I’m sure by now you’ve heard that the Buccaneers are probably going to take a corner with the 5th overall pick in this upcoming NFL draft, which starts on April 26. And you’ve also heard this name floating around: Morris Claiborne. So, if you’re not familiar with this name, my goal is to introduce you to Morris Claiborne, cornerback from Louisiana State University.
Floyd Reese, the former GM of the Tennessee Titans, once stated that “the optimum height is about 5-11,” referring to the height for a cornerback in the NFL. Morris Claiborne fits the bill because he’s listed as 5’11”, 188 pounds. Reese contended that taller cornerbacks don’t normally make it in the NFL because they “tend to get hurt.” Claiborne is the top corner in the upcoming draft and here’s why:
Man Coverage: Claiborne is solid in man coverage mainly because of his quick feet. Moreover, Claiborne’s reach also allows him to press on the line, and he rarely gets behind when pressing because of that reach and those quick feet. However, he can be lazy at times, allowing the opposing receivers to throw a quick move on him. Many NFL receivers, such as Larry Fitzgerland and Calvin Johnson Jr. will have a significant height and weight advantage. Fitzgerland outweighs Claiborne by about 30 pounds.
Zone Coverage: I’ve noticed that Claiborne is a solid tackler, and that he doesn’t give up many yards after the catch, which is big in the NFL. The Buccaneers struggled immensely with tackling last season. Claiborne also doesn’t shy away from the contact, but at times takes bad angles. However, these are all things that can be worked on, of course. In the zone, many good quarterbacks will find the soft spot between the corner and the safety. Often times, Claiborne overestimates his closing speed and the receiver and quarterback will find that soft spot for an easy completion.
Intangibles: Morris Claiborne was a former receiver so he has good hands. However, he’s still learning the corner position. He might be overwhelmed at first in the NFL, but generally he’s got a tenacious, hard-working attitude. He’s got relatively good size for a corner, and long arms, which will help him with tackling, defending passes, and blitzing. Claiborne’s also good at shedding the blocker on running plays, so expect to see him in the backfield often. Claiborne’s skill set is rather similar to Patrick Peterson’s. His coverage skills might be comparable to those of Vontae Davis of the Miami Dolphins.
Final Word: The Minnesota Vikings have expressed their interest in drafting Claiborne with the 3rd overall pick. This just goes to show how teams have come to value corners in this new, pass-heavy NFL. The Pewter Plank reported yesterday that Ronde Barber will return for a 16th season, which is another reason why the Buccaneers may draft him. Barber could be an excellent mentor for Claiborne, someone that he can really learn from. Moreover, Aqib Talib’s status is still unknown, and adding Claiborne will give the Buccaneers at least two starting corners. One thing is for sure, the corner out of LSU will be heavily pursued by at least three teams come draft time.