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