Bunting: Corners Comprise the Core of This Draft

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Stephon Gilmore

Part III of this week’s chat with the National Football Post’s draft analyst Wes Bunting covers the cornerbacks, a group Wes rates among the best in this year’s draft class. 

Cowboys Nation:  I want to discuss South Carolina’s corner Stephon Gilmore.  He’s 13th on your board.  I’ve seen a split of opinion on him from the draftniks.  He’s late 1st on some boards.  He’s early 2nd on others.  I’ve also seen him high 1st.  What accounts for this?

Wes Bunting:  Nobody has really seen him.  He was a 5-star prospect who made a lot of plays but also gave up a lot of plays as a sophomore.  He’s raw with his footwork, but he’s one of the few big corners in the draft who can turn and run, who will tackle, and he’s got the skills to be a really good cover man.  He played mostly zone and press-bail.

Physically, he can play press, but he was rarely asked to do it.  Mostly you’re looking at him as a zone corner right now.  I think most teams are looking at Kirkpatrick the same way early in his career, unless you play press-man all the time, because Kirkpatrick does have experience there.

I like Gilmore because he’s got a package few of his peers have — his big, he’s physical, he can run and he’ll tackle.  I didn’t give him the highest grade.  I gave him a 7.0.  I don’t think he’ll be elite but I think he can be a solid corner in the league.

CN:  With Claiborne, Kirkpatrick and Gilmore coming out early, I’m looking at the corners 6 through 10 on your board and I see Jamell Fleming, Chase Minnifield, Casey Heyward, Trumaine Johnson and Coryell Judie.

That’s a pretty solid 2nd round’s worth of cornerback talent there.  A couple of these guys could even slide into the 3rd.

WB:  Without a doubt.  I really like this corner class.  Some people I talk to really like Brandon Boykin (Georgia).  Some really like the Virginia Tech kid, Jayron Hosley.  Some like Leonard Johnson in the 2nd round.  I think they’re more nickel guys, 3rd round guys, but you look at the caliber of guys you can get in the 2nd, 3rd and even 4th rounds, I’m starting to see real depth here.

You look at the Giants, and I think they do a really nice job.  They have Terrell Thomas, who was a 2nd rounder from USC.  They have Aaron Ross, who was a 1st rounder.  They have Corey Webster.  I think he was a 3rd rounder.  You add Amukamara, and they have two 1sts, a 2nd rounder and a 3rd and they’re all the same type of physical guys. That’s what they’re looking for, that 6’1”, 6’0″ body, around 195, that big, physical corner.

You look at this year’s bunch and you see that type of player in the 1st, you see that type of player in the 2nd and you see that type of player in the 3rd.  I think that’s why cornerback is one of the few really good position classes, outside of guard and running back.

CN:  Yeah.  Dennard and Jenkins are the only guys in that top twelve who are under 5’11”.

WB:  There should be some big, talented guys for teams to pick in the 2nd through the 4th rounds.

CN:  Right, there are some big guys, Robert Golden from Arizona, Robert Blanton from Notre Dame, who look like 3rd and may be 4th round corners.

WB:  Blanton’s not a bad guy to roll the dice on.  There’s even a guy, Brandon Morrow, from Toledo, who projects as a late-round guy.  I really like him.   He’s raw as anything, but he’s fluid, quick footed.  He’s played linebacker for them.  He’s played corner and he’s played safety.  He’s a nice piece of clay who you can pick late and try to mold.

I might end up moving him up a little bit, but I have him higher than most, so I may keep him there.

CN:  Oh.  You’ve said some magic words there.  Big (6’3”, 210 lbs) has played a lot of positions.  There’s the legend of Darren Woodson in Dallas land.  I’ve talked to somebody who knows what they do and he’s told me Woodson messed up their safety templates, because they had him and they keep looking for him, that big guy who is fast and can change directions.  Woodson played linebacker in college but he could run and they made him a very good safety.

More on Morrow, please.

WB:  I was going through Toledo tape, thinking, okay, there may be a couple of players worth considering and here’s this really big guy who can run.  I’ve talked to a lot of scouts about him.  I’ve talked to agents about him.  Is his play always saying, “this is a sure-fire NFL player?”  No, but I see a guy who can turn his hips, has quick feet and change of direction skills for a bigger secondary guy.  He gets up to speed quickly and he’ll strike you.  He’s got some physicality to his game.

They played him at linebacker.  They played him at corner.  He can turn and run.  They played him at safety where he gets leggy and he’s not overly instinctive. I think it’s unfair to judge instincts on this poor kid because he played so many different positions.  He never got a chance to get set at one.

