Commentary

Cornerback class shuffling

Talent is thin but defensive backs are moving up and down the board

Originally Published: April 20, 2009
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.
This is not a good draft for teams in the market for a difference-maker at defensive back. Ordinarily, there are a handful of cornerbacks and safeties who project as immediate impact players. The only defensive back projected to come off the board in the first half of the first round this year is Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, and there's still debate over whether he fits best at cornerback or free safety in the NFL.

Vontae Davis of Illinois is blessed with rare physical tools, but there are questions regarding his attitude and discipline. Similar to big brother Vernon Davis (No. 6 overall, San Francisco, 2006), Vontae is emerging as one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2009 class.

Alphonso Smith and Darius Butler have been jockeying for the No. 3 corner spot all off-season and it appears that Smith has inched ahead of Butler on most boards. Why? Butler is the faster of the two but Smith has excellent ball skills and instincts, which is why he made far more big plays at the collegiate level. That said, both Butler and Smith should come off the board in the late-first or early-second round range.

Meanwhile many scouts expected D.J. Moore to compete for a spot in the first round before the 5-foot-9 corner ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. The slow time knocked him out of that conversation but we still feel that he's a good value in Round 2 based on what we have seen on film.

Sean Smith, Jairus Byrd, Asher Allen and Donald Washington all project as late second or early third round picks. Smith is so tall (6-3) that there are concerns about his ability to sink his hips and explode out of his cuts. In fact, some feel he's a better fit at safety but we believe he can develop into an effective press corner.

Byrd is trying to stay in the second round after a groin injury prevented him from working out at the NFL combine and at his pro day. It may prove difficult to considering there are concerns that he lacks the speed necessary to hold his own in man coverage at the NFL level. While Allen is undersized and lacks ideal ball skills he is quick and fluid enough to emerge as an effective sub-package corner. Washington doesn't show great footwork on film and there are some character concerns that stem from a 2008 suspension. However, there's a lot to like about his upside.

To see which players Scouts Inc. ranks atop the safety class, which are potential value picks on Day 2, which are best in coverage and in run support (and more), become an ESPN Insider. Insider

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