All of the pre-draft attention has gone to guys like Morris Claiborne and Stephon Gilmore, but there is a lot of talent at the cornerback position at the back end of the draft that could make major contributions to a lot of teams.
One of the biggest sleepers in a deep draft for corners is Shaun Prater. In some drafts, Prater could go as early as the third round, but the heavy competition at corner pushes Prater, along with several other quality players, down draft boards.
In the end, it does not matter where a player is drafted; how a player translates to the professional game is what will determine whether or not he enjoys a successful career or not.
Here is why Shaun Prater has the makeup of an ideal NFL cornerback.
No matter how technically sound a prospect may be, the odds will always be stacked against him if he cannot match up with the physical specimens that lace NFL rosters.
Prater made his way to the starting lineup at Iowa through special teams, where raw sped and athleticism is coveted.
If he finds himself out of position, he can quickly recover with his speed. He also uses his unique athleticism to make plays on the ball from awkward positions.
This is where Prater is at his best. Good zone covers need to be able to have good instincts and recognition to diagnose routes along with the burst and explosion to act on their reads.
Prater's game contains all of those attributes.
These skills are particularly important to develop before heading to the professional ranks, simply because they are difficult, if not impossible, to teach. Players develop their instincts with time, which is a commodity in rare supply in the NFL.
In today's NFL, corners need to be versatile in terms of what kinds of coverage they can play. Although he excels in zone concepts, Prater has enough ability to play in man coverage at the next level.
While he does tend to get fooled with double moves, he has great hip fluidity that allows him to turn and run with defenders.
With some coaching and experience, Shaun can develop a sense for when and when not to bite on the double move.
Prater is projected to be selected sometime around the fifth round. Players selected later in the draft do not usually start right away and have to find a way to contribute on special teams if they want to maximize their value to a team.
It was his special teams play at Iowa that earned him a starting role and thus a ticket into the NFL.
While Prater has excelled as a corner at Iowa, he is an even more dominant gunner. Whoever drafts him will certainly have his special teams ability in mind.
Shaun's versatility will help him greatly extend his NFL career. .
Far too often we have seen quality NFL talent wasted away because a player does not have their priorities set in order.
This is certainly not the case with Shaun Prater.
By all accounts, Shaun is a dedicated and energetic presence that would be a welcome addition to a locker room. The fact that he had to earn his spot on the Iowa defense through special teams means that he will enter the NFL with a humble attitude, knowing that he will have to earn everything he is going to get.