Draft preview: Defensive backs


Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara would be the king of the defensive back prospects if not for the decision of LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson to enter the draft.


MIKE MAYOCK'S CHOSEN FEW

Cornerbacks

PATRICK PETERSON6-0, 219, Louisiana StateNo defensive back has ever been selected No. 1 in the NFL draft, but few have matched Peterson's credentials…Won the Bednarik Award (nation's top defensive player), the Thorpe Award (top defensive back) and was SEC's defensive and special teams MVP in 2010…Had four of his seven career interceptions in 2010, even with opponents shying away from him…Return skills helped him rank fourth in SEC with 116.9 all-purpose yards per game despite playing nary an offensive down…Averaged 11 yards per punt return in 2010 with two touchdowns and 29.1 yards per kickoff return.

PRINCE AMUKAMARA6-0, 206, NebraskaA running back out of high school, now finds himself in the running to be a top-10 pick…Big leap came as a junior, when he picked off five passes and made presence felt with a strong showing in the Big 12 title game…Didn't have an interception as a senior but didn't see many passes come his way…Has a nice mix of strength and speed for playing either man or zone coverage.

AARON WILLIAMS6-0, 204, TexasAnother corner with little to show statistically for final college season because opposing teams threw away from him…No interceptions in 2010 but 12 pass breakups and three forced fumbles…In addition to some special skills as a cover corner, could be valuable on special teams…Blocked four punts in 2008 to tie a school record.

JIMMY SMITH6-2, 211, ColoradoLike Amukamara and Williams, didn't record a single interception in 2010, but opponents didn't give him many chances…The tallest of the elite corners in the class, attractive to NFL scouts searching for ways to slow down big, fast receivers on the outside…Size and strength also make him one of the best run stoppers in the group…When in man coverage, allowed just one completion for a first down over junior and senior seasons.

BRANDON HARRIS5-10, 191, MiamiThe smallest of the top-rated corners and posted the least impressive NFL Scouting Combine numbers in the group, but makes up for it with intangibles…Doesn't shy away from being a leader and is passionate about the game…Plays bigger than he is, showing no fear against bigger receivers…Excels in man coverage.


Safeties

RAHIM MOORE6-0, 202, UCLAThe leader of what's generally considered a weak group at safety…Led the nation with 10 interceptions in 2009 – the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 2003 – but picked off just one pass in 2010…Known for his nose for the ball…Tackling skills need improvement.Good leadership skills…Started as a true freshman.

AHMAD BLACK5-10, 184, FloridaConsidered undersized but put up big numbers, with 13 career interceptions…Eight of them came in 2008, tying for first in the nation…Has interceptions of Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford to his credit – the top overall picks in the 2010 and 2009 drafts, respectively…In addition to big plays, also noted for tackling ability.

MARCUS GILCHRIST5-10, 193, ClemsonLed defensive backs at the Combine in bench press reps and ranked second in the group in vertical leap…In addition to power-packed physical package, has the versatility to play either corner or safety…Also has experience as a kick and punt returner…Tied a school record with 53 games played, never missing a game in four seasons.

QUINTON CARTER6-1, 208, OklahomaA first-team All-America, solid in every skill required at the position…Possesses impressive combination of size, strength and speed…Recorded 17 tackles against Texas Tech last season, the most by an Oklahoma defensive back since 2002.

DEUNTA WILLIAMS6-2, 205, North CarolinaRecovering from a broken leg suffered in the Tar Heels' victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl…Suspended for four games last season for receiving improper benefits from an agent…Arrived at UNC as a wide receiver but quickly adjusted, picking off six passes over first two seasons and then six more in 2009.


STRICKLAND'S SECOND LOOK

DEANDRE MCDANIEL6-0, 217, ClemsonA physical specimen with lots of physical tools to boot…Played a rover position for the Tigers, a combo linebacker/safety spot…Posted 275 tackles and picked off 15 passes in four seasons…Truly broke out in 2009, with eight interceptions that helped him earn All-America honors.

RAS-I DOWLING6-1, 198, VirginiaConsidered a possible first-round pick entering 2010 but now must overcome reputation for being injury-prone…Missed second half of season with broken ankle…Ran a 4.4 at the Combine but then pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury…When healthy, ball skills and instincts are unquestioned.

CHRIS CULLIVER6-0, 199, South CarolinaShowed the Combine scouts that he had recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him for the second half of the 2010 season, recording a 4.4 in the 40…Played free safety for two-plus seasons and was all-SEC before making a successful move to corner as a senior…Gamecocks' all-time leader in kick return yardage.

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