Steelers will have lots of options if they want to draft a cornerback
February 24, 2015 12:00 AM
Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Washington defensive back Marcus Peters runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If the Steelers are searching for a cornerback in the early portions of the draft, there should be plenty from which to choose, including from a larcenous basketball point guard to a world-record broad-jumper.
It doesn’t really seem to matter that marquee cornerbacks are not in abundance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The closest to that is Michigan State’s Trae Waynes, who looks like Richard Sherman and runs like Randy Moss. He turned in the fastest 40-time for a defensive back Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and likely put himself out of reach of the Steelers with the 22nd overall pick.
But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert thinks there are any number of cornerbacks from the middle of the first round into the third or fourth rounds who can help NFL teams, especially a team that has allowed 27 passes of 40 yards or longer the past two seasons.
“I think there are NFL-caliber players that are going to be available through the first five rounds,” Colbert said. “Not everybody is going to be 6-foot-1 and [run a] 4.3. If you’re looking in that area and have a couple spots you want to fill, you better be open to the fact guys are available that can help your team.”
The Steelers certainly qualify as one of those teams with several spots to fill at cornerback.
And it is highly unlikely they will wait until the fifth round, as they did last year, to do it. In fact, there’s a good chance they could take one on the first round for the first time since they drafted Chad Scott in 1997.
Waynes is expected to be the first cornerback selected, especially after he ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash, the second-fastest time at the combine behind Alabama-Birmingham receiver J.J. Nelson.
After that, Washington’s troubled cornerback Marcus Peters heads a list of three or four corners who also could go in the lower half of the first round. Peters, though, carries a big red flag because he was kicked off the team his senior season after he did not get along with the new coaching staff.
Peters ran a 4.53 in the 40, but his biggest test came when he interviewed with NFL teams who had questions about his character.
“I made some immature decisions at the University of Washington, and it hurt me truly,” Peters said. “So, I’ve just got to learn from my mistakes and I grow from it.’’
Peters went back to campus several weeks ago and reconciled with coach Chris Petersen. He will be allowed to participate in Washington’s pro day and has been working out with former teammates Shaq Thompson and Danny Shelton, each of whom could also be No. 1 draft picks.
“He’s a great teammate,” Thompson said. “All he does is compete and work his butt off.”
“Marcus Peters is probably the most-dominating defensive back we've had in a while, [since] Desmond Trufant,” Shelton said. “He's had his own problems, we've all had our own problems. He's definitely working on it. He seems like a completely different guy.”
But there are other first-round candidates, including LSU’s Jalen Collins, who has the size (6-1, 203) the Steelers desire and has been working out with Ike Taylor at Tom Shaw’s performance camp in Orlando, Fla. Collins ran a 4.41 in the 40. Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest (4.52) and Florida State’s P.J. Williams (4.57) are other potential first-round prospects, but they could be hurt by their time in the 40.
The two most intriguing prospects could be Quentin Rollins of Miami, Ohio (5-11, 195), who spent the past four years playing basketball and finished second in school history with 214 steals; and Byron Jones of Connecticut, who broke not only the combine record with a broad jump of 12 feet, 3 inches Monday, but also the world record of 12-3 that has stood since 1968. Jones also had a vertical jump of 44½ inches, second best at the combine
Rollins went out for football in 2014 for the first time since high school and showed some of his larcenous basketball ability with seven interceptions and 16 passes defensed. He interviewed with Mike Tomlin and several members of the Steelers coaching staff Sunday.
“I just have a knack for the ball – a natural knack for the ball,” Rollins said. “I’ve always had that since I was a kid. Love getting steals, love getting interceptions. I was fortunate enough to be an offensive player in high school. so that’s where I get my ball skills from. It all translates.”
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.
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