And Reid could be looking for help in the secondary from the draft and there's no better place to look than the first round pick the Eagles have at No. 23.
In this year’s draft class, the top two cornerback prospects are obvious picks. Patrick Peterson is, put simply, the best overall prospect in the draft and Prince Amukamara is a clear second best, character issues aside.
However, as you look down the draft board in both picks and in player rankings, it isn’t as cut and dry who could be the next CB in line. While it is clear that another CB or three will be taken before even the first safety in this year’s draft, the choice between Miami’s Brandon Harris and Colorado’s Jimmy Smith may not be as clear-cut as Mel Kiper would make it out to be.
Sure, Smith wowed the scouts at the combine and blew pretty much anyone else hoping for that No. 3 CB spot out of the water, but Harris is still one of the best coverage guys in this class and could quickly jump up the board if the right team feels he can fit their needs.
With the draft little more than a month-and-a-half away, we at Bleacher Report decided to make the choice easy and break it down to a category-by-category battle between these two potential shutdown, Pro Bowl cornerbacks before the NFL owners and GMs make the final call.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper currently feels that the Philadelphia Eagles will be looking to bolster either side of their line in the first round with the 23rd overall pick, but even he recognizes their need for help in the secondary. With so few good safety prospects, filling that need in the first round would then fall to either Harris or Smith.
Here, then, is the debate between Brandon Harris and Jimmy Smith simplified. Ten rounds, one winner. May the best man win.
Neither of these corners were pulling down every other pass thrown their way in their college careers, but there is still a clear winner in this category.
Brandon Harris wins this for his four career interceptions, one more than Smith, and seven total turnovers created, three more than Smith.
Harris also had six tackles for loss in 2009, a very good number for a CB who has to take advantage of opportunities to stop the runs to the outside and blitz the QB effectively when given the rare nod to do so.
This was an easy one to decide. Brandon Harris is a good kid, but Jimmy Smith is simply a better guy.
Smith leads by example and keeps his mouth shut while letting his play do the talking. He keeps his ego in check and also is respected by everyone in the athletic department at Colorado.
Pair that with his willingness to give back to his community and you’ve got a recipe for a talented kid who is grounded and has a good head on his shoulders.
This one is a toss-up.
Both players are dedicated students of the game and are hard workers on and off the field. Some could argue that maybe Smith works harder in the weight room based on his combine numbers, but Harris’ instincts in coverage are so well developed that he makes up for the work he maybe doesn’t do in physical training with mental preparedness.
Speaking of instincts in the game, Brandon Harris has those in spades.
He rarely gets caught out of position or trying to jump plays on the outside. He prepares well for games and his confidence in matching up against anyone shows that.
Oh, and did I mention that he was on the ACC All-Academic Team in 2008? This is a naturally smart kid. You can train for strength or quickness and you can learn aspects of the game. You cannot teach a desire, willingness or ability to learn, however, and Harris has all three in a rare combination for an athlete.
This is one of those indirect-translation categories. True, never being injured in college doesn’t mean you won’t end your career on your first play due to injury or simply have a Bob Sanders-esque plague following you around.
However, this breaks down to the fact that Brandon Harris has never missed a game to injury at Miami while Smith missed the first two games of the 2008 season to an undisclosed injury.
I do not doubt Smith’s durability so much as I praise the hard-hitting Harris’ ability to stay health so far.
The CB from Colorado ran away with this category at the NFL scouting combine earlier this month.
This comes down to simple measureables. Smith tallied 11 more bench press reps with 24, scored a half an inch higher in the vertical jump, and, even more impressive, jumped nearly a foot farther than Harris in the broad jump.
Strength and explosiveness may be a more important trait for a safety than a DB/CB in the NFL, but it is still a key ability for any defender at the next level.
Not sure how to capture this slide in picture form, so here's a picture of one of the premier speed runners, Chris Johnson.
This one is a tie for now since both players have shown willingness to come up and play the run without being overeager and getting caught far out of position on play-action passes.
Smith will likely prove to be better in the run as time goes on due to his press coverage and line-of-scrimmage-battle skills, but only time will tell that.
For the time being, neither are bad against the run, but neither are prodigies either.
This is simple, but important. Jimmy Smith wins this not only with a faster 40 time of 4.46 versus a 4.53, but he also notched a faster 10-yard time as well.
Smith also showed abilities in his drills to go step-for-step with any receiver and has also displayed that ability in games. Combine that with his ability to close gaps quickly and his powerful lower body, and Smith runs away with this category.
As in the run game, neither player shows elite skills in this category, but Harris shows better instincts on the ball.
He has shown the ability to better diagnose when to attack for the pick and when to play the ball softer and just break up the pass.
He also reacts faster than Smith on turning his head and locating the ball, and for that he wins this important category by the slimmest of margins.
Clearly the most important ability for a cornerback, Jimmy Smith excels in coverage. His zone coverage needs work, but few defensive coordinators would think twice before putting him on an island in man coverage against any team’s top receiver in a year or two.
He has long arms which he uses effectively to jam wideouts and push them off their routes. Smith is also very skilled at shadowing receivers only to close the gap in short bursts to make plays on the ball as the receiver tries to haul it in.
He has the ability to develop into one of the best shutdown corners of the twenty-teens and would be a great pickup for Philly with that 23rd overall pick.
Through 10 rounds, this debate is tied. However, as the categories are in order of importance, Smith’s victories come in key areas.
Going 3-1-1 in the top five categories—including the all-important No. 1 category of ability to play pass coverage—Smith is the clear victor here. Whoever takes these guys will likely be very pleased with their selection, and neither of these two are likely to fall farther than late in the second round—and would be a steal even there.
That being said, if Philly targets a corner with their 23rd pick, and Peterson and Amukamara are off the board as expected, expect Jimmy Smith to be wearing green in 2011.