2012 NFL Draft – Top Defensive Backs


Cornerback

1. Morris Claiborne, LSU (5-11, 188): The best corner in the draft. Is a better prospect at this point than former Tiger Patrick Peterson. Claiborne has great foot quickness and is fluid in turning his hips to run. He entered LSU as a wide receiver before switching sides of the ball. Claiborne projects as an above average kick returner at the next level.  Prediction: Top-5

2. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (6-0, 190): Gilmore enjoyed an extremely productive career with the Gamecocks. He is a cerebral player who shows a good understanding of the game. Plays the ball well in the air, using his height to get good position. Gilmore does give up a number of underneath passes and might be best suited in a zone coverage scheme.  Prediction: 1st  Round

3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (6-2, 185): Kirkpatrick excels playing both the run and pass. A physical corner that plays well around the line and is likely best suited for zone coverage. Durability was an issue at Alabama. Solid work ethic and has made huge strides in football intelligence since first arriving on campus. Prediction: 1st  Round

4. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama (5-10, 193): The question with Jenkins is not about his ability, but about character. He started his career at Florida, but was arrested twice in drug related cases in a three-month span and kicked off the team. Recently, his agent fired him as a client, sending a red flag to NFL teams. On the field, he is the draft’s best cover corner. The question is who takes the chance on him. Prediction: Late 1st, Early 2nd Round

5. Chase Minnifield, Virginia (5-10, 183): An underrated player who plays well in man coverage. Has a good understanding of the game and used film study to his advantage at Virginia. His father was a Pro Bowl corner for the Browns. Needs to bulk up, especially in his lower half. Minnifield is at his best when covering the slot.   Prediction: 2nd Round

Best of the rest: Josh Robinson (UCF), Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech), Dwight Bentley (Louisiana-Lafayette), Brandon Boykin (Georgia), Alonzo Dennard (Nebraska).

 

Safety

1. Mark Barron, Alabama (6-1, 213): The lone first rounder among this group, Barron was a stalwart for the Crimson Tide. Good size for a strong safety, with above average speed. Missed the Combine following surgery sports hernia surgery, although it will not affect training camp. Very good at diagnosing a play. Good in run supports. Prediction: 1st  Round

2. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame (6-2, 213): Had a subpar senior season, but showed his skills at the Senior Bowl and Combine. Extremely good in run support and plays the ball well in the air. Will hold his own against tight ends but will struggle against quick receivers. Will need to improve his fluidity at the next level.   Prediction: 2nd Round

3. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State ( 6-1, 207): Started his career with academic problems, but was the team’s academic award winner following this past season. His growth in the classroom was mirrored by his growth on the field. He reads play action well and is not afraid to stick his nose in to help in run support. Does not possess great speed and will need to take good angles to succeed in the NFL.   Prediction: 2nd or 3rd Round

4. Brandon Taylor, LSU (5-11, 202): Was the team Tigers captain and organized defensive backs in film study. Will be a favorite of secondary coaches. Taylor plays fast, but does not have great quickness. Seems to enjoy contact, but can get caught taking bad angles. Room to improve, but seems receptive to coaching. Has the mental makeup necessary to play at the next level.   Prediction: 3rd or 4th  Round

5. Antonio Allen, South Carolina (6-1, 201): Good size for the position and has above average speed. His best attribute is his ability to read the quarterback’s eye and react quickly. Played a hybrid of safety and linebacker at South Carolina, so he is very adept in run support. Is a bit stiff and does not always protect his half of the field.   Prediction: 3rd or 4th  Round

Best of the rest: Phillip Thomas (Syracuse), Trent Robinson (Michigan), Charles Mitchell (Mississippi State), Robert Blanton (Notre Dame), George Iloka (Boise State).

Stephen Kelley is a contributor at The Sports Bank where he covers Fantasy Sports and Pro Drafts. You can follow him on Twitter @stephen_tsb.

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