Over the next couple of weeks and leading up to the draft, I will be taking a look at each position, if the Dolphins have a need to upgrade that position in the draft, and who are the top 10 prospects going in. Remember, this is only one man’s opinion. This is the eighth and final of such posts and today we will look at the secondary.
When I was younger (around 14 or so), I made a screen name that I have stuck with my entire life. It’s my screen name on here actually. What is it? It is madisoncb29. If any Dolphins fan doesn’t know what that stands for, well you shouldn’t be a Dolphins fan. That is for my favorite Dolphin of all time, Sam Madison. I’ve always been a secondary guy, since the days Madison and Patrick Surtain lined up across from each other.
Looking at today’s lineup, I believe Vontae Davis and Sean Smith have the ability to live up to the standard set by Madison and Surtain. They both are young, but both are stacked with talent. At the position, the Dolphins definitely have depth. They re-signed Will Allen, they have an up and coming youngin in Nolan Carrol, they have Benny Sapp and Al Harris, among a few others. At safety, they have Yeremiah Bell and Chris Clemons. I don’t expect the Phins will really look hard at the secondary through the draft as they have far more pressing needs, but in order to finish off the series, I present to you the top 10 secondary prospects of 2011 NFL draft:
1. Patrick Peterson, LSU 6’0, 219 lbs
Peterson may very well be the best and most NFL-ready prospect of anybody in the entire draft. In 2010, Peterson won the Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defender and the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back. He was also named the SEC’s Defensive and Special Teams MVP. Not only is he a shutdown corner, he is also an outstanding returner, as he ranked fourth in SEC all-purpose yards per game despite not playing a single offensive down. His strength is man coverage. He has excellent route-recognition and great acceleration to close on receivers. In zone, he has a tendency to read the QB’s eyes and leave his zone, which can sometimes lead to game-changing picks, but also sometimes leads to giving up the big play. His athletic ability has scouts drooling, and he will almost certainly be a top 5 pick, possibly even to the Denver Broncos at #2.
2. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska 6’0, 206 lbs
I’ve done a lot of research on Amukamara and one word I keep coming across is overrated. I’m not really seeing it. When Amukarmara finally got the chance to be a full-time starter as a junior, he intercepted five passes and made 60 tackles (an impressive number for a DB). As a senior, teams finally got the message to stop throwing his way. As a result, he didn’t have any interceptions. But when looking at a defensive back, you can’t look solely at the stats. If teams aren’t throwing your way, that’s a good thing. Amukamara is a big, physical back who isn’t afraid to get up in the face of the running game as well. Experts were concerned about his speed until he ran a 4.38 40 at the combine. He is the perfect NFL press-cover corner and could be better than Peterson. If he slips outside of the top 10, he will be a steal.
3. Jimmy Smith, Colorado 6’2, 211 lbs
The good thing about Smith is that you actually don’t really need to scout him, you just need to ask him. A self-proclaimed shutdown corner, Smith’s size and speed combination is exactly what NFL scouts are looking for. However, Smith has some serious red flags that he has no problem talking about. He has had four failed drug tests and some minor brushes with the law. He will point out that the last run in happened in 2007 and he has done some major maturing during the last two seasons. He has assumed a leadership role on a bad team. He didn’t get much chance to show off his skills playing at Colorado, but he allowed only 11 completions in man-to-man coverage in the past two seasons. He has the size to line up against the biggest receiver on the opposing team and the speed to line up against the fastest. “I feel like the sky is the limit for me as long as I do what I know I can do out there,” said Smith. I’ve heard the Detroit Lions may be trying to move down and grab Smith somewhere in the mid 20’s.
4. Brandon Harris, Miami (FL.) 5’10, 191 lbs
Harris got thrown into the fire early at Miami, and suffered because of it. He has some serious growing pains but showed great determination by sticking with it and turning into a fringe first rounder. He does not have the ideal size you look for out of a corner, but he is athletic and his great instincts for the position. He is extremely fast and grades out better for man coverage than zone. If he gets beat, he has the speed to catch up with the receiver. Playing at the U, he has experience against top competition. He may still be raw, but he has the determination to make himself better, and he certainly doesn’t lack in confidence. In 39 games, he only had four interceptions though, and he does tend to go for the breakup instead of the pick. He had an excellent combine and may have worked his way into the end of the first round.