If it’s the late rounds, he’s boom or bust, but if you get him in, maybe he develops. If not, who cares, it’s a late round kid.  I think he has a chance to be this year’s David Mims.  If you remember he was a big, small-school kid who I liked last year.  He’s a good kid, who went undrafted.  He made the practice squad out of camp.  He’s on the Chiefs active roster now, and from everything I hear, he’s going to battle for the starting right tackle spot next year.

Morrow could be the same type of guy.  My draft philosophy in the early rounds is to get hits.  I want to hit singles.  I want to hit doubles.  I want to get solid football players in every round that I can win with.  Later in the draft, let’s try and hit a home run.

That’s just my philosophy, but in Morrow, here’s a guy who maybe will run in the low 4.4s.  I like him.

CN:  Where do you have him?  Is he a definite late rounder?  Is he a late-round/free-agent guy?

WB:  Right now?  Maybe late round, but depending on what All-Star game he attends and how he tests, he could move up.  It’s all about his post season.  The tape on him is okay in spots, but he’s got some production at three spots and if he runs and tests well, teams are going to get interested.

CN:  Will this guy go to any All-Star games?

WB:  I don’t know yet.  There are so many All-Star games this year.  I was talking to a scout who said there will be 1066 seniors playing in All-Star  games this year.  There are something like ten games this year.  There’s one going on right now in Florida.

255 guys get drafted.  We’re not talking about juniors who declared.  We’re just talking about seniors, and only a quarter of them are going to get drafted.

Next:  Quarterbacks.  Check in later this week for our new chat, which will cover the East-West Shrine Game and LSU’s blue-chip defensive lineman Michael Brockers. 

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com
  • AustonianAggie

    6’3 corner prospect who weighs 210 pounds? Already I’m thinking of that safety from FSU we drafted circa 2005 who was 6’4. It’s very frustrating thinking about Dallas’ inability to get production from drafted safeties. It almost seems like a self fulfilling prophecy.

    It was mildly painful seeing Donte Whitner play well vs the Saints, he was a FA saftey I really wanted, and he was only 11mil over 3 years on his latest contract. For SF, Carlos Rogers also had a great season and he would of been a fine midlevel FA signing, who played this year on a one year deal. The bad safety play hurts the worst though. Watching Whitner, one of the most painful issues in our secondary are the soft hits

    • http://www.cowboysnation.com Rafael Vela

      Whitner also gives up a lot of plays.  He’s playing on a better defense.  He makes big hits but can also get beaten deep.  Kinda like Roy Williams. 

      • Bluefin

        Donte Whitner was the safety who bit like crazy on the 77 yard play action bomb in overtime to Jesse Holley.

  • cowboyny

    With a third rd deep CB class, you would think the team will almost have to grab 1 prospect in those rounds. I do not think signing a FA CB would change that thinking with needing 3 new CB’s as I do not believe Newman, Walker or Ball will return next to the team next season. 2nd or third rd sounds about right, where OL,DL or OLB in rd 1, unless 1 of the SEC CB’s drop.

    • http://www.cowboysnation.com Rafael Vela

      I’d do both, signing a FA CB to start immediately and getting one in the first 3 rds to play nickel and/or put in the pipeline.  

      They have two CBs we know will play this year — Jenkins and Scandrick.  Jenkins enters his walk year.  If they go tight at CB they could find themselves with only Scandrick 12 months from now. 

      That’s madness.

      • Raja

        If I am getting a FA CB, think I’d pursue KC’s Carr rather than Grimes or Finnegan.  Yahoo lists Carr as 6″ 207 lbs.    Outweighs both Grimes and Finnegan by a couple of inches and 20lbs.  Not sure if he has Finnegan’s nasty attitude though !!

        Moreover, he’d only be 26 on opening day and if he plays well and we hit on a drafted CB, we could let Jenkins walk (depending on how he plays in 2012).

        While we need 2-3 CB/S, I think that we can live with a decent but not great secondary, if we get push up front.  For that reason, if I have 8-10million in FA that I want to spend on defense, I’d look for a pass rushing DE/OLB first before looking for a FA CB.

        • kameleon_o

          I wouldn’t mind Carr if I knew for sure the coaching staff thought he’d end up improving overall from where he’s at now. 

      • cowboyny

        We are in total agreement. Sign a CB starter, draft a top level prospect somewhere within the first three rounds. We saw how the team developed Jenkins, year learning while playing in the sub-packages, year 2 compete to become the starter. Four starting caliber CB’s will increase the talent, competition and unt as a whole. My #1 FA choice would be Brandon Carr. Maybe becomes a little cheaper being a #2 CB, but like his potential. You did mention his metrics in 2010 were on par w/Jonathan Joesph’s, which sounds like a great FA Target.

