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The 2012 NFL Draft class has good depth at the cornerback position. Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins are getting all of the attention, but it will be seldom-mentioned Stephon Gilmore who impresses the most as a rookie.
Gilmore never wowed while playing in South Carolina. In three years he only accumulated eight interceptions. However, Gilmore's ideal size (6'1", 193 pounds) matched with his natural athleticism will allow him to transition to the NFL with relative ease.
Gilmore will fall to the second round because he does not possess the straight-line speed necessary to cover the deep routes. He also lacks the acceleration necessary to blanket receivers when playing in man coverage.
Gilmore is at his best when asked to play in underneath zone coverage. His lengthy build and jumping ability allow him to cover more ground than quarterbacks would initially assume. Gilmore has severe closing speed, which allows him to hit receivers with enough force to lodge the ball loose.
Gilmore will be picked in the top of the second round by a team like the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are in desperate need of a starting cornerback. He should see playing time early in his career and will earn kudos for his aggressive play against the run.
Expect Gilmore to establish himself as a starter by the end of his rookie season. If he plays in the right system, he could end the season with at least four interceptions and be in the running for defensive rookie of the year.