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2012 NFL Draft: Setting Expectations for Dallas Cowboys' Morris Claiborne

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Morris Claiborne from LSU holds up a jersey as he stands on stage after he was selected #6 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Tom FirmeAnalyst IIApril 30, 2012

Often, it's easy to get excited about how a player will perform after he's been drafted. Some players live up to the draft hype, while others don't. The Dallas Cowboys have drafted players who didn't live up to the draft hype, such as Sherman Williams and Julius Jones. While many are biting on Morris Claiborne draft talk, one would be wise to look at real expectations.

To look at what Claiborne could do and what he will do at the very least, while drawing some outline for what he can accomplish, would help Cowboys fans figure out what kind of player he could be.

 

Claiborne's Floor

At the very least, Claiborne can be a pretty reliable cornerback. He has the skills to be successful. His awareness is sharp. He's tough enough to challenge good receivers, although a cautious observer wouldn't tell him to take on Calvin Johnson early on unless he's confident he can do it.

Speaking of whom, Claiborne just might have trouble against big receivers since he's only 5'11". He'll have to be careful against big, fast receivers because he sometimes misjudges his closing speed.

Claiborne will use his strong ball skills to deflect passes and maybe get a few interceptions.

The Cowboys can count on Claiborne being a day-one starter. He'll be a presence in NFL secondaries for at least 10 years, as long as he can stay healthy.

 

Claiborne's Ceiling

The sky's the limit for Claiborne. As his CBSSportscom profile mentions, the term "shutdown" is often used to describe him. That term isn't a sure take on anyone in today's NFL, when rules favor high-scoring passing offenses and speed is valued a bit more than actual coverage skills.

Still, Claiborne could be an elite cornerback. He has the tools to be a Pro Bowler, or even an All-Pro player. His ball skills, as mentioned above, are solid, and he could have five- or six-interception seasons. He can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, despite his small stature.

He's quick and knows how to use his arms while contending for the ball.

Also, he's good at defending the run, another thing Rob Ryan will surely like about him.

As far as coverage goes, Ryan won't be afraid to put him against the best receivers once he knows what Claiborne is capable of doing. Claiborne shouldn't have too much of a problem once he's up to NFL speed.

 

Conclusion: Claiborne Is a Solid Match for the Cowboys

One can't fault Jerry Jones at all for trading up to draft Claiborne. The Cowboys addressed a major concern by roping in the best cornerback in the draft. Not getting anyone in the second round might be all right with the acquisition of Claiborne because he's that good.

Claiborne could make a solid pairing with Brandon Carr as the starting cornerbacks. Also, as long as Mike Jenkins hangs around and stays healthy, the Cowboys could have a good three-deep set. After all, someone will be needed to give these two tremendous cover guys relief.

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