Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Draft Profile: Stephon Gilmore - South Carolina

The following is the 10th and last in a series of draft profiles for the 1st round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.

Stephon Gilmore
South Carolina
6'0, 190
40 time: 4.39, Bench Press: 15
August 18, 1990 (21)

There are times in the draft when some of the numbers involved cloud the vision of a player you are looking at. For instance, with South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore, you have the dream combination when it comes to a cornerback in the NFL.

First, he is 6'0 tall. You will see him listed even taller in certain places, but at the combine was measured at slightly over 6'0. But, he also has sub 4.4 speed in the 40. At 4.39, he is one of only 3 DBs (out of 58) who broke the 4.4 mark (Josh Robinson, Central Florida ran 4.30 and Coty Sensabaugh of Clemson ran 4.36) and the only one who is 6 feet tall to accomplish that feat.

So, he has size and speed at elite levels for his position. He also demonstrates a physical posture and mentality. When seeing a play in front of him, he does a nice job of finding the ball and heading straight for it. As a tackler, he is darn solid - but far from perfect, as you do see at times that his willingness doesn't always translate into a ball carrier on the ground. He also has a knack for the blitz and looks comfortable in close quarters causing chaos.

As we approach draft day, it is interesting to see him cruise up the boards from where he was back in January. We see this all of the time as players convert impressive measureables into countless riches as they can use workouts to over-shadow some of their issues they had when playing college football in the fall and early winter. He moves like an elite player. He carries himself like an elite player. But, on Saturdays, he wasn't always elite. In fact, he was often the target of opposing QBs who wanted to throw at him. Is it the talent being such that teams are willing to take a chance on things that aren't quite where they need to be?

I think that is the case with Gilmore. Its not that I wouldn't welcome him to my squad, because he does have very interesting upside and a skill set that is prototypical and quite attractive. He can do many things to help your team - including in the return game. But, for pick #14, there are just too many times on film where he just gets roasted for my tastes.

Yes, he is faster than Dre Kirkpatrick. And yes, he is more willing to tackle than most corners. And yes, to watch him return that blocked extra point in the Bowl game against Nebraska demonstrated insane straight line speed. But, why then, when you pop on the tape do you see so many completions going to his men? Why was he finishing 2nd on jump balls? Why was he getting beat on pump fakes and gos?

Let me be clear on a few points. 1) It is highly possible that he will sneak even higher in the draft. Some whispers have him now sneaking into the Top 10 or 15 picks. This seemed highly unlikely 3 months ago. And 2) I have no doubt that he will have some great plays at the next level. But, his flashes are both great and ugly. Very capable of a wonderful play and equally capable of biting on a fake or losing sight of the ball which will get you beat for a 80-yarder on Sunday.

To me, it seems to be a spot where he is a great athlete who may not fully be a great cornerback. It is highly possible that a team thinks that if they get their hands on him, they can work on technique, footwork, and not falling for fakes from a QB, but in the NFL, there is very little time for a 1st round corner to learn before the elite QBs of the world are trying to teach you their own lessons.

I admit that I may place way more stock into college tape and performance than many scouting departments, but for me, he is too far away from being where he needs to be for me to trust him that high in the draft.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test:

Vs East Carolina

Certainly a willing tackler. Don't like to see a guy look lost on a fade to the pylon, but East Carolina got him there for sure. You can see his punt returning and his off and soft cover skills. Looks like he loses track of the football a bit.

Vs Alabama 2010

You can see here that Julio Jones and the Crimson Tide were happy to target Gilmore on many occasions. A good battle, but Gilmore looked his best in the box and going after blitzing situations. You can see where Gilmore might be a good slot corner/blitz guy.

Vs Nebraska

Here is that sprint to the end zone referenced earlier. He is fast. Once again, ball awareness comes into play on a long pass where he panics and commits a needless pass interference.

And then this clip, which is Stephon on the Steve Spurrier who where he admits that he has been caught peeking back to the QB too much in his coverage. Interesting, that his coaches see the same issues that we see when we watch him.

The Case For Taking Stephon Gilmore at #14: The issues that he has suggest that the only reason you jump on him this high is that you believe in your ability to magnify his good and coach-out his bad. He is a very interesting prospect, and if he was still a player rated in the 40-50 range in this draft, I would argue that he is a perfect 2nd round talent and target. But, as we get close to draft day, we see that premium positions rush up the board and get over-drafted. If the Cowboys think at his height and speed that he is too good to pass up, then they better develop him quickly lest they risk another 1st round reach.

The Case Against Taking Stephon Gilmore at 14: The case against him is rather simple after watching several of his games. He has some major flaw issues with the actual game of football. Speed is great and so are highlight plays. But, I need a solid down-to-down player who can make 65 solid plays rather than plays that range all over the board between awesome and getting scorched. In my mind, Kirkpatrick may be slower, but he also doesn't lose sight of the football or get caught peeking like Gilmore does. I have Gilmore as a gambling ball hawk (think Asante Samuel with a willingness to tackle). That is obviously an impressive upside, but I prefer to limit my risk and focus more on the players that I can trust to do what they are coached to do.

If the Cowboys go corner at #14, I don't think it should be Gilmore.

Previous Profiles:

Dre Kirkpatrick - Alabama
Mark Barron - Alabama
Fletcher Cox - Mississippi State
Michael Brockers - LSU
Quinton Coples - UNC
David DeCastro - Stanford
Melvin Ingram - South Carolina
Courtney Upshaw - Alabama
Dontari Poe - Memphis

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