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Morris Claiborne

April 27, 2012

I understand those that are saying the Cowboys lack depth and shouldn’t be trading up in the draft. I understand those that look at the Cowboys depth chart at cornerback with Carr, Jenkins, and Scandrick already on it and say that cornerback wasn’t a need. I understand those who say pass rushers are more important than cornerbacks and Spencer could have been replaced at #14 with Ingram, McClellen, Mercilus or whoever it is they fancied. I understand all of those things but to me the Cowboys absolutely aced the first round as Morris Claiborne was universally regarded as one of the 6 best players in this draft and finally gives them the playmaker they’ve been looking for. The key word to that sentence is playmaker as they’ve had good cornerbacks at times yet not since Deion Sanders have they had a legit ball hawk in the secondary. That can be seen by the fact that the Cowboys are one of 10 franchises to not have a player with 6 or more interceptions in a season anytime the past 4 years. Looking at the other franchises on the list you can see that this isn’t a list you want to be on (Lions, Vikings, Rams, Panthers, Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Texans, Jags, Colts) and reinforces the fact that success in the NFL is all about turnover differential. I’ve read a lot of stuff about Claiborne that just isn’t true as he isn’t an elite athlete, doesn’t have great quickness, and isn’t an extremely tough player but he is a playmaker who has elite ball skills and some of the longest arms you’ll ever see on a cornerback. He can play man or zone, he can cover bigger possession receivers or smaller speed receivers, and he will immediately increase a team’s interception totals as his hands, timing, and instincts all are elite. He reminds me, production wise, of Asante Samuel as he will be in the mix to lead the league in interceptions but also will give up more big plays than would be preferred for an elite cornerback. Some teams would probably prefer the taller, faster, tougher Patrick Peterson who will get beat less often but I think Claiborne is actually the better fit for the Cowboys as the team is a -5 in the turnover differential the past four years combined and it’s a big reason why they’ve only won 1 playoff game in that stretch. Claiborne finally gives the team a playmaker in the secondary and I think his impact will be noticeable even in his rookie year. Finally the last thing I want to point to as a positive for moving up for a top level player like Claiborne is the new rookie wage scale and the impact it can have on a team’s salary cap. In 2009 the #6 pick signed for 6 years and $42 million ($7 mil a year) and in 2010 the #6 pick signed for 6 years and $48.5 million ($8 mil a year). In 2011 under the new rookie wage scale the #6 pick signed for only 4 years and $16.2 million ($4 mil a year) and Claiborne should be expected to sign for a similar amount. Now the talent year to year at the #6 pick fluctuates a bit but pretty much every year a team is expecting to get a Pro Bowl caliber player at that spot yet now a team can sign that player to a below market value contract. Keep in mind that two good but hardly great young cornerbacks (Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan) signed 5 year $50 million deals so to get Claiborne on a 4 year $16 mil deal could soon look like an absolute steal. That’s also something to remember when Mike Jenkins hits free agency next year and signs a 5 year $35 mil deal or something in that ballpark as Claiborne’s rookie deal isn’t just dwarfed by top level CBs like Nnamdi Asomugha (5yr $60 mil) but even by #3 cornerbacks like Orlando Scandrick (5yr $27.5 mil) who will be his backup this season. Claiborne is an elite playmaker who plays a premium position and will be an absolute bargain for the Cowboys the next 4 years. He’s well worth their 2nd round pick they used to move up for him and I think it’s one of the best 1st round picks that I’ve ever seen Jerry Jones make.

Below is his full bio for Cowboys fans:

Morris Claiborne LSU #17 5’11 1/8 188 Jr.

Comparison: Less physical, talented Darrelle Revis

Background: 1st team SEC and All American in 2011. 2011 Thorpe Award winner. 2011 SEC DPOY.

Stats: SEC

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

PBU

INT

TD

2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2011

51

0

1

0

6

6

1

2010

37

0

1

0

6

5

0

2009

7

0

0

0

0

0

0

Combine: Very long player who is a bit of a long strider which I’m not a fan of but doesn’t seem to affect him terribly b/c of his elite technique. Had the longest arms of all 58 DBs. Former WR and QB. Solid in backpedal, turn and run drill. Best yet in drill with good smooth turns (under control) then a great jumping catch on backpedalling corner route drill-as good as you will see. Smooth in turn and had big, soft hands again onhigh point on backpedalling corner route drill. Okay in turn (went really slow) but nice hands again on flat route drill. Dropped ball that was a bit high in multi catch drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

1 yr %

 

5111

188

33.25

4.5

 

34.5

910

4.12

7.01

68.6

 

