With the draft quickly approaching, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has done everything he can to fill the holes of the Oakland defense.
Clearly, from McKenzie's actions, cornerback was a big hole. In the past two seasons, the Raiders have let former starters Nnamdi Asomugha, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson walk.
To fill those holes, McKenzie went out and signed Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer to short-term deals. Many expect these signings to be temporary band-aids while the younger Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa develop.
Both Van Dyke and Chekwa can be great cornerbacks, I believe this next cornerback I'm going to introduce can be even better.
Jamell Fleming from Oklahoma is a prospect who is exceptional when he's on, but still pretty darn good when he isn't. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Fleming officially timed a 4.53 40, but he looked must faster than that. Unofficially, he was clocked at 4.43. In addition to a solid 40-yard dash, the 5'11", 206-pound Fleming was second among cornerbacks in the bench press, at 23 reps.
But what exactly does all of this tell you? Well, without looking at the game tape, you can tell that Fleming should be a strong, physical corner who can match up against some of the bigger and more physical receivers in the league.
Now, if you do watch the game tape, Fleming satisfies everything that I went over—he is strong and physical, and has good ball skills. Against Texas A&M, Fleming faced off against the 6'4" and 220-pound Jeff Fuller. He was held to six catches for 54 yards.
Against a very productive Marvin McNutt, Fleming shined in the Insight Bowl by holding the 6'4" receiver to less than 50 yards on four receptions. In that game versus Iowa, Fleming showed his terrific ball skills by breaking up passes left and right, as well as recording an interception.
But sure, it's easy to sit back and point out the good games. Against Justin Blackmon, Fleming let up 10 receptions for 95 yards. Not a great game, but you have to respect him for keeping up with the best receiver in all of college.
Against Baylor, Fleming was embarrassed, as Kendall Wright torched the Sooners defense for 208 yards and a touchdown. Not a good game, but that is expected every once in a while.
Fleming exceeds in man-to-man defense, but is also a fit in a zone defense. Against the run, Fleming is a tough defender who hits hard and wraps up with good technique.
One potential red flag for GMs, however, was his two-semester suspension at Oklahoma for academic misconduct, but was reinstated before the season began. On the flip side, the fact that the All-Big 12 corner was well behaved the rest of the year could be seen as a plus and work out to his advantage.
Fleming's cover skills reminds me a lot of Alterraun Verner, a player I wrote about two years ago. Verner has since gone on to quietly become one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL today for the Tennessee Titans. And Fleming's tackling skills and physicality remind me of Cortland Finnegan.
With two young corners already on the Raiders roster, a move to safety is not out of the realm. He is a stronger hitter than Michael Huff, but not as polished in his technique. Fleming is a great cornerback prospect that the Raiders have to keep an eye on. Or else he will be shutting down Raiders receivers for the next 10 years.