: 4.31, 3 cone: 6.78): Starter at CB for Arkansas. Transferred to follow his father (coach) to Alabama St. Played CB and S last year. Strong with good speed. Excellent Shrine play at CB got him the Senior Bowl invite. Struggled to match up versus better talent at Senior Bowl. Ran 4.49 on grass at pro day. Excellent athletic ability for a S. Average athletic ability at CB. That adds up to future NFL S. Rounds 4-5.

John Wendling/Wyoming (6’1″, 222lbs; Combine: 40: 4.48, 10: 1.51, Vert: 38.5, SS: 4.16, 3 cone: 6.96): Better athlete than football player. Played SS and FS. Very smart. Excellent measurables across the board. Exceptional size for a safety but too stiff with his change of direction. Looks like a coverage liability in NFL. Played lower level of competition in Mountain West. Moved up in talent at Shrine but failed to really impress especially in coverage. Too straight line and lacks a smooth break and quick change of direction. Will struggle in man situations. Has the look and movement of former Jets safety John McGraw who was over-drafted based on the measurables back in 2002. I’ve seen some round 2 projections for Wendling. NFLDraftScout.com has him in round 5. I think they have that one right. Round 5 but the top workout may get him drafted much earlier. Pass for the Giants on day one. Rounds 4-5.

Brannon Condren/Troy (Pro Day: 6’1″ 205lbs, 40: 4.47 , 10: 1.49, Vert: 43″, SS: 4.10, 3 cone: 6.94 , Broad: 11’3″, bench: 24): Wow. What a workout. This guy is an unbelievably explosive athlete. Time to go back and take a long look at the tape. Check out those jumps and bench. Add them up on Pat Kirwan’s power-and-explosion chart and you’ve got a very rare 78+. How rare? Higher than some of the most explosive guys in the NFL (Merriman, Ware). According to Kirwan a 70+ is “the best of the best in the area of explosive/powerful athletes. These guys can get there and bring it…. I used to send the coaches a list of all the former draft picks around the NFL who had a score of 70 or higher and that usually got their attention.” This guy is worth a strong late round look. 2+ year starter. A good open-field tackler who flies to the ball. A solid player versus pass and run with his best ball ahead of him. With his size/speed/strength should be offer immediate help on special teams. Triangle numbers really moved him up. Rounds 4-5.

Michael Johnson/Arizona (6’3″, 205lbs; Combine: 40: 4.62, 10: 1.52, Vert: 33, SS: 4.32, 3 cone: 7.04): Highly touted Juco. Only 2 years at Arizona. Played FS and SS. Physical player. Big hitter. Will play hurt. Had several leg injuries in 2006 but continued to play. I expected more size and speed at combine. Ran better at pro day (4.53). Versatile S who can give you depth at both S positions. Better in the box because he lacks ideal range. Rounds 4-5.

Darren Stone/Maine (6’3″, 218lbs; Combine: 40: 4.58, 10: 1.56, Vert: 39, SS: 4.44, 3 cone: 7.13): Another CB/S college player. Didn’t line up versus top college talent in A-10 conference but showed he belonged at Shrine practices. Very big S with below average speed but explosive jumping ability. Combine-best 11 feet in broad jump. Long arms and 39″ vertical allows him to compete for balls up to 12 feet. Nice job at Shrine practices which helped his draft value. Some considered him the best DB at Shrine. Had several big hits in the practices. Looked smooth in coverage for such a tall DB. Comes up hard versus the run. Powerful hitter. I’ve heard some Steve Atwater comparisons. Level of competition is a concern but Shrine performance answered some of it. A few years ago, he would have been rated higher. Emphasis at S is now on a more flexible and fast athlete. Still a solid NFL prospect who could really surprise in 2-3 years. Round 5.