5. Rahim Moore (FS), UCLA 6’0, 202 lbs
The first safety on most boards, Moore is another who has seemed to suffer from the lack of stats. As I mentioned above, I don’t believe stats mean all that much in the secondary. In 2009, when Moore wasn’t really known, he registered 10 interceptions. In 2010, he only registered one pick. Experts look at 2009 and say it was a fluke, a one-year wonder. I disagree. If you ask Moore, he’ll tell you it’s because teams stop throwing his way. Makes sense after a 10 interception season. He started 37 games at UCLA, and certainly has the experience and instincts you want from your free safety. He is the classic ball-hawk. He reads the QB’s eyes and make his break quickly when he senses where the ball is going. His biggest criticism is his tackling, something you obviously need from your last line of defense. However, he was a leader on the field for a young UCLA defense and has great character. Since this draft is weak at the safety position, a team with a strong need may reach, but Moore will probably be a mid-second rounder.
6. Aaron Williams, Texas 6’1, 195 lbs
There is nothing especially interesting about Williams. His size makes him a good prospect, but he doesn’t play as physically as you’d expect for someone his size. He can stay with receivers down the sideline, but fast receivers eat up his cushion too fast and he can get beat down the middle. In zone, once his picks up the QB’s read, he has the ability to close fast and make the play. As a run defender, he is above-average. He can get off receiver blocks and make the tackle behind the line. He is a good, not great prospect and will probably be off the board by the early second round.
7. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia 6’2, 200 lbs
How cool of a name is that? SLEEPER ALERT: Dowling’s draft stock has been hurt because of a series of injuries in 2010 but he certainly has first round talent and if he can put those injuries behind him, he might be a steal in the late second round. In his two previous seasons before the injuries, Dowling led the Cavaliers in both pass breakups and interceptions. He certainly has the size you want from your corner, and he managed to run a 4.4 40 at the combine despite pulling up at the end. He has long arms and can disrupt timing patterns of receivers. If Dowling can find a way to stay healthy, he will make some team very happy. Because of his ridiculous upside, I don’t see him getting past the second round.
8. Davon House, New Mexico State 6’0, 184 lbs
Because of his coming from the WAC, experts are drawling comparisons between House and Jets CB Kyle Wilson. However, the two really aren’t all that similar. House projects far better as a man-press cover corner, and a guy who will use his speed to keep with fast receivers down the field. He had 11 interceptions in college and really forced QB’s to think twice before throwing the ball his way. He has the speed to get back into the play if he gets turned around by a head fake or double move. He is physical and will get behind the line to make the tackle on a running play. He blew scouts away by running a 4.35 at his pro day. More than likely, he will be a late second-early third round selection.
9. Curtis Brown, Texas 6’0, 180 lbs
The second longhorn on the board, Brown made a name for himself in 2008 when he knocked away the game-winning touchdown pass from Dez Bryant. Brown’s elite speed, ability to mirror receivers on the outside and proven special teams abilities have made him a lot of fans among NFL coaches and scouts. He impressed them even more at the combine, where he made some spectacular catches and showed his ability to backpedal and get in and out of his breaks. He’ll be another second or third rounder.
10. DeAndre McDaniel (SS), Clemson 6’0, 213 lbs
McDaniel hit the national scene in 2009, with an impressive 102-tackle, 8 interception season. Compared to that, his 2010 season with 4 interceptions and 75 tackles has coaches and scouts questioning if he is only a one year wonder. McDaniel doesn’t have the fluidity to be able to cover the entire field, but he has shown flashes of brilliance which keep him in the conversation for a top 100 selection. He is a reliable open-field tackler and can get up in run defense as well. McDaniel had a rough childhood, with a mother who has been arrested over 50 times. He did some serious maturing at Clemson, and is now an honor-roll student and a hard worker. The team that drafts him will be a getting a team leader and someone who will spend hours watching film and becoming a student of the game.
As stated above, the Dolphins probably will be looking in other areas and if they address the secondary at all, it’ll probably be in the later rounds. I love Ras-I Dowling as a prospect, though I understand why many teams will throw up the red flags because of his injuries.
I’ve really enjoyed doing this series. I plan on doing in next year and in years further for as long as I’m here. As much as I’ve written, I’ve learned a lot about these guys that I otherwise would’ve never known, and I can watch the draft next week with a different view that I’ve never gotten before. I’d like to get some feedback though. What can be improved, what did I do well on in this series? I don’t mind criticism, but if you are going to plain rude about it, I’d rather not hear it. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing.
Other Top 10 Prospects: