Marcus Peters' Pro Day More About Appearance Than Actual Performance

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystApril 2, 2015

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Marcus Peters #21 of the Washington Huskies looks on prior to the game against the Eastern Washington Eagles on September 6, 2014 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Cornerback Marcus Peters only completed a positional workout Thursday at Washington's pro day, but all he really needed to do was show up to the event to become a better prospect today than he was previously considered. 

Peters' physical ability has never been questioned throughout the draft process. His entire evaluation resides on a team's comfort level with his attitude after being dismissed from the Huskies program last fall

"These are not decisions that are taken lightly," Huskies head coach Chris Petersen said in a statement, per CollegeFootballTalk's John Taylor, after Peters' dismissal. "We have high standards for players in our program and they are held accountable when those standards are not met. I wish Marcus the best in the completion of his education and in achieving his football goals."

The decision came after repeated arguments with Washington's assistant coaches, according to The Seattle Times' Adam Jude

After such a move, even highly talented players like Peters aren't invited back to the facilities to work out with the team at the school's pro day. 

Yet, the cornerback was in Seattle Thursday, working out with his former teammates. 

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A rather large mea culpa was required from Peters to reach this point, and he provided one privately and publicly. 

"I don't blame [Petersen] for anything," Peters told USA Today's Tom Pelissero. "All I can blame is myself, because I made those decisions and I have to live with them. Now I'll have to man up and I've got to answer these questions in interviews [during April's NFL combine], and all I can do is sit there and answer truthfully and honestly."

At this point, NFL teams must decide whether Peters' previous attitude problems remain an issue moving forward and if they overshadow his prodigious talent as one of the class' top cornerbacks. 

The fact Peters approached Petersen to clear the air and was allowed back into the pro day clearly speaks to his character. His teammates also went to bat for the talented defender. 

Washington defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha spoke with Bleacher Report in February and discussed Peters' issues with coaches and the team's continued support of the cornerback: 

"Part of the reason he was allowed at our pro day is because he's a good guy. Those of us on the team are rooting for him. I spoke on his behalf a number of times. He just had some issues he had to deal with as far as being able to articulate himself properly with coaches during disagreements. Obviously, he and the coaching staff resolved those issues. I think that speaks for itself."

Petersen also clarified the situation never escalated beyond verbal disagreements, per Jude

It wasn’t any one particular thing. The thing that was really frustrating, that was really embarrassing for the media, was that there was a report that Marcus got into a fight and an argument with an assistant coach. That wasn’t even kind of true. That was so false. That was really, really bent for nobody else but for Marcus’ sake because that wasn’t fair to Marcus. That didn’t even kind of happen. So I would love to sit here and detail everything that went on … but it’s not really anyone else’s business other than the team and Marcus.

With the support of his former coaching staff and teammates, NFL organizations should be far less concerned with Peters' attitude and more enamored with his natural ability as a cover corner. 

“I’m the best corner in the draft for a reason,” Peters confidently told The MMQB's Robert Klemko. “I’ve got three years' worth of tape. You go watch it and tell me I’m not the best out there.”

Confidence bordering on outright egotism is a prerequisite to be a top cornerback at the professional level. Deion Sanders had it. Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis have it. The list goes on and on in NFL history. 

Peters, however, isn't the consensus top cornerback in this year's draft. Michigan State's Trae Waynes claimed that honor with an outstanding combine performance. 

2015 NFL combine workouts: Marcus Peters vs. Trae Waynes
PlayerHeightWeightArm length40-yard dashVertical3-cone
Peters6'0"19731 1/2"4.5337 1/2"4.08
Source: NFL.com

A player's evaluation isn't based purely on predraft workouts, though. 

Raw speed is a wonderful asset for any cornerback to have. It allows more room for error when a defensive back can drive on the football with elite closing speed. 

However, the ability to turn and run without losing ground in coverage can be just as important. The Cleveland Browns' Joe Haden isn't the fastest cornerback in the NFL, yet he is a two-time Pro Bowl performer. He wins at the line of scrimmage with length and outstanding lower-body flexibility. 

Peters' arms are an inch shorter than Haden's, but the rest of his workout numbers are similar. Plus, Peters displays the same type of ability to open his hips and mirror even the best wide receivers. 

Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson provided an example of Peters swiveling his hips against one of the best wide receivers in this year's draft class, Arizona State's Jaelen Strong: 

Sam Monson @PFF_Sam

Jaelen Strong vs Marcus Peters was a good battle. https://t.co/VLk10fUK4m

Peters didn't attempt to improve upon his 40-yard-dash time Thursday, but he didn't need to. The cornerback impressed during positional drills.

After not even knowing whether he would be able to compete at Washington's pro day earlier this year, Peters capitalized on his second chance. 

CBSSports.com's Rob Rang provided a firsthand account of Peters' performance: 

Rob Rang @RobRang

He is only doing positional drills but CB Marcus Peters is absolutely killing workout. Fluid, great hands. Been the star today. #UWProDay

Thursday's effort was only confirmation of what was previously seen of Peters' cornerback skills. 

As Peters continues to be compared to Waynes until a team actually selects one of them, the Washington product's coverage ability was always evident. Peters shows better overall ball skills, as TheFootballEducator.com's Brandon Thorn noted: 

Brandon Thorn @VeteranScout

So according to the numbers, Trae Waynes has 13 PBUs in the last 2 seasons, Marcus Peters has 35 in the last 3.

Peters provided a simple solution on NFL Network, per Bleacher Report's Connor Rogers, for anyone wavering between the two cornerbacks as the top prospect at their position: 

Connor Rogers @ConnorJRogers

On NFL network's path to draft Marcus Peters was asked why a team should take him over Waynes. His response: 'Watch the film.' He's right.

Nearly a month ago, Petersen discussed Peters' transition to the professional ranks with SI.com's Pete Thamel. The coach doesn't think his former player is too far away from becoming the total package: 

He’s a talented guy. I think everyone is always trying to find corners and pass rushers. It’s all about learning from mistakes and moving forward. Hopefully Marcus has learned and will be a good pro. I always think it’s everything. It’s not just talent. So, that’s what I think, that it all fits together. I know he has the ability.

The Huskies coach did Peters a tremendous favor by allowing the cornerback back into the team's facilities.

Petersen didn't need to discuss his former player publicly or provide an opportunity for him to perform in front of NFL decision-makers. It speaks to the character of both men. 

This alone makes Peters less of a concern for teams as each franchise weighs its options. 

Peters then took full advantage of the situation with a stellar workout. 

The former Washington cornerback didn't have to apologize to his former coach. He could have found someplace else to work out in front of NFL scouts. And he probably would have looked just as good in that scenario. Other prospects traveled this lonely road on their way to the NFL. 

But Peters bettered the league's perception of him and his draft status simply by being in Seattle Thursday. 

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.


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