With April's draft rapidly approaching, everyone wants to know the best player set to enter the NFL in 2011. Look no further than LSU’s Patrick Peterson.
There are endless reasons why Peterson is the top prospect in this year's draft class, but simply put, the answer is everything.
Peterson can be accurately described as a hybrid between a cornerback and safety with very few weaknesses. He has the size (6-foot, 219 pounds) and strength to hold up against the run along with a blend of speed (4.34 40-yard dash time at the combine) needed to turn and run with almost every receiver in the NFL.
In addition to a tremendous all-around skill set, Peterson backed it up with the body of work NFL personnel look for in the college ranks. Peterson’s outstanding fundamentals and technique were on full display and his career stat line speaks for itself – both as a member of the Tigers’ secondary and on special teams.
Mock drafts that have Peterson falling outside of the top five are foolish. If five teams pass on his unbelievable talent – including the Cardinals – front offices will likely come under fire after missing out on the league's next shutdown cornerback.
Although Peterson has been touted as the surest thing in the draft, the million dollar question remains: will he be the next Champ Bailey or Charles Woodson type of player or be lumped in with insignificant contributors – relatively speaking, at least – such as Carlos Rogers, Terence Newman and Quentin Jammer?
A quick look at cornerbacks selected with a top 10 pick in the past ten years doesn’t exhibit much confidence. The jury is still out on Joe Haden and most of the top performers at the position have been taken later in Round 1 - Aqib Talib (No. 20 in 2008), Darrelle Revis (No. 14 in 2007), Antonio Cromartie (No. 19 in 2006).
Surprisingly, since 2000, cornerbacks taken in the top 10 haven’t fared well. In fact, the last to live up to the hype is Bailey, taken with the seventh pick in the 1999 draft. A year earlier, Woodson was taken with the fourth overall pick.
For a team needing a spark in more ways than one, Peterson appears to be an excellent fit in Arizona – despite the risks associated with taking a cornerback early in the draft.
The Cardinals’ pass defense ranked 23rd in the league last season and teaming Peterson with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the perimeter would provide an instant upgrade in the secondary. Furthermore, the move would permit Greg Toler – a raw, yet talented player – to refine his skills in a nickelback role.
Arizona could also use a dynamic weapon on special teams to complement LaRod Stephens-Howling, allowing Steve Breaston and Andre Roberts to focus on their primary duties at wide receiver.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, there will be plenty of competition to acquire Peterson’s services. The Denver Broncos own the second pick in the draft, and the idea of pairing Peterson with Bailey will be a tempting proposition. The Carolina Panthers will also consider taking Peterson with the No.1 overall pick.
If Peterson is still on the board when the Cardinals go on the clock in Round 1, the battle between talent and need will be underway. Names such as Von Miller and Robert Quinn will be in the mix and would help solve one of Arizona's primary needs at outside linebacker.
Peterson, however, is truly a once-in-a-decade type of talent and the Cardinals would be wise to look beyond their immediate needs, if he’s still available.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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