Aaron Rouse/Virginia Tech (6’4″, 223lbs; Combine: 40: 4.58, 10: 1.53, Vert:35, no shuttles at Combine): Biggest S in class. Huge hitter with a mean streak – which leads to personal fouls. Up and down performance at Senior Bowl. Lacked fundamental coverage skills. Dick Vermeil said he was a stiff player who played too high and struggled to bend his knees. Ability to cover in NFL is a big question mark for Rouse. Mike Mayock said, “He’s highly inconsistent and not physical at all for his size.” Played OLB early at VT and that may be his best position in NFL. In and out of starting lineup as a senior. Sloppy play and penalties sent him to the bench in 2006. Had a reputation as a workout warrior type (225+lbs and 4.3 speed?). Where was it at the Combine? At the Combine didn’t live up to the hype. Below average 40. Average bench. Average vertical. Not in the same league as the top workout guys. As of March 10, TSN ranked him as the #22 overall prospect. NFL Draft Scout has him in the round 2-3 range. Too high for a guy without a true position or the elite athletic ability. Lack of improvement at VT, down senior year, and unexpected workout pushes him out of day one. Round 5.

Dashon Goldson/Washington (6’2″, 205lbs: Combine: 40: 4.60, 10: 1.53, Vert: 34.5, SS: 4.46, 3 cone: 7.37): Played CB and S at Washington. Matched up and played well at CB at Shrine but not enough speed to do it versus NFL WRs. Strictly a S prospect in NFL. Smart, physical player with excellent size for S. Good hitter. Fluid and smooth for a big DB. Good playing speed but his measurables didn’t match and it will hurt him on draft day. Disappointing Combine will drop him from a borderline day one pick into middle of day 2. Backup S material. Rounds 5-6.

Kevin Payne/Louisana-Monroe (6’0″, 220lbs; Combine: 40: 4.60, 10: 1.54, Vert: 35, SS: 4.30, 3 cone: 7.01): A 3-way football player. Excelled on offense, defense, and special teams. Truly a unique college talent. Just a few yards short of 1,000 as a frosh RB. Moved to S and became a punishing tackler and team MVP. Full-time punter with close to a 42-yard average in 2006. Excellent kick returner production as well. Nice size/strength but doesn’t have the speed to match. Got the Senior Bowl invite but most reports mentioned his struggles in coverage situations. A step slower than the other S at Senior Bowl. At Combine, ran slower than expected and it will hurt. Small-school kid is now a mid-to-late day 2 pick. Round 6.

Craig Dahl/North Dakota State (6’2″, 216lbs; Combine: 40: 4.55, 10: 1.54, Vert: 35, SS: 4.26, 3 cone: 6.69): Three-year starter. Good size and triangle numbers at combine. Not the versatile coverage S NFL wants. More of an in-the-box-type. Backup S and special teams ace. Late day 2 pick.

CORNERBACK: I strongly oppose any of the 2007 cornerback prospects in the first round for the Giants. I think the Giants are better served using the high pick on another position. Corey Webster should improve. He’s an average starter but he’s good enough. Sam Madison can hold up another year. R.W. McQuarters is an adequate #3 cornerback. If they take care of the pass rush and safety position, the Giants can win with these cornerbacks in 2007. Get them one of these versatile safeties and these guys can get it done at cornerback. Perhaps the Giants can add some depth in round two with a speed guy like Jonathan Wade from Tennessee or Josh Wilson from Maryland. Or in rounds 3-4 with A.J. Davis from NC State, Kenny Scott from Georgia Tech, or Fred Barnett from South Carolina. Anything but a round 1 cornerback! There are holes for each one of the top cornerbacks in this draft. There isn’t a true difference-maker in the lot.

Here are some of the best players at cornerback:

Chris Houston/Arkansas (5’10″, 185lbs; Combine: 40: 4.32, 10: 1.50, Vert: 36, SS: 4.12, 3 cone: 6.94): Early entry. Only one year as starter. Before 2006, nobody really knew much about him. Not even listed on college football expert Phil Steele’s preseason top 60 CBs. Started 2006 with shutdown performance in opening game versus USCs Dwayne Jarrett. Mike Mayock raved about his press skills in this game. Consistently redirected Jarrett off his routes. In 2006, no CB in college football lined up in man coverage against better WR talent (Bowe, Jarrett, Meachem, Rice). Houston won most of the battles. After big 2006 season and unsurpassed workout he’s now considered #1 press CB in draft. Long arms (32+”). Extremely strong upper body. Nobody can match his upper body strength at CB and it allowed him to control the top college WRs at the line of scrimmage. Great recovery speed and quickness. A little short at just under 5’10″ but overall athletic ability offsets lack of height. Very physical in coverage. Will need some refining of press technique in NFL. College ball allows more physical play from CBs down the field. Despite more leeway with chucks and pass interference, Houston had several costly penalties. Eight pass interference penalties in 14 college games in 2006. That’s a concern while moving up to the stricter rules of the NFL. Hands are not a plus. While very physical versus the pass not nearly as aggressive supporting run. May be there at #20. Hopefully the Giants pass on this player and any other CB in round 1.