Notes: Had 5 ints in 2010 as the starting CB opposite Patrick Peterson. In the ’10 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas A&M allowed 12 yd in vs. Nwachukwu (14:12 1st). Is the KR at times for them in the 2011 season. In the 2011 Oregon game allowed a 14 yd catch on 3rd and 12 though he was right next to the WR and tackled him immediately (5:52 1st), had a solid 29 yd KR (3:51 1st), allowed 12 yd curl but popped WR Lavasier Tuinei really hard (8:45 2nd), and missed De’Anthony Thomas on 6 yd turn around in open space allowing another 8 yards (10:48 4th). In the 2011 Mississippi St. game had an absolutely incredible int running stride for stride with WR on post play and catching the ball with his fingertips over his head for the best int I’ve seen so far in the 2011 season (11:35 3rd), perfect coverage on WR Arceto Clark for pbu on 5 yd in (9:32 4th), perfect coverage cutting WR off route to be in position for his 2nd int of the night (5:10 4th). In the 2011 West Virginia game he had a tough early going getting a personal foul after getting beat up in run blocking by feisty WR Stedman Bailey due to his retaliatory push then giving up a 20 yd TD to the same WR when he missed a tackle in space on a quick hitch move. Redeemed himself big time later in game with 99 yd KR for a TD showing outstanding straight line speed though only average quickness as he ran into blocker and stopped, somehow not getting tackled. Later again allowed 10 yd to Bailey and again missed tackle in the flat on a quick move allowing YAC as he was burned all day by the kid. In the 2011 Florida game he allowed 65 yd TD to WR Andre Debose on 9 route where he was a step behind him and tried to force him out of bounds but then tripped himself allowing walk in TD (0:45 3rd). In the 2011 Arkansas game he was beat by Joe Adams easily on +15 yd out getting saved by S Tyrann Mathieu, had an elite INT though on 9 route jump ball vs. WR Jarius Wright jumping and highpointing it over him showing off his elite ball skills and height (11:00 4th). In the 2011 Georgia game (SEC Championship) he had perfect coverage on 9 route vs. WR Tavarres King nearly getting INT but it dropping as he hit the ground (3:55 2nd), allowed 7 yd slant to King on 3rd and 7, perfect coverage on post vs. WR Marlon Brown setting up for INT on ball that he was in best position for yet again it dropped off his hands! (5:14 4th), perfect coverage on curl vs. Mitchell showing his great ball skills (unlike earlier in the game) not just getting the INT but jumping and extended catching it then racing 45 yds for the pick 6 cutting back against the grain to avoid QB (4:30 4th). In the 2011Alabama game #1 he had a great INT jumping short out and returning it +10 yds to get team FG. In the 2011 Alabama game #2 he had good tackle on RB Trent Richardson in flat not getting juked. I had him just outside the top 5 much of the year due to his lack of elite speed, evident on film and at the combine, yet his combine performance put him over the top and barely gets him in the top 5 as he showed ridiculously long arms (33 ¼), solid speed (4.50), better hips than I expected looking smooth in his backpedal. Add to that his good height (5’11 1/8) and his elite ball skills (11 ints the past two years) which I already knew about and I’m comfortable giving him a top 5 grade 3/1/12.

Tape: 2011: Oregon, Mississippi St., Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama 1, Alabama 2

Overall: Claiborne is a guy I’ve known well the past 2 years but had to grown on me a bit as I didn’t see the elite straight line speed or quickness I prefer in my CBs. Eventually though he won me over with his elite technique, good height, and elite ball skills as he really understands how to play the position and (being a former WR) reads routes well. He is clearly inferior to Darrelle Revis as a player due to his inferior speed (4.50 vs. 4.38), weight (188 vs. 204), explosion (9’10 broad vs. 10’5), and quickness (7.01 3 cone vs. 6.56) yet he reminds me a lot of him as they are great at reading a WR’s routes and reacting to it often times running the route better than the offensive player. Claiborne won’t be the shutdown CB Revis is as he struggles against quick, fast types as seen in his poor game against Stedman Bailey of West Virginia and the 65 yd TD given up to Andre Debose. Yet Claiborne will be a big time playmaker for a team as he has 11 INTs the past two years and not only didn’t cave under the pressure of playing opposite the best CB each of the past two years (Peterson, Mathieu) but thrived with the increased opportunities it provided. He has Pro Bowler written all over him as he should get 5-8 INTs each year but will also have an occasional bad game, unlike Revis. It took me awhile to get comfortable with his mediocre athleticism but I’m finally there and am giving him a top 5 grade as my #1 CB 3/7/12.

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