NFL Draft: Considering CBs beyond Peterson and Prince

I came across an article in Time Magazine today about NFL fans and their passion for their teams.

The article cited recent research which suggests fans’ “emotional connection can put them at an increased risk for a heart attack after the Super Bowl.”

I mention this here for two reasons. For starters, I want to give the impression that I’m intellectually curious and multi-dimensional (in truth, I only skim Time for articles regarding post-Super Bowl health maladies and the pictures). But the second point is this: Even fans of the wildly successful teams that reach the Super Bowl can die from disappointment.

It’s true, of course. The NFL season can exact quite a toll on a fan base (see 49ers, San Francisco, 2003 to Feb. 8, 2011).

And, for that reason, the NFL draft season is so appealing. After the horror of a 6-10 season comes the hope: Help is on the way.

You know how this works – “OK, we’ll draft this can’t-miss stud in the first round, grab this beast in the second, this future five-time, All-Pro will fall to us in the middle of the third …” By the time the fourth round rolls around, your sad-sack team is Super-Bowl bound. By the fifth round, whispers of a dynasty.

But this thought process is not just reserved for delusional fans. Even clear-headed draft experts can look at a draft and see the endless possibilities.

For example, CBS Sports draft guru Rob Rang can envision a scenario in which the 49ers, clutching the No. 7 overall pick, walk away with perhaps the best player in the draft, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“There is a possibility that Patrick Peterson just falls in their lap,” Rang said. “If a bunch of teams are going for quarterbacks and defensive linemen early on then Patrick Peterson, who I think is as good as any player in this entire draft, could fall right into their lap at seven.”

It sounds unlikely. And if there isn’t a Cam Newton-Blaine Gabbert-Marcell Dareus run, another cornerback, Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara, will likely be available for the Niners.

“You look at mock drafts around the web and there’s few mocks that have Prince going quite that high,” Rang said. “But the reality is talk to NFL clubs and they all think that he’s a top-10 kind of a talent. It wouldn’t be a surprise all, if Peterson is off the board, to see them take Prince. For some teams, those two guys are very closely rated.”

If the 49ers pass on a cornerback at No. 7, however, Rang had some thoughts on prospects that would be available later in the draft. Rang zeroed in on the type of tall and physical corners the Niners have preferred in recent years. It’s worth noting that the first two corners he mentioned below will likely be gone before San Francisco’s selects in the second round at No. 45 overall.

But the 49ers, who will have at least 10 draft picks, could offer an attractive trade package to move up in the second round or get into bottom of the first and grab … (see how this works? Anyone can play along!)



Height: 6-1

Weight: 195

Rang’s projected draft round: Late first, early second

The skinny: Williams may not be Deion Sanders – who is? – but he also doesn’t possess Prime Time’s reluctance to tackle. Williams, who declared for the draft after his junior season, is a physical corner who relishes his role in run support. He had 46 tackles, 13 pass-breakups and three forced fumbles en route to earning second-team All-Big 12 honors this past season. In his first mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Williams being selected at No. 31 overall based on his ball skills, size, speed and awareness.

Rang: “He isn’t quite as established, but he’s only come out after his junior season. Give him two years and he might be among the two of the best ones of the bunch.”


Height: 6-2

Weight: 205

Rang’s projected draft round: Early second

The skinny: Smith didn’t pick off a pass as senior, but he’s also didn’t have many opportunities. According to Colorado stats, Smith was targeted about 20 times in man coverage during 12 games this past season. The same coaches who made a point of avoiding him also named him an all-Big 12 first-team selection. Draft analyst Russ Lande of the Sporting News is a believer: He ranks Smith ahead of Peterson and Amukamara in his cornerback rankings. A force in run support, Smith had 70 tackles in each of his past two seasons.

Rang: “He’s a player who has the height, and the physicality in the running game, that you’re looking for.”


Height: 6-2

Weight: 200

Rang’s projected draft round: Third

The skinny: Dowling decided to stay at Virginia for his senior season, but the preseason All-American’s draft stock wasn’t helped thanks to an injury plagued season. Dowling, who played in only five games, had knee and hamstring issues before he suffered a fractured ankle in mid-November. He didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl due to an injury. He was a second-team all-ACC pick as a junior and compared favorably with secondary mate Chris Cook, who was selected with the 34th overall pick in last year’s draft by the Vikings. He possesses ideal size to match up with NFL wideouts, but lacks elite speed.

Rang: “He’s a player that I like in that press scheme that I expect San Franciso is going to run a little bit. He’s a tall, lanky kid and he came in and was viewed by some as a possible first-round pick. Then he just had a really unfortunate year with injuries. So his stock has dropped a little bit.”

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