|04-17-2007, 02:07 PM||#1|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Saratoga, NY
Ross heads trio of Texas DBs ready to storm NFL draft
By Larry Weisman, USA TODAY
USA TODAY will preview a different position each weekday until the NFL draft on April 28. Today we explore cornerbacks.
Also in this story: Best prospects available and teams in need of safeties.
Know thyself, Socrates said.
Aaron Ross does.
The Texas cornerback fully understands his gambling ways on the field, accurately assesses the risk-reward factors and does not hesitate when asked if he or his girlfriend is the better athlete.
PHOTOS: Best prospects at defensive back
"She is," Ross says.
He knows himself. He also knows that he dates Sanya Richards, a gold medal winner in the Athens Olympics in the 4x400 relay.
That, Ross says, "is something big. That's like winning the Super Bowl. She plans on doing it again in '08" in Beijing.
Ross, one of the top players at his position in the upcoming NFL draft, needs more dimensions than pure speed to excel in his line of work. There's technique, attitude and a certain fearlessness. In Ross, that last attribute manifests itself in his willingness to try to be a playmaker.
"I believe, being a corner, you've got to take some risks sometime," he says. "If you don't, you'll end up with no picks, no plays. So you've got to take risks."
If that's a strength, what's his weakness?
"I think my downfall is taking too many risks," Ross says. "Sometimes I tend to take too many."
FIND MORE STORIES IN: NFL | National Football League | NFL draft | Ross | Scot Mccloughan
The sight of Longhorns secondary coach Duane Akina talking forcefully to Ross on the sidelines wasn't a rarity. There is risk and there is reward, inextricably tied.
"He'll get in your face," Ross acknowledges. "But at the same time, if I take that risk and get an interception and score on it, then coach will be happy about that. That's something that I'll have to balance out once I get to the next level."
Ross brings a little something else to the table — punt return skills. He scored three touchdowns on 76 returns at Texas.
"I feel (being) a returner has a lot to do with confidence. Once you get your confidence in catching the ball and trusting your blockers and your coaching scheme, then you should be all right," he says. "The rest just comes from natural ability."
The San Francisco 49ers staff worked the Senior Bowl in Mobile with an eye toward helping their secondary. They moved quickly in free agency, signing cornerback Nate Clements and safety Michael Lewis and extending cornerback Walt Harris' contract by two years. That doesn't mean they won't keep looking and why not look hard at guys from Texas?
Ross, safety Michael Griffin and cornerback Tarell Brown should all be first-day draft picks, as were safety Michael Huff and cornerback Cedric Griffin a year ago. Huff, taken in the first round by the Oakland Raiders, started every game and Griffin started seven for the Minnesota Vikings, who chose him in the second round.
"Now you know why Texas won games," says Scot McCloughan, the 49ers vice president of player personnel. "They had a better secondary than a lot of NFL teams. Sad, but true."
The Niners enjoyed the time they spent Ross.
"Mentally at the Senior Bowl he was great at picking things up," McCloughan says.
Physically, Brown may be the most interesting player in this Texas secondary. Bothered by a broken toe, he could never reach the level he attained as a junior when Texas won the national championship by beating Southern California. That's a game tape McCloughan likes to look at.
"A very interesting guy," McCloughan says. "You go back and watch that game and he played the best of that whole bunch in the secondary. Mentally he fits in, physically he fits in and he's got some real skills."
THE BEST SAFETY PROSPECTS
— Leon Hall, Michigan
• Ht: 5-11, Wt: 193
• Scouting report: Answered some questions about closing speed by running a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. Struggled in last couple of games against Ohio State (Ted Ginn Jr.) and Southern California (Dwayne Jarrett). Good size and quickness in closing, a fine tackler. Also a capable punt returner, kick blocker (three) and a fair receiver (24 catches as a senior, three for TDs).
• Quotable: "I think he's got a good burst, tremendous change of direction. The question has been his recovery speed and long speed." —Mike Mayock, draft analyst, NFL Network.
• Projected round: First
—Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh
• Ht: 6-0, Wt: 214
• Scouting report: Multi-faceted athlete who can play a physical man-to-man style and also returns punts (two career touchdowns). First Pitt player to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games. Breaks well on the ball. Has played both corner positions. Lacks top-end speed and might be better at safety later in his career but ran good 40-yard dash times at Pitt's pro day.
• Quotable: "He measures well. He's what you're looking for in the NFL. He was a big-time high school basketball player and that says something about his athleticism." —Scot McCloughan, San Francisco 49ers vice president of player personnel.
• Projected round: First
—Aaron Ross, Texas
• Ht: 6-1, Wt: 193
• Scouting report: Blossomed as a senior. Defensed 18 passes and had a hand in 10 takeaways (five interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries). Also a superb punt returner with three touchdowns over the past two seasons. Still has a lot to learn with only 15 starts behind him and a reputation for busting plays as often as he makes a big one.
• Quotable: "He has some girth through the hips so he can hold up. He moves around well enough to play off receivers, but he has the strength to play man." —McCloughan.
• Projected round: First
—Chris Houston, Arkansas
• Ht: 5-10, Wt: 185
• Scouting report: Extremely strong player who can bench press 450 pounds and led all cornerbacks at the combine by benching 225 pounds 27 times. Uses strength well to jam receivers but can also run with them in single coverage. Had an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown against Mississippi State. Not always a willing run defender but good on special teams coverage units.
• Quotable: "He plays bigger than he measures. He's explosive." —McCloughan.
• Projected round: First
—Jonathan Wade, Tennessee
• Ht: 5-10, Wt: 195
• Scouting report: Outstanding athlete with 40½-inch vertical leap. Began to find himself as a senior after playing receiver as a freshman. Has all the elements the pro game requires: — speed, quickness, ability to recover when beaten. Made four interceptions. May not be as physical all the time as some teams like but hasn't always focused on football. All-American in indoor and outdoor track.
• Quotable: "A fun kid to be around. Not real tall but he has enough quickness and speed to play in this league." —McCloughan.
• Projected round: Second
TEAMS IN NEED AT CORNERBACK
• Buffalo Bills: Once had a great tandem in Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements but lost both in free agency (Winfield to Minnesota in 2004, Clements in March to San Francisco). That leaves Terrence McGee on the left side and Kiwaukee Thomas or maybe Ashton Youboty on the other. None are Clements' equal.
• Tennessee Titans: Former No. 1 pick Adam "Pacman" Jones recently received a one-year suspension from the league because of his off-the-field issues. Nick Harper, signed as a free agent, is the logical replacement but Jones was a big-play guy. The Titans spent a No. 1 pick on Andre Woolfolk in 2003, but he has played in only 39 games because of injuries.
• New Orleans Saints: Feeling the need for some speed. Saints are making over their secondary a bit after enduring injuries at safety but won't get free agent help at the corner. Mike McKenzie, 31, is the lockdown corner and a physical defender, but he won't last forever. Fred Thomas got lit up in the playoffs and can't run with the sprinters.
• New York Giants: The youngsters (Will Peterson, Will Allen) never panned out, and they were first- and third-round picks in 2001. Sam Madison held up last year until his hamstring popped. R.W. McQuarters patched the other side. The Giants need depth at the least and a future starter for sure.
• New York Jets: Hurt by injuries last year, the Jets wound up using much-traveled Hank Poteat opposite much-traveled Andre Dyson. The Jets lack a shutdown corner and, with the 25th pick, may be in position to get one.
|04-17-2007, 02:14 PM||#2|
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Shanghai, China
I will say this about Aaron Ross, He played his best in the biggest games. He was great this past year in the OU game. He always seemed to make a play when we needed it the most...caused the fumble against Nebraska. He is a scrappy guy who loves to mix it up and compete. I think he is going to be a good corner in the NFL.