When looking for a cornerback that will help your team, a prospect's mental makeup is almost as important as their physical skills. When you find a corner that possesses both elite mental and physical skills, you get a very special player. LSU's Patrick Peterson is one of those rare finds.
Peterson has elite speed, stating publicly that he will run a sub-4.3 forty yard dash at the NFL combine. Combine that with his excellent ball skills and you get quite the dynamic prospect. His size (6-foot-1" 220-pounds) is also a plus.
The former Tiger isn't perfect though, as there are a few things he can improve on. His diagnosis on routes is still improving, although his speed and change of direction has masked this so far in his career. He can also improve his technique on his backpedal, as some of the better NFL receivers may exploit him if he gets too high.
Asked about what he brings to an NFL team, Peterson told Scout.com; "I bring a winning mentality. I hate losing, I hate going down as the second man going into battle."
"I always want to be the first man on top. I can bring a lot of things to an NFL team. Whatever they need me to do I'm more than willing to do it. If they need me to catch punts, if they need me to guard a receiver or play safety, I can do anything. I can bring a lot to the table for any NFL team."
This confidence and emphasis on winning will serve him well in the NFL, especially since he will probably be drafted by a team that won four or five games last year. Peterson is expected to be drafted in the top 10 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Denver Broncos, picking second this spring, will be the first team to have to evaluate if Peterson fits their team. They may be without the services of Champ Bailey next year, and need to add youth and depth to their defensive backfield even if Bailey is retained.
Picking fifth overall, the Arizona Cardinals might be tempted to eschew drafting their next quarterback and go with a defensive player. Joining Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Peterson would add a second playmaker at corner.
The 49ers, at pick seven, would also be a potential landing spot. Nate Clements is a shell of his former self, but San Francisco does have other pressing needs. Coach Harbaugh will have a difficult decision to make this April if Peterson is still on the board.
The farthest that we could ever imagine Peterson falling is to the Detroit Lions, although Jim Schwartz and company will probably have to settle for one of the next four prospects. The New England Patriots, who are always in the market for good defensive backs, and the Baltimore Ravens are other teams that will be eyeing up these players.
Prince Amukamara of Nebraska is another elite corner that should be taken in the first half of the 2011 NFL Draft. He is fantastic in run support and a legit shutdown prospect in the passing game.
Colorado's Jimmy Smith is a big (6-foot-2, 200-pounds), athletic, physical corner that excels in press coverage. His length and awareness make it difficult to fit the ball in tight spaces. He will wow people at the combine, locking up First-Round pick status.
Brandon Harris from Miami is one of those guys that coaches love to have on their team. Full effort, coachable, prepared, Harris does all the little things to help his team win. He is an excellent tackler and good in both zone and man coverage.
Texas' Aaron Williams gets the last nod for us over guys like Johnny Patrick of Louisville and Brandon Burton of Utah. He is a very fluid athlete who could develop into a very special corner on the next level.
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James Christensen's scouting updates will appear here on PatriotsInsider.com throughout the year. James is the publisher of NEPatriotsDraft.com, an independent website dedicated to covering the NFL Draft and college prospects with professional potential.