Next year, 4 or 5 corners have a shot at being a first round pick. I actually haven't got any game film on Virginia's Ras-I-Dowling, but all of the others are really overrated. LSU corner Patrick Peterson just might be the most overrated player at any position in this year's draft class.
Peterson is one of the most physically gifted corners I have ever seen. He is really tall (6'1), he has a whole lot of bulk (maybe even too much at 212lbs), and he is extremely fast (4.42 40 yard dash). He is an extremely fluid athlete, and he possesses natural change of direction skills that allow him to cover even the best of route runners. He also is has extremely long arms that allow him to deflect a lot of passes. He also is a very good tackler and solid run stopper.
Peterson has natural ball skills. He has excellent hands, long arms and unbelievable athleticism that allows him to tip almost any pass that comes in his direction. He also possesses good upper body strength for ripping passes out of receivers hands.
In 2010, Peterson has done a great job of returning kicks and punts. It looks like, as a kick and punt returner he is near Josh Cribbs' level: 165 yards on 10 punt returns for an astounding 16.5 yards per return (3rd in the FBS of guys with 7 returns), and 151 yards on 5 returns for a great 30.2 yards per return (6th in the FBS of guys with 5 returns). It's a nice bit of versatility to his game.
Peterson plays with above average on field intensity. He is a somewhat physical tackler, he has solid strength, and he has decent mental toughness. But oddly, he showed up at LSU's spring practice this offseason at 222lbs. That is probably a little too much weight for a corner.
Peterson's main issue is a complete lack of cover skills. He possesses pretty bad route recognition skills. He is very bad at anticipating slants routes, and he frequently loses focus on his man. He often gives receivers too much of a cushion and he is very susceptible to being fooled by head fakes and breaks in routes.
I am sure many of my readers read the validity in "yards allowed," article I wrote in mid-December. If you are reading this and you haven't read that article, don't write me off quite yet. Read the article. The statistic appears valid, and it really makes Patrick Peterson look bad. I know people are going to doubt the statistic, and say that corners too often line up on one side of the field, but try to remember the fact that coaches are going to want a real dominant corner on a real dominant player. For example, if you are Urban Meyer (or, I guess Will Muschamp), and you are facing Georgia, you are going to want a corner as dominant as Janoris Jenkins matched up against A.J. Green as much as possible, and your second corner, sophomore Jeremy Brown, matched up against Green as little as possible. If you watched the Florida Georgia game closely, you would clearly see that Jenkins never leaves Green. He gets and interception off of him and holds him to a mere 42 yards, his worst game of the season. Without watching the game, should I even have to ask my readers if they are going to contest the idea that Jeremy Brown played a large role in stopping Green? I don't think so. It was clear that Jenkins was matched up against Green, and using that game in Jenkins' favor is completely valid. Now, if a coach has two corners that are practically interchangeable, such as Virginia's Ras-I Dowling and Chase Minnifield, then the statistic is invalid. Each corner will match up against the number one receiver at different parts of the game. But let's be honest; take the Alabama LSU game for example. Les Miles would eat grass before he let true sophomore Morris Claiborne line up against Julio Jones when he has Patrick Peterson on the roster (okay, that was a bad example). But still, there is no way he would let Claiborne line up against Jones if he can make Jones line up against Peterson. Julio Jones got 89 yards in the game. For the sake of proving my point, after I wrote this article, I watched the game. I used KC Joyner's sabermetrics of figuring how many yards Peterson allowed and how many yards he gave up per throw, and watched every ball Greg McElroy threw. Julio Jones had 6 of his 9 catches against Peterson (he had 10 catches on the game, but one was while Peterson was on the sideline, taking a one play breather), for 52 yards, and Peterson also allowed a 37 catch to Marquis Maze in the game (Technically, the catch didn't count. Peterson did a blatant pass interference on Maze, pulling his right arm around his back, and the officials ruled he made a one-handed catch, but when the play was reviewed, they ruled it wasn't a catch. Peterson still got a 15 yard pass interference penalty called against him, but at the NFL level, that's a 37 yard penalty. Considering I'm evaluating him for the NFL, I'm considering that a 37 yard catch). So let's add that up; 37 yards for Maze, 52 for Jones... that's 89 yards! Coincidentally, the exact number the stat counted against him. That stat isn't usually going to be that perfect, but I think it is good enough to be considered valid. Not only did he allow 89 yards, but McElroy also completed 7/9 passes he threw toward Peterson for those 89 yards (and one of the misses was a pretty bad throw to Jones). Peterson allowed 9.9 yards per ball thrown toward him. Greg McElroy got 9.35 yards per ball he threw on the season. His quarterback rating against Peterson? 144.9. His quarterback rating during the season? 114.2. Not good for Peterson. Miles did try to make sure that Peterson was lined up against Jones as much as possible. Jones still got yards. It was Peterson's fault that he did.
Peterson is consistently out of position in coverage. He lacks instincts, and sometimes it seems like he just doesn't know plays. He is usually overaggressive in coverage and he struggles to commit to his zone in pass plays and play actions. He also commits a whole lot of pass interference penalties after he gets beat.
Overall, when I think of Peterson, I think of a corner who can't cover. He really has a lot of flaws in his coverage skills that will hinder his production in the NFL. I really don't care how physically gifted he is; if he doesn't produce, he's worthless.
NFL Comparison: Carlos Rogers
Updated Scouting Report(s): Terrance Toliver