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NFL: Panthers Draft Preview – Sleeper Cornerbacks

By: Danny Guy (For the Mac Attack)
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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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[Ed note: With the rapid rise of former Mac Attack Intern turned NFL draft savant Josh "Casper" Norris, we're at it again. This time, former Mac Attack intern/draftnik Danny Guy will be covering the lead up to the NFL Draft for the show here on WFNZ.com, with a focus on the Panthers specific needs and breaking down the draft class by position. Have any questions, ask in the comments or interact with Danny on twitter: @danny_g13]

Grading the 2013 Draft: Cornerback Sleepers
(Part 1 on top tier CB prospects, click here)

Brandon McGee – 5’11” – 193 lbs – Miami – One of my favorite CBs, who should be available on the third day of the Draft.   He’s quick, uses his hands well and isn’t afraid to get into a pile despite his size.

Strengths

Speed: Absolute blazer.  Elite straight line speed, extremely quick feet to easily change directions and keep up with receivers.
Recovery: When he does get beat, he has an extra gear to recover.
Competitive: Competes for jump balls well, good level of body control to adjust and knock away passes.
Hands: Uses hands very well to quickly get off blocks, putting himself in position to make plays in run support.

Weaknesses

Size: At 5’11”, lacks ideal size to compete with physical number one WRs, may find much more success as a slot corner due to size.
Locating the Football:  At times, he has difficulty locating and reacting to the pass.  Needs to get head around quicker, to not only make plays on the ball, but decrease the possibility that he draws a penalty.
Inconsistent: Made plays his Senior year, but was also beaten on numerous occasions.  Needs to be more consistent to succeed.  Inconsistency in tackling, needs to be more assertive in wrapping up and bringing the ball carrier down.

Projection: McGee has some of the physical tools coaches covet in the position, however his size and his inconsistencies have surely impacted his stock.  At this point, I expect McGee to be a fourth to fifth round selection.

Leon McFadden – 5’10” – 193 lbs – San Diego State – Another CB who could end up as a potential gem late Friday night, or Early Saturday is Leon McFadden.  McFadden is solid CB both in the passing game and run support, which should make his transition to the NFL much smoother.

Strengths

Change of Direction: Has quick hips, as well as fluid transitions allowing him to stay with receivers throughout the route.
Zone Defense: Very good zone defender, shows great levels of awareness adjusting to the Quarterback and jumping the shallow routes.
Run Support: Contains his edge well in the running game, and has good closing speed to attack ball carriers.
Ball Skills: Has very good hands, playing above his frame to snatch passes out of the air.  Competes well in 50-50 situations, locates and high points the football better than most in the class.

Weaknesses

Press Coverage: When asked to press, he can have trouble jamming Receivers at the line, which can result in pass catchers getting deep on him.
Size: Has a small frame, which causes trouble for him against bigger more physical Receivers.
Tackling: Inconsistent tackling technique, must learn to wrap up on a regular basis instead of lunging at ball carriers.

Projection: McFadden may have difficulty playing outside due to his size, but his ability in the zone game, as well as his awareness in run support could make him an exceptional rotational CB.  I expect McFadden to be a late third to early fourth round selection.

Sanders Commings – 6’0” – 216 lbs – Georgia – Unlike the other CBs on this list, Commings is a large, physical corner who also possesses the speed to stay with quicker Receivers.

Strengths

Physicality: Commings uses his massive size for the position to be very physical with Receivers.  He jams pass catchers well off the line, impacting the play before it ever gets a chance to get going.
Hips: Despite his size, Commings has quick hip movements allowing him to not only stay with Receivers, but also make quick adjustments to the ball.
Speed: Has very good straight line speed, allowing him to stay with Receivers on fly, and other deep routes.
Special Teams: Was a very productive Special Teams player, which should allow him to make an impact sooner in the NFL.

Weaknesses

Off Coverage: When asked to give space to his man he has a tendency to struggle.  Much more comfortable when he’s able to jam.
Creating Turnovers: For a corner his size, you want to see more production in the turnover department.  Needs to learn how to use his size to strike the ball carrier and jar the football loose.
Character Red Flags: Was suspended multiple games while at Georgia, and also has a 2012 arrest for an alleged assault.

Projection: Commings’ size and physical nature makes him a desirable developmental CB for many teams, however questions about off coverage ability as well as potential character concerns have hurt his stock.  I expect Commings to be a fifth round selection.

Josh Johnson – 5’10” – 199 lbs – Purdue – Johnson is a small CB who will likely find his home as a Nickel or Dime, but he has some tools that NFL teams will be very intrigued by.

Strengths

Footwork: Has quick feel that allow him to stay with Receivers, and make adjustments on the fly.
Press: Despite his small frame jams his Receiver well at the line, and turns quickly to stay with him.  Stays on his Receivers hip well throughout the route.
Ball Skills: Uses what length he has well, attacking the ball at its high point, deflects passes at a good level.
Man Coverage: Was often left to cover his man without any safety help at Purdue.  Shows ability to match up well in one on one situations.
Tackling: Tackles with a level of violence that is uncommon for his size.  Sticks ball carriers well, showing a competitive desire to jar the ball loose.

Weaknesses

Size: Does not possess the size you would like out of the position, may have trouble  matching up with the bigger receivers in the league.
Straight Line Speed: Does not possess elite level straight line speed.  Can be run by when asked to cover quicker receivers.
Grabby: Has a tendency to keep his hands on Receivers throughout their routes, attracting pass interference penalties more than you would like to see.
Recovery: Struggles to recover when beat, resulting in surrendering big plays.

Projection: Johnson’s biggest knock is his size, however he has a lot of traits you like to see.  He’s physical, tackles well, and competes for the football.  He also was an exceptional defender when left on an island, and knows how to locate the ball in the air.  Due to this, I see Johnson as a fifth to sixth round selection, despite size limitations.

The Cornerback class is without a doubt my favorite position class in the entire 2013 Draft, and that’s a really good thing with where Carolina is sitting at in the secondary.  There may not be a Patrick Peterson in the 2013 class, but the number of starting caliber CBs in this Draft is astounding.  In my opinion there are no less than 12 potential long term starters at corner in this class, and it could be 13 if D.J. Hayden can come back from a devastating life threatening injury.  With its great depth of quality players, the 2013 Cornerback class will be receiving my highest grade of all the positions, a solid A.

Previously from Danny Guy:
NFL Combine Standouts: Panthers Edition
Panthers Draft Preview: Defensive TacklesPanthers Draft Preview: Defensive Ends
Panthers Draft Preview: Linebackers

 

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