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Patriots Replay Fri Jun 05 | 12:00 AM - 11:58 PM

Draft prospects on the decline: defensive backs

Darnell Bing, USC – Simply put: the most overrated prospect in this year's draft class at any position. I noticed when I was watching USC games this year that Bing made a lot of bad plays but sometimes watching a game on TV, you don't see everything going on. I watched tape on Bing with an open mind and what I found out is that I was wrong. He's a lot worse than I originally thought he was. The fact that his name and "first round" are being mentioned in the same sentence is comical to me. I really don't know where to start because Bing doesn't do anything well in my opinion. He takes bad angles on receivers and ball carriers; he trails in coverage all the time and doesn't have great instincts. I compare him to former Patriot Tebucky Jones. Jones was a former running back who was a great athlete but just never had the instincts to play safety. Bing – a former running back himself - is the same way. Watching him on the football field, his instincts are terrible and safety is a position where instincts are very important because a one second difference breaking on the ball could cost his team a big play.

The other thing about Bing is he's not nearly as physical as most people think. Whenever he hits someone, he kind of bounces off them and if he ends up getting the player down, it's usually by tripping them up. Bing never really follows through on his tackles and in the NFL that will allow players to break free and get extra yards. I saw two instances where he had a blind shot on an unsuspecting quarterback and he couldn't even get them down to the ground. The referee had to blow the whistle to stop the play because Bing couldn't get the quarterback down.

In coverage, forget about it. This guy is just flat out lost. The one thing he did do well is strip the ball from behind but that's just because he's always trailing the receiver. Bing may be a great athlete but you can't teach instincts and a feel for the game and this kid just doesn't have that. I know a lot of Patriots fans like him because he played at USC (Which had one of the nation's worst pass defenses a year ago) but trust me, the only time you want to hear the name "Bing" in New England is when you're watching reruns of "Friends." You certainly don't want to hear it called on draft day and since Bill Belichick knows a heck of a lot more about football than I do, I seriously doubt you will. I predict Bing will be nothing more than a backup safety and special teams contributor. Not exactly the kind of player teams want to spend the 21st pick in the draft on.

Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech – I actually like Williams as a player but the problem with him is his attitude and where to play him. Williams made a ton of big plays at Virginia Tech – returning a number of interceptions for touchdowns. He began his career with the Hokies as a safety but played his final two seasons at cornerback and that's the position he wants to play in the NFL. Unfortunately for Williams, he's a bit stiff at corner and probably better suited as a safety. He's a big hitter – he knocked out six guys during his senior season – but he doesn't have a great break on the ball as a corner. A lot of his interceptions came from tipped passes, the kind a safety would get. Very few times did Williams jump a route - like a Tye Hill or Richard Marshall - and take it to the house.

Williams' attitude is also turning NFL teams off. He was reportedly uninterested at a lot of his interviews at the Combine and basically told teams he has no desire to play safety. That's not really the kind of attitude NFL scouts are looking for from a guy who has yet to play a down in the pros. If he can get his head on straight, I think Williams can still be an asset to an NFL team. He's exceptional at blocking kicks and he always seems to make big plays. However, Williams has to be willing to play safety because with his hard-hitting style and lack of quickness, that's where he can succeed at the pro level.

Ashton Youboty, Ohio State – I have seen a lot of Ohio State football the past couple of years and when I heard Youboty was coming out early I thought he was crazy. I'm not sure if he knows this but Youboty was the weak link in the Buckeyes secondary the last two seasons. There was even some talk last spring that Ted Ginn Jr. may switch over to the defensive side of the ball and play some cornerback. Now people are talking about drafting Youboty in the first round? Maybe they haven't seen the same films that I've seen on the Ohio State corner. If they have, teams would see a corner who never looks up at the ball, struggles badly with bigger, more physical receivers and has terrible hands. A lot of times when the ball is in the air, Youboty does what I can't stand from a cornerback. He just raises his arms up with his back turned to the quarterback. Youboty doesn't turn his head around and try to locate the ball; he just sticks his hands in the air. In the NFL, that's a penalty every time.

I like virtually every player on the Ohio State defense but Youboty is the exception. He's not even close to the top corners in this draft when it comes to quickness, awareness and instincts in my opinion. If Youboty is selected in the first round of the draft, I just think years from now people will look back and say, "Remember Ashton Youboty? I wonder what he's doing now?"

Alan Zemaitis, Penn State – Watching Zemaitis on film, I got the same impression of him that I got from most of the Penn State defensive players. They were a bunch of good college players that made up a great college defense. The one positive with Zemaitis is despite his small frame, he's very physical against the run. In coverage, however, is where he'll struggle in the NFL. He has a tall, lanky frame and lacks the speed and quickness to be a starting NFL corner. Zemaitis didn't perform well at his pro day, running a 4.58 40-yard dash and struggling in many of the drills scouts put him through.

The former Nittany Lion is one of those guys who will work hard and give it everything he has but he needs to be in the right system to succeed. I don't think Zemaitis is fluid in coverage at all. He doesn't turn his hips quickly enough and he's slow to react to a receiver when they change direction. Zemaitis has enough heart to make a team as a nickel back and special teams standout but I think his lack of physical ability limits what he can do in the NFL.

Cedric Griffin, Texas – Griffin was I guy I liked during the year but I noticed a lot of holes in his game while I was breaking him down on tape. He seems to be more of a safety trapped in a cornerback's body. Griffin is physical but he struggles in coverage and has trouble staying with receivers. A lot of times I noticed him badly trailing receivers on crossing routes and he lets receivers get behind him down the field. Griffin is a big hitter and an asset against the run but he needs work on his technique if he wants to be a starting corner in the NFL. He shows good recovery speed but Griffin losses receivers out of their breaks because his backpedaling needs work. He slips and falls a lot when he tries to change direction.

I also think Griffin benefited from playing alongside Michael Huff. The Longhorns safety was able to cover so much ground that it allowed Griffin to take some gambles. Griffin has a chance to be good in the pros but he's one of those safety/corner tweeners. He needs to go to a team that has a system in place where his versatility will be put to good use. Perhaps a team like the Patriots would be a good fit for Griffin because they do a lot of different things with their defensive backs. Don't be surprised if he ends up playing safety in the NFL.

Will Blackmon, Boston College – We've received some e-mails asking about the local product Blackmon so I thought I would discuss him. Blackmon is falling simply because he's not ready to play corner in the NFL. He's a great athlete and tremendous special teams player but he has a long way to go before he lines up at cornerback in the pros.

Blackmon started all 12 games at wide receiver as a senior but played corner for BC during his first three years, totaling seven interceptions. He showed at The Senior Bowl that he's still a little rusty at his old position. However, he has enough talent and upside that with the right coaching, Blackmon could develop into a solid NFL corner. The problem with Blackmon is the team that drafts him is going to have to be patient. He'll contribute on special teams right away as a return man but it's probably going to take a year or two before he's ready to get on the field as a cornerback.

Blackmon's technique is a little sloppy but that's to be expected. The biggest problem I see with him in regards to being a Patriot is he appears to be more comfortable playing off the line of scrimmage. I hate to say it but the way Blackmon plays kind of reminds me of Duane Starks. He just doesn't seem to be the physical kind of corner the Patriots look for but with his return abilities and upside, you never know. Belichick may see something he likes in Blackmon and take a chance on him.

*Check back on Thursday to see which defensive backs are on the rise and which ones are potential sleepers.
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