Carolina Panthers NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Cornerback Morris Claiborne
WR Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina)
WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State)
Panthers' Current Draft Pick: Second Overall
The Colts seem like a lock at this point to retain the first overall pick, and the Panthers are currently tied with Minnesota and St. Louis for the second worst record in the league; Carolina owns the tiebreaker.
Claiborne has great closing speed, and is an excellent cover corner. His athleticism and physicality in coverage allow him to be very effective when in man to man and he can easily goad an opposing quarterback into throwing his way; a tactic that often results in an interception.
Claiborne typically attacks the ball at its highest point, an instinct he likely developed as a receiver in high school—also the position he was recruited to play at.
He has soft hands and once he is in possession of the ball, he is explosive. He isn't Patrick Peterson by any means, but he can get to the edge and make a lengthy return at any time.
Claiborne also does a solid job when pressing. He gets a good jam on the receiver and takes every advantage of the college rule book's leniency on chucking. He can get himself into trouble in bump and run coverage when he gets lazy with his technique, but his quickness allows him to make up ground in college.
Claiborne has the instincts that will make NFL front office's love his potential as a pro. Although his technique needs improvement, that can be taught, and Claiborne is a player who has rapidly progressed through his career.
Claiborne plays well in the zone, although it is not his forte. He isn't the best fit for a zone heavy system, but will likely adapt with time given his natural abilities.
Claiborne needs to improve his willingness and technique in run support. He often loses the edge, and can get taken out of the play by more physical receivers.
When he's motivated, he provides great support off the edge and is willing to stick his nose in to finish off a tackle, but it is the plays where he makes a lazy attempt at a tackle that I notice the most.
He should improve in this area simply by being a professional. There's nothing like trying to earn a multi-million dollar contract to get a player motivated.
Why the Panthers Should Draft Morris Claiborne
Claiborne would be an immediate upgrade for a secondary that has depth, but lacks a playmaker outside of Chris Gamble. Captain Munnerlyn is undersized, and unfit to start for an NFL team, playing better in the nickel.
Darius Butler was acquired earlier in the season and he has the physical tools, but has been cited for lack of attention to detail.
Claiborne has the ceiling to be an elite corner and could immediately solidify a secondary that has been very inconsistent. With Claiborne and a healthy supporting cast, the Panthers' defense would bare no resemblance to what we're seeing this season.
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