Howdy folks, it's time once again to mock the Rams in 2014. This time I'll be looking at some CB's I like, still keeping the number low so I don't overload you with mostly unnecessary info. I've got 4 CB's this time, mostly 1st or 2nd rounders at this point, with one exception. It's unfortunate that we have to look at CB's given the fact that we have Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins, and Trumaine Johnson, but unfortunately those three have not produced this year. Finnegan has been hampered by injury, Jenkins has been the same hot/cold player he was last year, and Trumaine isn't showing much outside of Nickel duty. There's also Brandon McGee, but he hasn't shown much due to limited time on the field. So without further ado, let's take a look at our candidates.
Darquez Dennard – Michigan State
What he does Well:
Zone – Dennard is a fantastic Zone player. With his quick feet, football smarts, and ability to read Offenses he’s a dynamo in Cover 2. He plays his zone perfectly and always seems to know when to give up space and when to press the opposing receivers. He’s also smart enough to know when to abandon the zone and double team a WR
Close Quarters – When it comes to short routes or playing man against slower receivers, Dennard is like glue. He doesn’t let go. He forces receivers to make very difficult catches, refuses to bite on double moves, and is extremely hard to lose without elite speed.
Run game – Dennard is excellent in the run game. He’s very patient, but is willing to attack RB’s. He knows how to work his way around WR’s and can even throw in some wonderfully hidden blitzes from time to time.
Speed – Simply put, Dennard gets beat when it’s a straight line footrace. He may have good acceleration and lateral quickness, but his top speed is not very good. While this is something that can be hidden in the right scheme, it’s something every team should take note of.
Penalties – This one I’m sure is going to stand out to Rams fans, Dennard is a bit of a penalty machine. Because he plays so physically, especially when forced to defend deep, he gets a lot of penalties. He’s a very handsy player and gets called for Pass Interference a lot. If forced to defend deep, look for NFL Quarterbacks to pick on him a lot for easy PI calls.
Hands – This sort of goes with the Penalties in that his hands get him in trouble a lot. He likes to use them but he doesn’t do it very well. Lots of holding and PI calls because of it, but he’s not great at jamming receivers at the line.
Dennard is a good player with a few deficiencies that are easy to hide. While I don’t think he’ll be a great Rams player, any team that primarily uses a Cover 2 scheme should look at Dennard as a must draft prospect. His intelligence is invaluable, and his ability to read offenses will make him an NFL mainstay, but his lack of speed and penalties when going flat man to man are a big red flag for a press team like the Rams.
Antone Exum – Virginia Tech
What he does well:
Vision – Exum gets a special look from a lot of teams for being a converted Safety. Because of this he has great vision when playing deep, and can diagnose plays with great accuracy. Especially when reading Run, he is quick to get the line and stop the RB.
Speed – Exum is a fairly fast player and can keep up with most WR’s. As a result he can keep up with all but the speediest of wideouts, which makes him much more scheme friendly.
Discipline – Exum is not penalty prone, that much is for sure. He knows the ins and outs of a referee’s mind and adjusts his play accordingly. He also never leaves his assignment. If it’s Zone he covers his zone and only his zone. If it’s Man he’ll stick by his man more than a 16th century peasant girl.
Effort – Exum doesn’t always play balls to the wall, he likes to let plays develop around him and react rather than force plays to come through him. This means he’ll give WR’s 2 or 3 more yards than they earned, whereas a more aggressive corner would stop his man right then and there.
Tackling Technique – Exum, like many college players, suffers from BHS. "Big Hit Syndrome". Rather than wrap up and ensure his man goes down, Exum will try to lay him out cold. As we all know, this doesn’t work in the NFL. Just ask any DB who’s been asked to stop Marshawn Lynch or even our own Zac Stacy.
Plays with his back to the ball – When playing tight man coverage, Exum has a tendency to always be looking at his receiver. Despite his discipline, this may end up costing him in the NFL. If a Ref sees you go up with a WR and you’re not looking at the ball, 9/10 times that will be a Pass Interference penalty. And more importantly, it makes Interceptions so much harder to come by.