Aaron Ross/Texas (6’1″, 193lbs; Combine: 40: 4.44, 10: 1.50, Vert: 34, SS: 4.15, 3 cone: 6.72): 50+ games but only one year as starter on talented Texas defense. Prototype size/speed for NFL CB. Long arms. Reminds me of a faster Tory James. Occasionally beat deep but makes opponent pay with takeaways (10 in 2006). Very smooth with explosive recovery speed. Threat to score on any turnover. Won Thorpe award in 2006 as nation’s best DB but probably didn’t deserve it. Award should have gone to Florida S Reggie Nelson. Many big plays (Ints/FF/returns) got him the award but Ross allowed over 7 yards per pass attempt. That’s a disturbing number for a top-rated CB. Despite outstanding athletic ability, he couldn’t handle the speed of WRs Ginn and Yamon Figurs. While losing a battle with Ginn is no surprise, Figurs doesn’t come with nearly the same grade at WR. With a frosh QB, Figurs didn’t produce many big games at WR in 2006. Versus Ross? Figurs owned him with 6-123 including two 30+ yard touchdowns as Kansas State put up 40+ in an upset of the #4 ranked Texas team. Much of that loss belonged to Ross. Moved up draft board at Senior Bowl. Displayed excellent man skills at Senior Bowl practices. Game-changing return skills increases draft value. Immediate impact special teams performer. I love his upside but not the draft value. Expected a better workout but still showed excellent quickness for a 6+ foot CB. Late round 1.

Leon Hall/Michigan (5’11″, 193lbs; Combine: 40: 4.39, 10: 1.45, Vert: 37.5, SS: 4.07, 3 cone: 6.50): Very experienced on collegiate level (50 games at Michigan). As a senior, strong year overall. Got his hands on a lot of balls. High number of passes defensed. Only allowed slightly over 5 yards per pass attempt and that’s exceptional play for a CB on any level. However, he had very rough performance in final two games versus NFL-caliber WRs at USC (Jarrett, Smith) and Ohio State (Ginn). Looked over matched versus Ginn’s speed. Came back with solid showing at Senior Bowl. Prior to Combine, burst and long speed were concerns. In high school, Hall was only a 10.9 100-meter guy so workout was a big surprise. I expected high 4.4s to low 4.5s. Speed school really paid off for Hall. Ran much better than expected and really helped his draft value. Now back in the top-10 mix. Can play press and zone. Good hitter and open field tackler. Small hands but can hold onto ball. Despite timed speed, I believe he’ll struggle to consistently run with NFL WRs. I think he’s an overrated player. Should be a good NFL starter but won’t be a top CB. As a top 10-15 pick? Not enough return. If he drops to #20? Giants need to let him keep sliding.

Josh Wilson/Maryland (5’9″, 190lbs; Combine: 40: 4.39, 10: 1.46, Vert: 36.5, SS: 4.43, 3 cone: 7.07): Do you remember RB Tim Wilson from the Houston Oilers? Tough guy who played with Earl Campbell. This is his kid. Tough like his father but a lot more speed. A true burner with 4.3 Combine speed. Explosive over 10 yards. However, his slow short shuttle is a concern. Never a good thing when the short shuttle comes in slower than the 40 for a CB. Some say he’s more fast than quick. I’d rather have it the other way. He’s a physical player. Willing to mix it up and play hard versus the run. Very smart. Helped himself at Senior Bowl. Displayed the 4.3 speed and good coverage skills. Speed and toughness give him a lot of upside. Could develop in NFL as much as any CB in this draft. Should have an impact in year 1 with his big play kick return skills. Height is definitely a negative. Round 2.

