Draft Positional Analysis Cornerbacks
February 7th 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
The 49ers are in dire need of help at cornerback. That's a particularly bold statement considering that the team's top two corners, Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster were on top of their game in their second season's with the team. Plummer had such a good season, that not only was he the second alternate for the Pro Bowl, but he wasn't called for a single pass interference penalty the whole season, and had seven interceptions. So why the need for a cornerback then' Well it became evident that the 49ers defense could be beaten when opponents spread the field with three or more receivers. The only way the 49ers can ever expect to beat the Rams, a team notorious for such schemes is with another highly skilled and talented corner. Luckily this years draft does have a few top flight cornerbacks available.
Top Ten Draft Prospects At Cornerback
Quentin Jammer is by far and away the best cornerback available in this season's draft. Jammer is big, tough and relatively fast. He plays the pass well, tackles hard and can be used effectively on corner blitz. Jammer has deceptively fast closing speed, allowing him to make big plays because quarterbacks think the receiver is open. Jammer is very physical at the line, and if beaten can make up for it with his coverage skills and speed. He's a very solid tackler who isn't going to knock the sense out of a receiver but wont let the tackle slip through his hands either. He's a franchise player that with a little NFL experience will be able to eliminate a side of the field from offenses.
Philip Buchanon is a very solid player whose potential seems unlimited. An extra year in college likely would have promoted him in this season's draft, but he has a lot to offer any team. Is excellent in man coverage and has a feel for the game that can't be matched by any corner in this year's draft. Is succesful at using his hands and body at the line of scrimage - and is a good blitzing cornerback too. Where Buchanon may run into trouble is against bigger receivers down the field. He isn't particularly fast, big nor does he have incredible leaping abilitty so he would require safety help until he becomes more of a complete corner.
Mike Rumph is probably the second most fundamentally sound corner in this season's draft. He has a great understanding of the game, and is an incredible athlete. Rumph will have little adjustment to make as he enters the NFL and likely will become an every down player early in the season if not on opening day. Rumph is an impact player who would be an immediate help, but he does seem to be playing on top of his game and there isn't likely to be much improvement seen from him. There is very little gambling here, what you see is what you get, and Rumph is a good one- he just isn't likely to improve greatly at the next level.
Lito Sheppard is a quick corner that is excellent in play recognition. He is the type of player that seems to have no limit on his potential. Where Sheppard lacks is his attidue. He's known to be late for practise and is usually the first to leave - he isn't as dedicated as someone enetering the NFL should be. This is likely because he is such a gifted athlete things have always come naturally to him. Will likely be shocked into the real world in the NFL. He's so explosive on the field, accelerating incredibly quickly and brings the added bonus of being a good kick returner. Will likely bring headaches and releif to the team he is drafted to.
Mike Echols could be the fastest cornerback in this season's draft. He's been timed at 4.3/40 and is exceptionally quick too. He makes good use of his hands and seems to have all the tools a NFL cornerback should have. Unfortunately he's pretty small, and that will hurt his chances in the NFL.His athletic ability allows him to make the plays most cornerbacks wouldn't, but isn't as great a jumper as someone his size needs to be. He's aggressive against the run but needs to learn to wrap up better on tackles. Echols should be the ideal third cornerback on a team, but will continue to improve and likely jump to starting calibre sometime late in his rookie season.
Keyou Craver isn't likely to turn heads in the NFL, but he will get the job done and wont make too many errors. He hasn't quite gotten everything he has going for him yet, but is extremely good at play recognition and does not bite on fakes. He will sometimes miss an angle that will leave him in tough positions but uses his speed to make up for it. He will need safety help against bigger receivers. Will benefit from a good coaching staff in the NFL because of his dedication, work ethic and intensity.
Andre Lott is one of the best tackling corners in this year's draft. He plays with such intensity it could bring fear to other offenses. He is a streaky player though, and that will hurt him in the NFL. Will make and give up the big play, but never loses confidence in himself. Needs to work a little on his play recognition that will prevent him from being burned often. He's a pretty quick corner and has good size and makes use of his tools. Moves latterally with ease and will fight through picks and blocks that offenses throw at him with success. Needs some refinement on fundamentals but will benefit greatly from the coaching at the next level.
Sheldon Brown is a relatively big cornerback with incredible speed. He's been timed at 4.3/40 and seems to play faster because of his great instincts. Brown has a good vertical and wont likely be at a disadvantage against taller receivers in the NFL. Brown is a good cover corner, that needs to work on tackling in the run game, and his jams on receivers at the line. His incredible athletic talent will allow him to excel at the next level, but he will need coaching and refinement to become a great player.
Roosevelt Williams is a very good sized corner that knows how to throw his weight around. He is very aware on the field and has good instincts. Can move latterally exceptionally well and uses this skill to be a good run stopper. He's not overly fast though, and has troubles accelerating quickly. Will get beaten bad if he is beaten off the line - but he is rarely beaten. Will be a solid contributor on any team but will need safety help over the top to make up for his speed.
Thomas is an all around solid cornerback. He isn't great at any one thing, but has good footwork and covers the field well. He's fundamentally sound and does what he needs to do. However he has been known to lose his concentration on the field, and that usually results in him getting burned. Unfortunately for Williams he also has a long memory that doesn't let him forget getting burned. He could end up as a safety in the NFL because of his range on the field. Needs to improve his tackling and has trouble fighting through blocks. Likely to be a lower pick, but teams will be quite happy with him as a player.
This year's group of cornerbacks has ltos to offer the NFL. The top tier is filled with playmakers and will likely be grabbed pretty quickly. The 49ers need another player with the skill of Plummer and Webster in order to take a step to the next level. They may find that player in this season's draft.