A deep group of underclassmen DBs

There are no elite Eric Berry-type prospects expected to enter the 2011 draft class, but what we have is a deep, athletic group of players at both safety and cornerback who have the skill sets needed to mature into talented high draft picks by next April. Today, the National Football Post takes a look at the nation’s top underclassman DBs and breaks down their games going into the 2010 season.

Cornerbacks

Patrick Peterson, LSU (6-1, 211)
Possesses a tall, well-built frame and has the length to really bother and disrupt wide receivers off the line. Is a gifted athlete for his size with the initial burst and balance to quickly change directions and click and close on the football underneath. Is at his best when he can get his hands on receivers and use his length and physicality to make it tough for them to fight their way out of their breaks. Showcases impressive leaping ability down the field and looks natural when asked to turn and track the ball. Does a nice job using his big frame to box receivers away from the ball and loves to attack the throw at the highest point.

Peterson, however, isn’t a real savvy cornerback at this stage. He struggles with his overall feel in zone coverage and is susceptible to any kind of double-move down the field. Although he can be physical off the line, he lacks overall polish and consistently struggles to keep his feet under him, allowing himself to get too high and too jerky in his back-pedal at this stage. Now, the physical and athletic skill sets are there for this guy to be as good as he wants to be. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in his overall footwork and technique, which will ultimately determine how good a player he can be at the next level.

Brandon Harris, Miami (5-11, 195)
Displays impressive balance and footwork in his drop and does a great job quickly locating the ball when asked to turn and run down the field. Gets up to speed instantly out of his breaks and might well end up being the best cornerback in the country in 2010.

Aaron Williams, Texas (6-1, 192)
A long, lean corner with good body control and flexibility when asked to change directions and redirect. Possesses the type of natural explosion needed to go up and make plays on the throw and displays the ball skills to consistently come down with the grab.

Janoris Jenkins, Florida (5-11, 186)
He isn’t the biggest or fastest defensive back in the land, but I love the guy’s physicality off the line. He makes it tough for opposing wideouts to create separation from him once he gets his hands on them.

Safeties

Mark Barron, Alabama (6-2, 210)
A physical, strapped-together strong safety who possesses an impressive blend of size and speed. Loves to attack downhill and generates a ton of force as a tackler, snapping his hips on contact and really wrapping up and bring his legs through the ball carrier. Showcases good straight-line speed and overall range in the secondary for his size and does a nice job quickly locating the football. At 6-2, 210, he struggles to break down at times and will get leggy when trying to redirect, but he has the makings of a physical starting strong safety at the next level because of his power, ball skills and instincts.

Tyler Sash, Iowa (6-1, 210)
A ballhawk in every sense of the word. Is at his best when asked to play in the deep half, key and diagnose and make plays sideline to sideline. Consistently is able to get good jumps on the football and possesses the range and ball skills to routinely come down with the throw. Exhibits a sixth sense and always seem to be around the action in the pass game. Is a better lateral athlete than given credit for, which allows him to cleanly change directions and get up to speed quickly. Lacks great straight-line speed, but because of his instincts and fluidity, he plays a bit faster than he times. Possesses a nice-sized frame and breaks down well on contact, but isn’t a real physical striker. He’s more of a drag-down guy who doesn’t exhibit much pop at the point. Still, he has the ability to create turnovers from the deep half vs. the pass game and definitely has starting capabilities as a strong safety-type.

Rahim Moore, UCLA (6-1, 200)
A smart, engaging young man who has a real dedication to the game. Led the nation in interceptions last season with 10 and possesses the kind of range to make plays sideline to sideline vs. the pass game. Deciphers information quickly and seems to consistently get good jumps on the ball. Has done a nice job the past two offseasons adding more girth and power to his overall frame but is still more of a last-line defender at this stage than a downhill guy. It will be interesting to see if he becomes a more physical presence as a junior in 2010.

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