Jonathon Wade/Tennessee (5’9″, 190lbs; Combine: 40: 4.36, 10: 1.53, Vert: 40.5, SS: 4.39, 3 cone: 7.07): Tennessee football team is known for speed. Wade is one of the fastest players to ever play for UT. All-American in track. Considered more of a track guy before 2006. Major improvement on football field in 2006. Followed it up with a strong week at Senior Bowl practices. At Senior Bowl, one of the best athletes on the field. Excellent in coverage drills at Senior Bowl. NFLDraftScout.com said “flashed superb athleticism…ran easily with every WR offense put in front of him…” Has the type of speed and quickness that excels in NFL. Ideal athletic ability for NFL CB. The type of rare athlete who can mirror and run with NFL WRs. As much upside as any CB in the draft. Rounds 2-3.

Marcus McCauley/Fresno State (6’1″, 203lbs; Combine: 40: 4.39, 10: 1.43, Vert: 36, SS: 4.17, 3 cone: 6.61): Mike Mayock’s preseason #1 CB. Many considered him a better player and NFL prospect than his Fresno State teammate and 2005 2nd-round pick Ricard Marshall. Marshall was good enough to start in 2006 as a rookie and send CB Ken Lucas to the bench. Unfortunately for McCauley, he couldn’t match Marshall’s stellar season. McCauley’s play nosedived in 2006. He fell apart. Head Coach had no answers. Benched him. Terrible late in the season. Awful at Senior Bowl. At the Combine? He shined and showed off the great athletic ability and speed. Measurables and strong junior year will get him drafted early. Early round 2.

Darrelle Revis/Pittsburgh (5’11″, 195lbs; Combine: Did not workout; Pro Day: 40: 4.39 & 4.41, Vert: 38, SS: 4.08, 3 cone: 6.56): Another overrated player. Looks like a Corey Webster-type. In other words, an average NFL starter. Nothing separates him from the round 2-3 CBs. Didn’t run at Combine. Smart move by Revis. I think he would have run close to 4.5. Pro day numbers look good but a 4.39 at pro day doesn’t add up to a 4.39 at the Combine. Revis doesn’t play like a 4.3 guy. In my opinion, like Webster, an average athlete for the CB position. Right now, projected in round 1 with some of the well-known draft gurus ranking him at #2 CB. I have a big problem with two things: his overall athletic ability doesn’t flash on the field and the level of competition. Did not play versus the type of WRs that the SEC, PAC10, BIG 10, and ACC guys faced. Hasn’t been tested against NFL caliber WRs. Saw him a few times in 2006. Unimpressive for a “first round CB.” Soph WR Underwood from Rutgers got separation but QB Teel failed to really exploit it (Underwood beat Revis for a touchdown and had 5 catches on him…the only RU WR to catch a ball that day). He was outclassed when matched up against the big WR Urrutia from Louisville. Uruttia had his best game of the year with 140+ and 2 TDs. While Urrutia is a legitimate NFL prospect because of his size, he doesn’t have the explosiveness Revis will see every week in NFL. Revis is a tough player. He likes to hit and comes up fast versus the run. Probable top 25 pick. But, once again, at #20? Not enough return for the Giants. Let’s hope that pro day pushed him into the top 19.

Eric Wright/UNLV (5’11″, 192lbs; Combine: 40: 4.36, 10: 1.48, Vert: 36.5, SS: 4.23, 3 cone: 6.93): Combine star. Excellent size/speed at 190+ lb with 4.3 speed. Known as a physical player with good hands. Started late as frosh at USC and made plenty of big plays. Looked like a future first rounder. Off field drug issue cost him after frosh year and forced a transfer to UNLV. One year starting experience at UNLV. Character is an obvious concern. If off-field problems are over, could be a draft day steal. According to NFL.com, he has a personal workout set up with the Giants in April. Could be late round 2. Could be late round 4. It really depends on the off-field stuff.

A.J. Davis/NC State (5’10″, 193lbs: Injured – did not workout at Combine): Speed and overall athletic ability is not an issue. Height was questioned but he came in at 5’10″. This guy should get more publicity. Nothing is really missing. Arms are a little short at 30″. That’s about the only negative. Davis is a track guy with explosive jumping ability. Very quick with a 2nd gear to recover. Tremendous change-of-direction skills. In 2006, he locked down every guy he faced. Nobody got open. Nobody caught balls on him. Allowed less than 80 passing yards for the entire 2006 season. 1.65 yards per attempt. YPA was best in the nation in that category. Didn’t allow one TD pass in entire college career (1600+ plays). Day one lock. Probably late round 2.

