The Minnesota Vikings took a step forward defensively in 2012, due in part to the impact rookie safety Harrison Smith made, with 97 total tackles, 11 pass break-ups and three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). But there is still a need for more depth at cornerback, with Antoine Winfield turning 36 before next season, Chris Cook entering the final year of his contract and question marks behind them on the depth chart.
Cornerback is unlikely to be Minnesota’s first priority in April’s draft, but finding an heir apparent for Winfield or a potential replacement for Cook should be on their radar at some point in the early rounds.
North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson set an ACC single-season record with 13 interceptions as a sophomore in 2011, and entered 2012 as one of the more highly touted prospects at the position in the country. He had five more interceptions in 2012 on his way to earning Second Team All-ACC honors, but an up-and-down season overall dropped him off the radar of NFL scouts. A strong NFL Combine performance, highlighted by a 4.44-second 40-yard dash time, has some positive buzz surrounding Amerson again.
Let’s look at Amerson’s measurements, strengths and weaknesses.
Weight: 205 lbs.
– Looks the part-has excellent size and length
– Has excellent ball skills and sure hands
– Is highly aggressive-reads the quarterback’s eyes well to effectively jump short routes
– Showed significant improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons
– Plays too aggressively at times-is susceptible to double moves
– Has questions about his mental toughness
– Lacks great straight-line speed and struggles to recover when beaten downfield
– Is not overly fluid in his movement-is tight in the hips
– May have to move to safety-is a bit of a tweener
Amerson will be an interesting prospect to track, as he could still go as high as the second round or perhaps fall all the way into the third day of the draft. He was likely overrated in league circles based on his 2011 production, but it can be assumed he is a better player than he showed at times during last season.
Amerson is a solid fit for the base Cover-2 defensive scheme the Vikings employ, and he can certainly learn a thing or two from a veteran mentor like Winfield, who himself has never fit the mold of a quintessential shutdown corner. Amerson should at least be motivated to perform well at the next level, and Minnesota can provide him the opportunity to do so right away.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.