Let’s be clear: Patrick Peterson will be taken before the Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity to select the cornerback from LSU with the ninth overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s the best defensive back in this class, by far, and is as close to a “can’t-miss” prospect as possible.
But weird things happen on draft day, and there’s no reason Peterson can’t start to slide a few spots.
The stud defensive tackles (Nick Fairley of Auburn and Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson) could surely go ahead of him, as could elite wide receiver prospect A.J. Green from Georgia. If a team gets quarterback-hungry, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri might get selected too early. Edge-rushers are always hot commodities, and UNC’s Robert Quinn and Texas A&M’s Von Miller are athletic freaks.
Now, I certainly don’t foresee Peterson’s potential drop as a likely scenario. Some have said he’s a lock for the Buffalo Bills at No. 3.
But, if he does drop, the Cowboys will certainly value his versatility.
Peterson plays cornerback, but some envision him as a future free safety (which is one small reason he might drop a spot or two), and he’s also an amazing return man. That trio of skills would certainly fit well in Dallas, so why not at least take a look at the LSU star?
At 6'1", 222 pounds, Peterson has the body of an NFL safety. His speed, quickness and hips are all elite, however, so he excels at cornerback.
He is very fluid and has no problem giving receivers ground so he can break on underneath routes, using his make-up speed to recover if necessary. I’ve heard rumors Peterson has around a 40" vertical leap and already ran a 4.37 electronically timed 40-yard dash.
To go along with that explosiveness, Peterson has excellent body control. Straight speed is nothing in the NFL if you can’t stop quickly as well.
Peterson is a playmaker who can become ultra-aggressive at times. Once in a while, he becomes too aggressive and will overrun plays. He wasn’t beat much in college because he’s such a tremendous athlete, but he could be susceptible to double-moves in the NFL.
It isn’t like that sort of technique can’t be taught, however, and Peterson seems to be a quick learner.
Peterson’s strength is superior for a cornerback, and he excels in press coverage. It isn’t like he’s weak in zone, but his skill set is perfect for jamming receivers, shadowing them and then turning to make a play on the football.
Peterson is a sure tackler, but sometimes he isn’t as aggressive against the run as needed. He won’t miss many open-field tackles, but he doesn’t fly around the field in run support like Miami’s Brandon Harris.
With Dez Bryant’s value to the team being too great to justify using him on returns, Peterson could also contribute there.
Peterson could go anywhere from the second overall selection to the sixth. I don’t see enough top-level prospects ahead of him for Peterson to drop any further. Plus, if he does drop to Cleveland’s No. 6 pick, teams will be dying to trade up ahead of San Francisco to grab him.
According to the NFL’s draft value chart, the sixth pick is worth (roughly) Dallas’ No. 9 selection and their third-round pick. That may be a small price to pay for a player with Peterson’s ability.
Other Potential Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011