        • Leswung

          Please, fellow cowboys fans, do not go too deep into corners, there are other needs and protecting Romo should be higher priority imo, he won’t stand too many hits and we don’t have a capable backup now. If no Romo, no matter how good the defense will be, still no future for the ‘Boys!

          • jlh

            Our O-line has been just fine, and is still coming together ( a LOT of new guys and no offseason). Free and Smith will flip, which will help. Costa graded out much better in the second half of the season

            Yes, we need to feed at least one early-round pick to the interior (G/C) but we are not hurting here.

          • kameleon_o

            Not hurting there?? Costa was pushed back into Romo countless times. Because of him Romo couldn’t reliably step up into the pocket. He just wasn’t any good. Our O-line has NOT been just fine

  • unionjack8

    the depth this year is one reason i’m ok with taking a couple of cb’s in rounds 2,3 or 4.

  • Bluefin

    Wes Bunting mentioned Desmond Marrow is one of the early chats, so he’s been in my mind as a possible late rounder for a while now.

    Bunting also likes Arizona CB/S Robert Golden and I do, too.

    He’d be a great selection if he lasts until later in the draft.

    I’d love a shot at Stephon Gilmore in round two, but he’ll likely be gone by that time.

    The team may be looking to get bigger at CB, Mario Butler (6-1) and  C.J. Wilson (6-1) are both over six feet.

    Why not move WR Teddy Williams (6-3) back to CB?

    Fast Teddy doesn’t appear to have any chance as a wideout and we need options to sort through on the corner.

    • http://www.cowboysnation.com Rafael Vela

      I don’t get the team’s Fast Freddy infatuation at all.   

      • Bluefin

        The team loves speed.

        Teddy Williams has been too injury prone so far to expect anything, but if he’s going to camp again, why not as a CB given the team’s need?

        I thought Teddy showed well in the HOF game in 2010 when forced to play a lot because of injuries.

        • Phillip

          Absolutely agree with you regarding moving Teddy Williams back to CB.
          I thought he comported himself quite well as a CB given his relative inexperience when he played.

          We have more than a enough prospects at WR right now.

        • http://www.cowboysnation.com Rafael Vela

          He’s been with the club two years and can’t find a position.  

          Not promising, IMO.  A deep CB crop waits to be drafted.  Move on. 

          • AustonianAggie

            Have to wonder if, at this point, Teddy Williams is even worth a Camp Body, one who might make an impact

          • kameleon_o

            I doubt he’s worth it either. He’s just an athlete at this point and probably will never be more that. We’ve all seen that being an athlete alone isn’t enough to make it in the NFL

      • kameleon_o

        Me either. Although, I don’t get the team’s Oglesuck infatuation either. 

  • Raja

    One more FA – swing tackle on game days – Jeremy Parnell doesn’t cut it for me.  I’d love the team to kick the tires on Ryan Harris.  He was outstanding in 2008 but got injured.  Philly signed him this off season and let him go.  Broncos resigned him earlier – don’t know if it was just a 1 yr deal or more.

    Btw, he was drafted in 2007 3rd round – the same year we took James Marten ahead of him by a few picks.

    • http://www.cowboysnation.com Rafael Vela

      Yes, that’s what, 11 players?  Harris was very good for the Broncos in ’08.  He started as a 2nd year player at RT.  Ryan Clady started at LT as a rookie and that line led the NFL in fewest sacks allowed.  

      He’s had a lot of injuries the last three years.  Missed half of ’09 with dislocated toes.  He had back surgery last year.  He might be too banged up to offer value.  Who knows.  He’s still young.

  • Phillip

    This team needs an overhaul of talent at the CB position.  The self-analysis and self-scouting on this team has been (or was) autrocious the past 5-6 years.  You can’t keep trying to address the position by hoping to hit homeruns in the late rounds (Jamar Wall, Josh Thomas, Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, Courtney Brown, Alan Ball and even Orlando Scandrick) or UDFAs (Bryan McCann, Teddy Williams, Frank Walker, Mario Butler…).

    Because of its poor/deranged self-assesment of talent, the Cowboys put themselves into a corner which made extending a guy like Scandrick a necessity.  The author was right to point out how the Giants have approached the position through the draft (Terrelle Thomas, A. Ross, Amukamura, Webster) with high draft picks. 

    If there is such thing as a “skill” position, cornerback is one of them.  And thus, you have to try to get premier talent any which way you can.

