Finding long, fast cornerbacks a tall order
INDIANAPOLIS - The NFL is a copycat league. So, given the fact that the Seattle Seahawks won a Super Bowl with big, fast, physical corners, everybody's going to run out and get big, fast, physical corners. Right, Pete Carroll?
"No, because they don't exist," the Seahawks coach said. "Big, fast guys are the fewest people around. Everybody would like to get longer, taller guys that run 4.4, but there just aren't many humans like that in the world."
Carroll is fortunate enough to have two of them - 6-3, 195-pound Richard Sherman and 6-4, 221-pound Brandon Browner.
"We've been doing it for a long time and always have been looking for longer guys because we've had such a commitment to bump-and-run press corners," he said. "This goes back 20 years. It's not new to us. But it's rare that you can find them.
"When we had Brandon and Richard playing, you can't get any longer than that. They were the two tallest corners playing together, arguably, in the history of the league."
Thirty-nine cornerbacks have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Only three of them - Keith McGill of Utah, Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska and Dontae Johnson of North Carolina State - are 6-2 or taller. McGill and Jean-Baptiste are 6-3. Johnson is 6-2.
None of the three has a ton of cornerback experience. McGill is a former safety who was switched to corner last season. Jean-Baptiste is a former wide receiver. Johnson, a college teammate of Eagles safety Earl Wolff, played linebacker and safety at North Carolina State before being moved outside.
But because of their unique measurables, they're getting long looks from NFL teams. Both McGill and Johnson said they were interviewed by the Eagles at the combine.
"I feel my length, I can use it to the best of my abilities," Johnson said. "And with my abilities, I'm able to make plays on the ball that a typical 5-11 corner can't make.
"The game is transitioning to tall corners. I feel like my length is going to help me, and my versatility is going to help, as well."
Johnson said he is hoping to run "in the low 4.4s" this week. McGill said he's hoping to "raise some eyebrows."
"Everybody thinks I'm going to run 4.5 to 4.7," he said.
McGill wasn't thrilled when his coaches at Utah moved him from safety to corner. Said he still isn't totally comfortable outside.
"I've only played there 1 year," he said. "I'm able to play corner. But I feel like a lot of these guys [at the combine] have 3 to 4 years in college over me.
"I've been able to play it successfully. But I'm still working on the things in my toolbox that I need to improve on."
McGill did get a lot of experience playing press-man coverage last season since Utah played it almost exclusively.
"I don't know how many other corners in the draft that can say that," he said. "But our No. 1 call was nickel man. I've gone against Brandin Cooks [of Oregon State], who ran a 4.3 [at the combine], and Paul Richardson [of Colorado], who ran a 4.40. And I was really successful against those guys.
"Having played the position for only 1 year, I have a lot to improve on. Some teams tell me that's a good thing because I'm raw at corner.
"I'm not going to be going into an organization with a mindset that this is the way I'm going to do it, this is the way it's going to be done. I'm going into an organization trying to get better."
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