Kenny Scott/Georgia Tech (6’1″, 180lbs; Combine: 40: 4.39, 10: 1.46, Vert: 40, SS: pass, 3 cone: pass): One of my favorites in the draft. Good draft value and talent match for Giants. As a round 3-4 player, may offer the best return of any CB in draft. Has NFL starter tools who could develop into a strong man-coverage CB. Undeniable burst that really jumps out at you on the field. Tall and high cut so change of direction may be an issue and he could struggle with the shorter quick NFL WRs. Did not run shuttles at Combine. Long arms are a plus. Outstanding leaping ability. Needs some upper body work (only 10 benches). Had a good week in coverage at Shine practices. Looked like a stud kick returner at Shrine game because of rare acceleration and full speed cutting ability. Also got burned deep at Shrine game by Fresno St WR Paul Williams for a 70+ yard TD. Round 3.

David Irons/Auburn (5’10″, 190lbs; Combine: 40: 4.44, 10: 1.52, Vert: 29.5, SS: 4.30, 3 cone: 7.18): Older player. Will be 25-year old rookie. Two ACLs cost him time but he got the 6th year of eligibility. Undersized but very quick. Smooth runner. Aggressive player with quickness in and out of turns and breaks. Strong man coverage skills. Age, durability, and especially the knees hurt draft value. Size and below average jumping are drawbacks. Positive reviews while matching up in coverage at Senior Bowl. Round 4.

Courtney Brown/Cal-Poly (No Combine invite; Pro Day: 6’1″, 200lbs, 40: 4.32, 10: 1.46, Vert: 41.5″, SS: 4.02, 3 cone: 7.10): What is going on at Div 1–AA Cal Poly? For three consecutive years they’ve produced an off-the-charts athlete. In 2005, LB Jordan Beck shot up the draft charts with an outstanding overall workout. Chris Gocong was the guy last year. Both Beck and Gocong went day one. This kid may be most astonishing athlete produced at the school. May have the best combination of size and speed of any CB in draft. Almost 6’2″ with an unbelievable pro day workout. Impressive in every drill. Blazing fast over 10 yards. Remarkable leaper at 41+ and close to an 11-foot broad jump. Has an ACL in 2004 but came back to play two strong seasons. Seven interceptions in 2005. Time to go back and check out the tape on this guy. 6’2″ 200+lb CBs with low 4.3-speed are hard to find. This guy is one of them.

Fred Bennett/South Carolina (6’1″ 195lbs; Combine: 40:4.46, 10: 1.56, Vert: 38.5″, SS: 4.30, 3 cone: 6.67): Two-year starter. A preseason Phil Steele favorite at CB. Ranked Bennett as the #6 in CB class before 2006 season. A Bobby Taylor-type CB prospect. Tall with above-average long speed. May struggle with the quickness of smaller NFL WRs. Strong with good overall athletic ability. Long arms. Aggressive jam. Weak in run support. Gets his hands on a lot of balls. Size and leaping ability make him a force when ball is in air and in the red zone. At Senior Bowl, played physical and showed good press coverage. Bennett could be a good match and value for Giants in mid rounds. Early round 4.

Travarous Bain/Hampton (6’0″, 183lbs; Combine: 40: 4.43, 10: 1.56, Vert: pass, SS: pass, 3 cone: pass): Highly touted high school player. Recruited by all of the top schools. 20+ games of experience as #3-4 CB at Miami. Also ran track at Miami. Transfer and 1-year starter at Hampton. Excellent coverage at Shrine. Very fast and fluid. Ran 4.48 on grass at pro day. Not aggressive in run support. Very thin. Lacks strength and size at barely 180lbs. Round 4.

