Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert is one of the most athletic cornerbacks in this year's class, and he proved why on Tuesday at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
The size-speed prospect put on a show in nearly every category. He may be the closest thing anyone's going to get in this year's class if teams are looking to copy that Seattle Seahawks blueprint (although Pete Carroll doesn't think that's possible).
Here's a complete rundown of his numbers at the combine:
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||Bench press||Vertical jump||Broad jump||3-cone drill|
|6'0"||202 pounds||33 1/8"||8 5/8"||4.37 *||20 reps *||35.5"||126"||6.92|
Source: NFL.com (* = top five at DB)
His 40-yard dash was the fastest official time of any defensive back.
With numbers like that, it's not a surprise that he caught the attention of plenty of folks on Twitter. Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller's has expressed his fondness for Gilbert for months now. The strong showing at the combine gave Miller just another reason to sing his praises:
For the new followers, my love of Justin Gilbert may become annoying to you. But he's a freak. Top 10 talent on my board.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 25, 2014
Gilbert may have positioned himself to be the top cornerback taken with his performance in Indianapolis. Headed into the combine, he was the second-ranked cornerback prospect by CBS Sports, but his elite athleticism was no secret even before he stepped onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday:
In terms of pure athleticism, Gilbert is the class of the 2014 draft. He possesses remarkably light feet, allowing him to quickly drop in his backpedal while keeping his eyes trained on his receiver (and also sneaking a peek on the quarterback). The depth gained allows him to be patient when flipping his hips to turn and run downfield or plant and explode in either direction as receivers attempt to cross in front of him.
He has the speed to run downfield with receivers, and combined with his change-of-direction ability, he closes off a lot of space in zone coverage.
It's not just his speed, but the size he pairs with it. Those long arms have been a weapon of his in press coverage, which contributes to his upside—although he can sometimes be too aggressive, which will make him an easy target for penalty flags in the NFL. If he can be taught to use them both wisely and effectively, he has the potential to be a lockdown press corner.
The key word there is "potential." Mike Loyko of NEPatriotsDraft.com points out that while the top-notch athleticism is there, so are the holes in his game.
Justin Gilbert runs 4.35 .. he's got a high ceiling, but has a few flaws in his coverage skills right now— Mike Loyko (@NEPD_Loyko) February 25, 2014
Loyko adds that Gilbert is "not close to the cover corner that [Michigan State cornerback Darqueze] Dennard is." CBS Sports also considers Gilbert to be behind Dennard, ranking the Oklahoma State prospect as its second-best cornerback in the draft:
Gilbert can be physical and tough in press coverage, but his technique and footwork are inconsistent. He is too grabby in tight coverage, and his contact downfield will easily attract penalties at the next level. Gilbert can get himself in trouble when biting on fakes and pumps as he's highly aggressive.
But that's not all he needs to work on. For someone of his supreme athleticism, he doesn't always do the best job of putting it to full use, specifically against the run, where NFL.com's scouting report indicates he "is content letting others arrive first at the scene" and "can do a better job discarding blockers—a bit soft-tempered."
His performance at the combine solidified what we knew about Gilbert: He's a physical specimen. If a team can push the right buttons to keep him motivated, that athleticism will shine through.