When I started scouting, it could be a long, tedious task trying to figure out the value of a defensive back. Teams weren’t throwing the ball as much as they do now, so in order to get a true feel for a player’s value, a scout had to watch a lot of tape. In today’s college game, offenses are throwing the ball 35- 40 times a game, and it is a little easier to evaluate the position. Still, a scout has to be sure about a number of factors when doing the evaluation. The player has to have good size, a high degree of athleticism, speed, and above all, mentally tough. Today, we will talk about two corners who will be drafted quite high in next May’s Draft, Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech. Just an added note, the NFP is now offering "Introduction to Scouting" class for all of you who would like to find out about the rigors of evaluating players at all levels.
Justin Gilbert – Oklahoma State
Gilbert is a fourth-year senior and a three-year starter at corner for Oklahoma State. He is also the primary kickoff returner. Gilbert has ideal size for the position. He is listed at 6’0 – 200 lbs, and I would estimate his speed at 4.45. Not only is Gilbert fast, but he has very good flexibility and body control. He shows a quick pedal and a smooth turn. He has no wasted steps when turning and has an instant burst out of his turn. He is very quick footed and moves quickly in transition to close. In the Cowboys' defensive scheme, he plays some press man, man off, and zone and is very good at all three. In press, he shows a strong jam and can mirror receivers through multiple moves. He has the speed to stay with speed receivers on the deeper routes. In zone and off cover, he can play a little loose but still has the anticipation and closing quickness to make plays on the ball. Gilbert’s ball skills are excellent. He can track the ball and has very good hands. In two of the interceptions I saw, he high-pointed the ball very well. This year he finished the regular season with six picks.
I'd like to see Gilbert become more consistent in run support. He seldom “attacks” in support, but he can do it when he wants. He is not the most physical run support guy, but he is good enough. As a tackler, he can wrap but seldom does. He is more of a block tackler. His ability to shed blocks is adequate.
As a kick returner, Gilbert has the skills to be a number one returner in the NFL. He has five career kick returns for touchdowns and a career average of over 26 yards per return.
Gilbert has all the tools necessary to be a starting corner early in his career. He has size, cover skills, and ball skills. He will need to upgrade his run support, but I don’t see it as a big problem. I really like his attitude on the field. He is competitive and wants to make plays. He has a short memory and doesn’t let a poor play bother him. He should go high.
Kyle Fuller – Virginia Tech
Fuller is a fourth-year senior and a three-and-a-half-year starter for the Hokies. He has also been a valuable special teams' player for them throughout his career. This year, Fuller played well the first half of the season before an injury forced him to miss four games and part of a fifth. It is unclear whether he will play in their Bowl game.
As a player, Fuller has all the tools necessary to play at the next level. He has good size (6’0 – 194), has speed (4.47 est), and is very quick, sudden, and athletic. In their defense, he lines up on the short side of the field and is used in press, off, and zone coverages. He is an extremely aware player and knows exactly what is going on around him. There are many corners who sit back and don’t aggressively play the run. That is not the case with Fuller. He reacts very quickly and comes up strong. He can be a good tackler but needs to wrap better.
In coverage, he shows a good jam and has good mirror skills. He has the speed to cover deep routes and the quickness to stay with receivers through moves. In off and zone he is very aware and will help out when free. He has excellent ball reactions and is very quick in transition.
I like the way Fuller plays the game. He is tough, instinctive, and productive. He has the physical tools to play the game at a high level in the NFL and, assuming he checks out medically, should be drafted high.
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