|AP Photo/Gus Ruelas|
|Utah cornerback Keith McGill has the size and athleticism to intrigue NFL teams.|
It's not a secret that the NFL is a copycat league, with general managers, coaches and scouts prone to copy the traits of the league's most successful teams. With the Seattle Seahawks emerging as the premier defense in football, particularly in the secondary, general managers are instructing scouts to take a long look at big, physical cornerbacks in the pre-draft process.
Of course, several teams and coaches have long preferred cornerbacks who measured 6-foot or taller, but those big-bodied defenders typically lack the speed and movement skills of their diminutive brethren. Whereas smaller corners routinely exhibit exceptional short-area quickness and make fluid transitions, big corners are a little more rigid in their movements, leading to questions about their ability to play in space. This is part of the reason Brandon Browner (undrafted) and Richard Sherman (fifth round) didn't receive big grades coming out of college; it is also why Bryon Maxwell and Jeremy Lane landed in the sixth round in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, respectively.
With each of the aforementioned players playing well above their draft selection, teams will attempt to model the low-risk, high-yield formula utilized by the Seahawks to score on big cornerbacks. Scouts will keep all corners listed at 6-foot or taller alive on draft boards, and challenge their coaching staffs to develop their prospects on the practice field. Too often, coaches cast aside potential gems in the pre-draft process instead of identifying a handful of developmental players with enough critical factors (size, athleticism, football IQ, tackling and cover skills) to blossom into a starter in time. While this is an inexact science, the Seahawks have a proven formula for identifying and developing their late-round defensive backs with the size, length and toughness.
Looking ahead to the 2014 draft, I believe scouts will pay close attention to Utah's Keith McGill (6-2, 205), Lindenwood's Pierre Desir (6-1, 205) and Texas' Carrington Byndom (6-0, 180) despite concerns about their respective games. While there are certainly flaws in their technique or skills, the fact that they have the requisite height and athleticism to match up with the big-bodied receivers on the perimeter will entice several teams to consider them as development prospects with long-term potential.