South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore was one of the most ascendant talents in the postseason leading up to the draft. A solidly-built 6'0" 190-pound corner who can run a 4.4 40 and display elite quickness and explosiveness is a rare player indeed.
Gilmore started for the Gamecocks as a true freshman and improved greatly in each of his three years playing in the toughest conference in college football.
Gilmore's scouting reports focus on his elite physical gifts and need for more polish.
Pros: Gilmore has exceptional speed and can run with top wide receivers. He covers a lot of ground in zone coverage. As a three-year starter, he has learned to diagnose plays when he is in a short zone, and will sit in a spot on the field and wait for an easy interception or pass breakup. Gilmore gambles and guesses sometimes when jumping routes. That can be good or bad, of course, but Gilmore picks his spots fairly well when he gambles.
Cons: Gilmore's man coverage technique is very raw. His footwork is not great, and he will lose his receiver at the top of the route. When playing off the receiver, he gets caught flat-footed when the receiver breaks. Gilmore is a long, lean defender who will always have trouble with compact, nifty receivers. In deep zones, he sometimes relies on his pure speed to bail him out when he did not take proper position against a route combination.
Exhibits good straight-line speed for his size (played like a mid 4.4 guy) and made it tough on defenders to separate vertically. Doesn't feel the routes of receivers overly well, at times he gives up far too much cushion underneath and struggles to get back out of his breaks. Needs to do a better job being more patient in his drop, sitting lower and staying more compact with his footwork. However, he is the kind of athlete that can improve in this area. He showcases natural bend, quickness and fluidity to his game. When he does set his feet, showcases a good closing burst on the football. Does a nice job reading the action in front of him and getting early jumps on the ball. However, doesn't always trust what he sees when asked to close and can get a bit tentative at times.
Gilmore should at least fit in nickel and dime packages right away, and his physical advantages can hide his inexperience if a team chooses to throw him in the fire in as a zone corner. He will be drafted as a long-term starter and should run with the first team by the end of his rookie season.
If he can improve his technique and hone his instincts, Gilmore will be one of the best cornerbacks in all of football.
Analysis: Gilmore is a physical player who will be asked to step in and start immediately for an improving Bills defensive unit. The team will still struggle offensively as the roster stands, but can stay in games with the type of lockdown coverage that Gilmore can supply.