Exum is an interesting player with a lot of versatility. He has a lot of mechanical issues he needs to work on but could easily walk on to any team as a rotational player or special teams player. Something I didn’t touch on is that he has a nasty rip he likes to use, which if he keeps getting stronger should be a very useful weapon in the NFL.
Marcus Williams – North Dakota State
Where he succeeds:
Hands – Williams does a good job at hand fighting at the line and knocking receivers off their routes. He also gets his arms up on jump balls and is surprisingly good at knocking caught balls loose.
R&R – Williams Reads and Reacts very well. Very few times is he caught truly unaware of what’s going on around him. Williams is also smart in who he reads, as he plays his man more than trying to read the QB, unlike Janoris Jenkins.
Discipline – When Williams is playing man to man, he never lets his target go. This makes him a killer on underneath routes, and it helps deny scrambling QB’s the ability to pass before getting to the line. And when playing Zone he knows his zone exactly and doesn’t leave it unless absolutely necessary.
Running game – Williams doesn’t let WR’s bully him in the run game, and with his short burst he’s able to lay in some great hits on opposing RB’s.
Athleticism – Williams is not a very athletic person. He makes up for this with his generally positive technique, but in the NFL technique doesn’t always triumph. He lacks elite speed and WR’s can beat him deep, and if he has to play taller wideouts they’ll be able to outjump him every time.
Small School – While not always a death knell, playing for a small school is an unfortunate negative in that he’s never faced truly elite talent. An All American is an All American, but there’s a big difference between him and, say, Dennard, who have played much tougher opposition.
Tackling – Williams prefers to go for big hits rather than wrap up tackling. That’s an unfortunate theme for college CB’s, but in the NFL making your tackle is far more important than "laying the hurt down". Simply put, he has to fix this. He’s not big or strong enough to go for the hard hits every time.
Williams would be a good late round pickup as a depth and special teams guy. Unfortunately his physical ability isn’t good enough to be a starter in the NFL, but he deserves a spot on any teams roster for his intelligence if nothing else.
Jason Verrett – Texas Christian University
Where he succeeds:
Athleticism – Verrett isn’t a 4.2 40 guy, but he’s very fast on the field and is extremely agile, making cuts right along with his man and hanging with everyone the entire time. He also has a great vertical leap and is willing to contest every single ball that comes his way.
Tackling – I love Verrett for this above all else. He wraps up like a Rugby player. He just plain does not let guys get past him, and I think that’s an extremely underrated quality in CB’s.
Versatility – Verrett has played a little in the backfield as a FS and performs admirably there. He makes quick reads, can seal running lanes even 10 yards off his man, and has a great feel for when to burst into the box. He can also play outside and nickel corner, which makes him an absolutely every down CB.
Work Ethic – Verrett flies all over the field and never gives up on plays. This should be seen as nothing but a plus, especially for a CB. Sometimes NFL WR’s can just run past you and even the best CB’s give up, but as Rams fans saw with Tyrann Mathieu, sometimes that extra bit of drive can bring a big change on the play.
Vs. the Run – There’s a lot that Verrett does correctly here. He seals off lanes, he wraps up, he makes great reads, but here’s the problem; he lets the RB come to him. Thankfully this is easily fixed, but he also has problems with WR’s pushing him out of the way. Again, correctable, but still an issue.
Aggressiveness – Only really in the air, as we talked about him being almost passive against the run a second ago, Verrett could be a big penalty target in the NFL. Now he’s usually good enough to avoid PI or holding or what have you, but on a team like the Rams he’ll be far more scrutinized than normal.
I love Verrett. Let’s just put that out there. I think he’s the best CB in the draft, I think he’s going to impress on any team he goes to, and I think a lot of teams are going to wish they drafted him. In my mind he’s an instant starter and more importantly an instant difference maker. He’s no Patrick Peterson or Darrelle Revis, but he’s a multi time pro bowler in the making. A lot of teams like Olomu and Roby more, but for my money Verrett has them beat.