Raider Corners and the 2010 NFL Draft

2010 NFL Combine - Day Four

Nnamdi Asomugha is a big time player in every sense of the term. There is no doubt in my mind that his play is worth every penny Al Davis is paying him. And for proof you need only look at the Asomugha highlight reel below from when teams actually threw in his direction.

Look at how long his limbs are, how fluid his motions, look at how his strength allows him to hit people, and finally look at how fast he is. It is pretty easy to see why NFL quarterbacks only threw in his direction 27 times last season. That’s well under two times per game.

He is smart and he is a Good Samaritan. He speaks his mind in every press conference or interview, and he is a model citizen for the Oakland community. Nnamdi Asomugha should not be trade bait. Why anybody would trade him is beyond me.Really, he brought these trade rumors upon himself by saying he wanted to play with Jets DB Darrelle Revis.

Heck, I’d like to see him play with Revis too, except on the Raiders instead of the Jets.

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It was pretty much assumed by certain people that Nnamdi was serious about a desire to play for the Jets. But, Nnamdi has publicly said that he is a Raider and he wants to stay a Raider. I don’t recall him ever even saying he wanted to get traded to the Jets. It would have to be a heck of a trade to get him anyway, as he is one of the best players in the entire league– let alone the Raiders.

On the other side of the pass defense Chris Johnson has had his moments as an Oakland Raider cornerback– coming up with six interceptions in his first 23 games as a starter. At 6’1” and 200 pounds you’d think he is the perfect size to play the man-to-man scheme. It may take him some time, but Johnson definitely has the potential to be a great man-to-man corner. Trouble is, since Nnamdi only had 27 passes thrown at him, Johnson has to be able toplay ata much higherlevel than most other corners in the league.

>So far, Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance. Right now, I’d say that he would be a fantastic third cornerback in the nickel packages, but I’m not yet convinced that he has the skill set to play opposite Nnamdi. But at the same time, compared to Asomugha, most corners would look to lack all a superior skill set.

Stanford Routt also suffers from Nnamdi comparisons.But he also suffers from his ownsemi-reckless style of play, where penalties come often and good plays are harder to come by.ManyRaider fans think Stanford Routt still has great potential.And obviously theRaiders agree. Afterall, they did give him the highest tender available, a first and third round draft choice, so they want to keep him in Oakland.

Routt has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with Raider fans…but mostly it’s simplydislike. Heseems to cause more problems than he is worth during the games, but he has that speed and size that the Raiders crave. At 6’1” 195 pounds, you can see a trend developing with the Raiders’ cornerbacks. All of whom aretall, long-limbed, and very fast. It’s not a bad formula, but the guys who are of this breed are hard to come by, especially guys with the talent to go with it.

The dearth of corners that meet this criteria has the Raiders lacking depth at the position, and you can safely assume it will be a position ofemphasis in the draft. How muchemphasis is going to be the question the Raiders have yet to answer. Chris Johnson and Nnamdi Asomugha both signed new deals last year, and clearly the Raiders see something in Stanford Routt that the average Joemay not see.

Based on that, my assessment is that the Raiders will look fora cornerin the third round or later.Someone who can come in and compete to be the nickel package guy or compete with John Bowie and Jonathan Holland for the dime packages.

When I first set out to do this series of Raiders draft needs, I wanted to focus primarily on guys who could potentially go in the first round at different positions. This particular position is a little different though, as I really cannot see thecorner back positionbeing one of the primary needs for Oakland at this time. Based on that assumption, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the highest rated CB’s in the draft, Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson, will be gone by the time the Raiders pick their new CB.

That being said, I’ve decided to focus on some lower tier cornerbacks.

One guy who I’ve been particularly high on this entire off-season is a guy whose name actually means “Born on Sunday.” I’m speaking of Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. He might ultimately be the “Ansah” to the question: “Is anybody good enough to play opposite of Asomugha?”