    • Milkshaker

      But then we wouldn’t have been able to draft backup TE’s and RB’s in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. That backup TE is crucial to the offense.

      :)

    • joey2zs

      “you have to try to get premier talent any which way you can.”  I assume you place a greater intrinsic value at the CB position than you do at Guard.  Because if your passage I quoted is accurate, then the first pick would be DeCastro if he’s available. 
      According to all analysis, he’s one of just a few truly premier talents coming out in this draft.
      To instead choose a CB is like taking a Carlos Rodgers over a Larry Allen… in my totally presumptive, unfair and unbalanced analogy. 

      • Phillip

        No, you’re misinterpreting what I’m saying.  I’m fully and completely onboard with taking DeCastro; he’s my #1 player on my board that should be realistically available to us come draft day.  In fact, what you said about DeCastro being a “premier” player is accurate; DeCastro > Dennard, Gilmore, Minnifield…

        My post was basically a critique of the Cowboys’ poor self-scouting and bunk approach of recent history in supplementing the depth/talent at the position.

        In regards to the “Carlos Rodgers over a Larry Allen…” analogy….it’s not reflective of anything I’m saying. 

  • AustonianAggie

    I’m coming around on drafting a Guard in the 1st. The Giants are getting a lot of success by investing in their D Line. Dallas is too far behind in investing on D Linemen to catch up quickly. But by drafting an elite guard, Dallas could catch up having invested similarly in Offensive Line.

    • Lostar2009

      +1

    • Leswung

      +2

  • Michael

    I’m hoping that there is a run on QBs and OTs so that Dre Kirkpatrick drops to 14. Otherwise, I think I stand pat and take Gilmore. I suspect he will continue to rise until the draft. Guys with size and coverage ability are hard to find.

  • Milkshaker

    Love the way Gilmore throws his body around. Really physical and violent. Built really well. I’ve had my fill of watching Newman get pushed 15 yards down field like a blocking sled.

  • Lostar2009

    Man if this draft is this deep in corners i think dallas needs to trade back and get greedy with these corners..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JMHKXKJVZVOS2ULOKWMBSSWSLE Chris

    IMO, the goal for 2012 should be to protect Romo and improve the pass rush.  There is no more defense in the NFL.  If the Cowboys fix the interior of their line, the offense will be a juggernaut and on the defensive side of the ball, another pass rusher opposite Ware will hide a lot of the warts on defense.  

    • Audiris

      Only one of the top 3 offenses made it into to the Championship Weekend. Both the 49ers and the Ravens have top defenses on the other hand.

      • Chris

        If the Patriots win the SB, it will be the 3rd year in a row that a top offensive team won. And I’ll contend that the Giants are being carried by their offense right now anyway.

        • Leswung

          The formula is so simple:
          no protection=no Romo=no offense=byebye2012

          • 99yard_TD_Run

            That’s what I’ve been saying too.  Happened in 2010 & nearly again in 2011.  I wouldn’t be too upset if we went OL in the 1st & then defense the rest of the way although I still would like to see FB Evan Rodriguez as a replacement/backup for M. Bennett & Fiametta drafted in one of the last 3 rounds of the drafted.

          • jlh

            With a deep corner class, I wouldn’t mind a guard and then 2-3 corners and a FB thrown in. I don’t think we can improve on our current pass rush with anyone not in the 1st round, we’re just fooling ourselves if we try to go there. Otherwise get some value for the future.

          • 99yard_TD_Run

            I think we can improve our pass rush a bit in the later rounds.  I could see us getting 34OLB, Jonathan Massaquoi in the 5th or DE/OLB Malik Jackson in the 5th & & 34DE Wolffe/OT McCants/OC Molk in the 6th.   FB Evan Rodriguez in the 7th, though his stock my rise up to the 5th rd. range.

          • Chris

            I’d really like to take a run at Mario Willams for OLB to replace Spencer if he’s affordable. They wouldn’t be able to afford Nicks and Williams but if they got Williams, maybe they could sign a center and let Nagy and Arkin battle it out for RG assuming they drafted DeCastro for LG. After DeCastro, they could go secondary and D line the rest of the draft

            . Like I said above, they need to rush the passer and fix the interior of the line so they can protect Romo, allow the WRs to take advantage of their skills running deeper routes and run the ball in the red zone and especially the 4th quarter.

    • Leswung

      +1

  • kameleon_o

    What’s press bail coverage?? Never heard that particular term before. I’m thinking that the best type of DB’s for RR’s scheme are ones that are adept at press coverage. Is press bail the same thing?? Or does he mean they press the WR at first and then backpedal out of it??