Daymeion Hughes/Cal (5’10″, 190lbs; Combine: 40: 4.67, 10: 1.55, Vert: 28.5, SS: 4.43, 3 cone: 7.28): You either have the elite speed to play CB in NFL or you don’t. Before the Combine, I believed Hughes was on the wrong side of the fence in that area. I expected high 4.5s at combine. He ran high 4.6s. Physical player and strong college press CB but the 40 is a problem. He simply doesn’t have the speed of high draft pick at CB. Will Poole…Brandon Browner…Daymeion Hughes? See a trend? All three were top PAC 10 CBs who carried first-round reps before the Combine and dropped several rounds after the Combine. Poole dropped to round 4. Browner went undrafted. Poole and Browner ran 4.6+. Hughes? Slower than both at the Combine. Not just the lack of speed. His shuttles were slow and the kid can’t jump. Only 28.5″ vertical. That’s well below an acceptable number for an NFL CB. Based on the Combine, Hughes is not an NFL caliber athlete. However, he was outstanding on the field in 2006. At the Senior Bowl, he was spectacular before an injury ended his week. QB Drew Stanton called him one of the most impressive players. Rob Rang said, “As dominant during practice as any cover CB I’ve witnessed in nearly 10 years of covering the Senior Bowl.” Rang also mentioned he was “never challenged deep.” And there’s the problem. Can he cover deep versus NFL WRs? I don’t think he can. Hughes is an interesting case in the production versus measurables debate. PAC 10 “defensive player of the year” but a Combine flop. Which one carries more weight? In this situation, measurables should win. He may have outstanding technique and instincts but his lack of speed and overall athletic ability will be exposed in the NFL. Too much risk to draft a guy like this early and expect him to be the rare player to overcome those limitations. In my opinion, a late day-two guy and strictly a cover-2 CB. He can’t play man in NFL. He shouldn’t be on the Giants draft board.

Montae Pitts/Jacksonville State (6’1″, 195lbs; 40: 4.39): Here is an intriguing small school player. Former starter at Auburn with 25+ games of action in SEC. Off-field problems forced transfer to Jacksonville State. Tall, long armed, and fast. He ran in the 4.3s at his pro day. Excellent size/speed makes Pitts an interesting late day 2 CB prospect.

Usama Young/Kent State (5’11″ 196lbs; Pro Day: 40: 4.39, 10: 1.47, Vert: 43, SS: 4.31, 3 cone: 6.65): Those are the kind of workout numbers you look for in an NFL CB prospect. Frosh All-American. Three-year starter at Kent State. Big game versus RU WR Tre Moses a couple of years ago. Held Moses to the worst game of his career. Only 1 reception for 6 yards and Young had an INT. Triangle numbers are very intriguing. They’ll get him drafted. Possibly as high as round 4.

Tarrell Brown/Texas (5’10″, 190lbs; Combine: 40: 4.45, 10: 1.46, Vert: 33.5, SS: 4.37, 3 cone: 7.00): 11 starts for Texas in 2006. Probably out-performed his higher-rated teammate Aaron Ross in 2006. Allowed an average 35 yards per game. Only 1 TD pass allowed in 2006. Missed a game for a suspension on a drug and gun charge. In the NFL? Reserve CB talent. Round 5.

C.J. Wilson/Baylor (6’1″, 195; Combine: 40: 4.62, 10: 1.50, Vert: 37.5, SS: 4.20, 3 cone: 6.81): Struggled with Jacoby Jones at Shrine. Only 4.6 at the Combine. Good tackler. Can’t play man in NFL. Possibly late day 2 for a cover-2 team. Giants should have no interest.

Corey Graham/New Hampshire (6′, 195lbs; 40: 4.40 estimate): WR David Ball gets all the headlines at Hew Hampshire but Graham will probably be the first player from the school drafted in 2007. Unlike Ball, Graham has the speed of an NFL player. Great special teams player as a return guy and in coverage. Enough potential to get Combine invite but couldn’t work out because of injury. Still recovering from broken leg he suffered early in senior year. Should be able to workout prior to draft.

John Bowie/Cincinnati (5’11″, 190lbs): Blazing speed. 100M champ in Big East at 10.52. Not really a track guy. Jumped in there as a senior to run track for first time since high school and won the Big East. Timed in the low 4.3s. Injury problems prior to senior year. After strong performance as a senior, Bowie is a rising player with plenty of upside on the next level. Looked like a player in Texas-Nations All-Star practices. Probably best pro prospect at that game. Pro day is March 27. Expect a lot of talk about Bowie after workout. Could break 4.3.

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