Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (HT: 6’0⅛”; WT: 202 lbs)
First Round: Eighth Pick
NFL Comparison: Johnathan Joseph, CB, Houston Texans
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+ Excellent size and arm length force difficult throws
+ Great linear speed with translatable skills for the position
+ Excels in man coverage, rarely needing safety help
+ Played his best against top competition
+ Excellent returner throughout his career
+ Experience playing boundary corner will help him contribute immediately
- Heavy feet cause him to waste movement on comeback and curl routes
- Doesn’t give any effort in run support
- Performs poorly in zone coverage due to instincts and recognition skills
Gilbert is a good athlete with impressive top-end speed, acceleration and length. He has experience returning punts and kickoffs, showing great vision with the ball in his hands. He displays an impressive vertical jump when making plays on the ball in the air.
Gilbert has only one minor incident on his resume, which occurred when he was ejected for throwing a punch at a West Virginia player in 2013. Gilbert spent his first few seasons in and out of the coaches’ doghouse but matured as a junior and senior to earn consistent playing time.
At Oklahoma State, Gilbert lined up at both boundary cornerback positions almost evenly. He played mostly off-man coverage (also called catch-man), but did line up directly over his assignment as well. He’s at his most comfortable playing off-man, where he was able to react quickly to underneath routes and read the quarterback’s eyes.
His click-and-close ability in press man coverage was exploited against more agile opponents such as Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders.
Gilbert reads and reacts quickly to route combinations, leading to opportunities for interceptions. His ability to locate the ball in midair is very good, and he has the necessary athleticism to contest most passes. His vertical leaping ability allows him to contest the catch at its highest point, a skill that translates well to the NFL. He was second in the NCAA with seven interceptions in 2013.
Against the Run/Tackling
Gilbert is an effective tackler in open space, but he is passive in attacking the line of scrimmage to make a play. Many of his tackles come well downfield because he does not work hard to shed blocks or waits until the ball-carrier reaches him. He seems to prefer to let his teammates make the tackle instead of finishing the play himself.
Between Gilbert’s solid change-of-direction skills and excellent recovery speed, he has potential to become a great man-coverage cornerback. He needs to improve his initial punch while playing press, because he does not currently win at the line of scrimmage. When he doesn’t disrupt the receiver at the line of scrimmage, he is susceptible to comeback routes because he has heavy feet, causing him to waste steps in his trigger down.
An inexperienced zone player, Gilbert struggles to identify where receivers are and tends to wander. He doesn’t anticipate where the ball is going, so he’s essentially playing without direction. If he’s assigned to covering the sideline, which Cover 3 dictates, he can excel because of his ability to locate the ball and run with receivers.
Gilbert is at his best in off-man coverage, where his backpedal is clean and efficient. He has a tendency to open his hips early while in press coverage, causing him to waste movement in his throttle down and leaving him susceptible to quick cut routes. He is rarely burned on routes due to his excellent speed and good closing burst. His ability to always be around the ball shows that he has room to improve once his technique is refined.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Gilbert enters the NFL with little versatility, but he excels in off-man coverage and has considerable upside in press coverage due to his strength and arm length. Since there is great value in those abilities, Gilbert should be able to play early in his career as a boundary cornerback and be a contributor. He will also be an impact return man, as he has great vision and speed to make big plays happen.