Akwasi is 6’0”,207 pounds and ran a 4.33 forty yard dash at the Ohio State pro-day. He has tremendous potential; however, it is hard to really get an accurate assessment of his skill set being that he playing for Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania. One thing that should draw Al Davis’ wondering eye is the long limbs attached to Owusu-Ansah.

Another quality that could draw Davis’ eye is Owusu-Ansah’s kick returner abilities. During his career, he recorded seven touchdowns inthe return game for his school. I don’t think it’s a greatcorner class this year, and the fact that the Raiders play predominately man coverage means thattheymust have a guy who can be physical at the line of scrimmage.

Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the right guy to fit your scheme, and Owusu-Ansah could be that diamond in the rough from this year’s class. NFL.com analyzed his strengths:

Owusu-Ansah has tremendous size for a corner and long arms which allow him to play even taller than his listed height. Has impressive ball skills, enhanced by his height/long arms, and can high point the football to come down with a tough interception. A strong defensive back who helps out in run support and wraps up well. Very athletic prospect with upside, Production player who received multiple accolades at the Division II level. Can contribute as a return specialist.

Another good option would be Wake Forest Cornerback Brandon Ghee.Heput on a good show at the NFL combine in Indianapolis; running a 4.4 forty yard dash and posting an impressive vertical jump of 37”. Standing 6’0” an weighing in at 192 pounds, he seems to fit the Davis criteria. And he too has got those long-limbs.

Frank Cooney from the Sports Xchange said, “Ghee seemed to be better against bigger receivers and struggle against smaller/quicker ones. He seemed to be more concerned with making the WOW hit than grabbing the interception. His production doesn’t seem to match his physical ability.”

Ghee is very good in run support, but there is some concern that his instincts are not up to par to make an immediate impact on an NFL club his rookie season. He is great at getting his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage to re-route them, but struggles in coverage after that point; often allowing his receiver to get separation down field.

Ghee has an upside if he canjoin a clubwith a dominant guy like Nnamdi Asomugha who can show him how to get his pads lower, how to study for his opponents, and how to wrap up and make more sure tackles. He’d be a great pick if he was there early on in the third round as a project cornerback.

A.J. Jefferson of Fresno State was a combine standout this year. He was thought to be a 5th-7th round talent untilhe lit up the competition at the NFL combine. His 44” vertical jump was the second highest since 2000. At 6’0” and 193 pounds, with his long limbs, he too fits the Al Davis mold. He is also a California guy which has proven to be an overlooked factor in drafted Raiders.

His attributes: Led all combine athletes in vertical jump, 20 yard shuttle, and 60 yard shuttle. He was third among cornerbacks in the 3-cone-drill and with his 10’6” board jump. Jefferson ran a 4.42 forty yard dash, so he has that Raider speed.

His downside might be his lack of time as a starter. He is said to lack the technique of an NFL cornerback. He doesn’t havea smooth back pedal and tends to give too much cushion in off-man coverage. Good news for him is that Oakland plays about 80 percent man coverage, which means he could make a bigger impact in Oakland than most other teams. He has good range, but he lacks the ability to quickly diagnose plays.

He is not afraid of contact with running backs at the line of scrimmage, but he may not have the size to take on some of the NFL’s bigger halfbacks. He likes to use his 32 ½ inch arms to jam receivers at the line and throw them off their routes. He is also an effective return man whoreturned three kicks for scores while playing for the Bulldogs.

So there you have it, three under the radar coverage cornerbacks who fit the Raiders mold and could go at any point after the third round of the draft. Not to say there isn’t more than that, or that the Raiders won’t reach out for another Ohio University guy early like Thad Turner who they could get with their supplemental 7th round pick. I just think any one of these three guys would look great in Silver and Black in 2010.

ALSO SEE: Raider Line Backers and the 2010 NFL Draft

– Bret Armstrong, TFDS Guest Contributor

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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