Alabama‘s Dee Milliner entered April generally regarded as the top cornerback prospect in the the 2013 NFL draft class, and still remains the most likely top-10 selection amongst the group coming out. However, many have wondered aloud whether he has the upside to go this high and whether Crimson Tide cornerbacks have met their draft-day hype in recent years.
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco expressed concern over the amount Alabama uses its corners in zone coverage in comparing Milliner’s man-coverage skills less favorably to fellow top prospect Xavier Rhodes of Florida State. “Look at the Alabama corners,” one NFC personnel director told Prisco, which he relayed in a draft piece on Wednesday. “They struggle because they have a tough time adjusting to what the NFL wants.”
So I decided to take a look at each Alabama cornerback recently drafted in the first three rounds and included their season’s 2012 Pro Football Focus cornerback ranking:
Dre Kirkpatrick (17th overall to Cincinnati Bengals in 2012): Ranked 104th, hampered by knee issues that resulted in him playing only 43 snaps as a rookie.
Kareem Jackson (20th overall to Houston Texans in 2010): Ranked 13th, making major strides after his first two seasons of finishing 79th and 96th.
Javier Arenas (50th overall to Kansas City Chiefs in 2010): Ranked 70th, exposed covering outside but turning into decent slot corner.
Fifth-rounder DeQuan Menzie and seventh-rounder Marquis Johnson also hail from Alabama’s Nick Saban era and have made little mark on the league, but it’s hard to say there was unrequited hype here.
Kirkpatrick has yet to provide a useful sample due to injury, while Arenas hasn’t returned a second-round value, but has become a needed piece in the Chiefs secondary. Jackson lends some credence to the slow adjustment theory, starting off poorly even by first- or second-year standards before an incredibly drastic improvement in year three.