Even before the release of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, the Vikings were heavily expected to target a cornerback or two in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
Now they are expected, more certain now than ever, to be drafting a corner or two.
Minnesota employs a version of Cover 2 zone—also known as Tampa 2—defense, where corners will often play the flats and align close to their outside receiver, where they try to jam him up at the line of scrimmage. In the Vikings’ style Cover 2 style defense, they prefer their corners to play zone coverage well and have good size and length, similar to current projected starter Chris Cook.
Cornerback Josh Robinson, at 5-10 199 pounds, is not a typical Cover 2 corner. Robinson is a speedy man-coverage corner who will likely replace Winfield’s role as the nickel corner. He struggled playing the zone as an outside corner late last season.
This means the team will likely look for a cornerback to play outside opposite of Cook, and possibly another corner as depth. Here is a list of cornerbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft that will fit Minnesota’s Cover 2 zone defense:
Xavier Rhodes: 6-2, 215-pounder from Florida State
Pros: Rhodes’ big frame is built to press at line of scrimmage and take on NFL wide recievers. After initial jam, he turns to find the football and adjusts well to receivers.
Cons: Rhodes works well in zone press coverage, but he’s not as good as a drop-back zone corner. He simply does not react fast enough when dropped back.
Overall: The Vikings like to mix up their looks on defense and cannot always play Rhodes in zone press coverage. If the team is to draft him, they would have to feel comfortable addressing his deficiencies when playing back from the line.
Projected Round: 1st.
Johnathan Banks: 6-2, 185-pounder from Mississippi State
Pros: Banks has good length and tall frame for a corner, which is great for Minnesota’s system. He has good discipline to reads routes and redirects quickly.
Cons: He has a lean and lanky body type, which is durability concern. Run support is very important in Minnesota’s defense and that is an area where Banks is not very strong in.
Overall: If Banks can fill out just a little more and improve in run support, he could be ready to contribute right away for Minnesota. He has the potential to become the prototype corner that Minnesota looks for.
Projected Round: 2nd.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 6-1, 195-pounder from Connecticut
Pros: Wreh-Wilson has the physical characteristics of a Tampa 2 corner. He has lined up in both press and off-coverage. Scouts view him as a very good outside zone coverage corner.
Cons: Man-to-man coverage is not his strongest skill. He lacks the speed to keep up with top receivers down field, so his ability is reliant on the team’s ability to pass rush—which is the Tampa 2 philosophy.
Overall: He is another prototype Tampa 2 zone corner for Minnesota to consider. He can be effective if Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen do their jobs as effective pass rushers.
Projected Round: 3rd.
Logan Ryan: 6-0, 190-pounder from Rutgers
Pros: Ryan is a physical cornerback who is at his best when he plays close to the line of scrimmage. Ryan has some scheme versatility to his game as well, as he was used both in zone coverage and press coverage effectively. In zone coverage, he uses his eyes well to recognize when to break off and move onto the next assignment.
Cons: He struggles off the line of scrimmage in man coverage. Minnesota will occasionally employ a man coverage look and he has some room to improve in that aspect. He doesn’t have the size and length that general manager Rick Spielman typically looks for in his corners.
Overall: While he is undersized for what Minnesota looks for, he plays physical on the line and does fare well in the running game. He may be better suited as a nickel corner in Minnesota’s defense, if the team decides Robinson is not the right option to replace Winfield.
Projected Round: 2nd or 3rd.
Tharold Simon 6-2, 202-pounder from LSU
Pros: Simon is an athletic corner with great read and reaction skills. His long arms and reach are perfect for press and drop-back zone coverage. He is physical to work through blocks and seeks out contact when defending the run.
Con: Like most bigger zone coverage corners, he struggles to quickly recover when he gets turned around. While his zone coverage and read skills are great, his success will depend on Minnesota’s pass rush. Despite his size, he isn’t quite as physical on the line as he could be. He had a one game suspension in 2011 for allegedly failing a drug test.
Overall: Failed drug test moved him down the draft, although he has the ability to be a very good outside corner for Minnesota. If he can put it together, he could become a mid-round pick that can contribute right away.
Projected Round: 4th or 5th.
Terry Hawthorne 6-0, 190-pounder from Illinois
Pros: Hawthorne is one of the better-suited Tampa 2 corners in the draft, where he can sit in his zone and read plays, using his instincts to make plays. He’s strong against the run, an important trait for being a zone corner.
Cons: He can be a little too aggressive while playing man coverage. He tends to lunge at ballcarriers rather than wrap them up. A sure-tackler is important to Minnesota’s defense.
Overall: He has the size and length to do well in Minnesota’s defense, but he needs to improve his tackling in order to be a complete cover corner. The instincts as a Tampa 2 corner appears to be there, but he has some work to do on tackling technique.
Projected Round: 5th.