By Alex Kozora
Our focus has shifted to the offseason and for the next few months, I’ll be providing scouting reports on several draft prospects. Some of these players the Pittsburgh Steelers may look at and others will be top players that will be off the board before they select. All to make you as prepared as possible for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Breakdown of one of the top prospects at cornerback in the 2014 class. Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma St.
Justin Gilbert/CB Oklahoma St: 6’0/7 202
- Certainly looks the part and possesses top flight size with a lot of bulk
- Length and strength to press at the line (33 1/8 arms, tied second longest at the Combine)
- Smooth, fluid athlete
- Quality speed and capable of playing on an island
- Quick feet and change of direction
- Loads of lower body strength, gives him explosion to close on the ball
- When low in his pedal, shows fluidity in his hips and can turn and run with relative ease
- Physically strong and seeks contact
- Forceful tackler, plays to his frame
- Takes good angles to the ball
- Good ball skills and hand-eye coordination
- Threat on interception returns, dangerous in open field
- Return value and played in multiple facets on special teams
- Versatile, played variety of assignments in coverage
- Lots of starting experience
- Too tall in his backpedal and stiff trying to transition
- Has trouble shedding blocks
- Not always a fundamentally sound tackler
- Small hands for his big frame (8 5/8)
- Ball skills perhaps slightly overstated, will drop some
- Minor technique problems (i.e. punching with wrong arm)
- 36 career starts
- 2013: 40 tackles, 7 INTs (4th in NCAA)
- Career: 12 interceptions (all come in 2011 and 2013)
- 2013 All Big-12 First Team, 2nd Team AP All-American
- Starting kick returner all four years, six career scores
- Career average of 26.3 yards per return
- 2012 Second Team Big-12 KR/PR, 2013 Honorable Mention
- Two career interceptions returned for touchdowns
- Served as gunner and on field goal block unit even during his senior year
- Missed one game freshman year due to undisclosed injury
- Dealt with shoulder injury in 2013
- Ejected in 2013 against West Virginia after throwing a punch, sat out first half of the following game
- Played quarterback and cornerback in high school, Top 60 prospect in Texas by Rivals
- Ran for 1000 yards and threw for another 800 senior year
- Cousin accomplished wide receiver at Houston in the early 90s
There’s a ton to like about Gilbert’s game with little flaws.
As I started with in previous articles, let’s lay out what a Steelers’ cornerback must be able to do beyond their coverage skills.
1. Must be willing to support the run
2. Must be physical
2. Must be a reliable tackler
Gilbert checks all the boxes. What I love most about him is his desire to seek contact. Most cornerbacks shy away or only show it when they must – a ballcarrier in the open field, blindsiding a quarterback on a blitz. For Gilbert, he’ll go out and find it.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, and Gilbert probably didn’t even get credited with a tackle, but the above play shows his mentality. Lots of cornerbacks will spectate with multiple defenders already en route. Gilbert comes in late and helps clean it up. Plays like that shows separation between cornerbacks who have that physical, aggressive mindset and those that don’t.
He has a penchant for big hits too, body slamming the tiny Jalen Saunders here.
Does a number on TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin here.
Gilbert compliments that with his coverage. Love his size. Tons of bulk and lower body strength. Big asset when closing on the ball.
Notice how Gilbert didn’t need to use a “T” break and “click” his heels. Has the leg strength to plant and just drive off that back foot. Not all guys can do that and every fraction of a second saved can mean the difference between a reception and a breakup.
Shows good ball skills as his interception numbers indicate. One remarkable pick against Mississippi St (though I’d argue the pass was incomplete but the ruling upheld it).
Still, shows excellent reaction time and hand-eye coordination.
Threat with the ball in his hands. Career average of 15 yards per interception return, scoring twice. That danger stems from his extensive work on kick returns, serving as the Cowboys’ starting returner all four years. 102 returns so he certainly doesn’t lack experience. Open field isn’t foreign to him.
Adds a tremendous amount of value to him, especially early in his career as he works his way into a lineup. Like Odell Beckham Jr, a first round pick who can step in as the team’s starting return man from Day One.
Biggest complaint with Gilbert is common among tall cornerbacks. There are times where Gilbert can get low in his pedal and he doesn’t show much tightness in his hips, but there are moments where he’s too tall off the snap. Gets him into trouble.
Tough to get a real good look in the still shot below but you can see him too upright.
Get a better look at it in the GIF below. Way too high in his pedal. When the receiver stems to the post, Gilbert has trouble flipping his hips and is beat badly.
Same play with a photo of how tall Gilbert was off the snap.
Some other issues he has are minor and not something I saw in every game. Technical work I mentioned in my report. Problems like sometimes punching with the wrong arm (should be opposite of the way you open your hips) that can cause his hips to get locked up.
Did drop the occasional potential interception but as the adage goes, it’s why he’s a corner. Some were costly though. Dropped one against Oklahoma with 44 seconds left in the game and the Cowboys leading by four. Sooners ended up winning.
All minor qualms when looking at the big picture. Although he doesn’t tend to get lumped into this category, he’s one of the most versatile players in the draft. Played a mix of every coverage at Oklahoma St. From press man to off coverage and protecting the deep third, he excelled in every situation. Even as a senior, saw time as a gunner and played on the field goal unit. Mentioned his success as a return man.
Again, versatility is a huge asset to any team. The more hats you wear, the quicker you’ll get a helmet.
I’ll preach it every day my opposition to the team taking a cornerback within the first two rounds. How there isn’t the precedent for it. But it’s painfully obvious the team is taking a hard look at a cornerback in round one. If the team is steadfast in choosing that position, Gilbert is my choice.
Projection: Top 15
Games Watched: at Mississippi St, vs TCU, at Texas Tech, vs Oklahoma, vs Missouri (Bowl)
Previous Scouting Reports:
Buffalo LB Khalil Mack
Illinois State T/G Josh Aladenoye
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Stanford ILB Shayne Skov/a>
Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
Auburn T Greg Robinson
Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman
Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
Auburn LB Dee Ford
Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
North Dakota State T Billy Turner
Boston College RB Andre Williams
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
BYU OLB Kyle Van Noy
Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
Tennessee NT Daniel McCullers
Colorado State DE/OLB Shaquil Barrett
Alabama T Cyrus Kouandjio
Tennessee T Antonio Richardson
Central Florida RB Storm Johnson
Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
West Virginia DE Will Clarke
Louisville S Calvin Pryor
Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
Virginia T Morgan Moses
Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt
Mississippi WR Donte Moncrief
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
North Carolina DE Kareem Martin
UCLA OLB Anthony Barr
South Carolina CB Victor Hampton
Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
Fresno State WR Davante Adams
Texas DE/OLB Jackson Jeffcoat
Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
TCU CB Jason Verrett
Louisiana Tech NT Justin Ellis
Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk
Rice CB Phillip Gaines
Coastal Carolina RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Cincinnati TE Blake Annen
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
Auburn RB Tre Mason
Duke CB Ross Cockrell
Missouri CB E.J. Gaines
Utah CB Keith McGill
Nebraska WR Quincy Enunwa
Penn State G John Urschel
Oregon DE Taylor Hart
BYU WR Cody Hoffman