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Shutdown Corner

Buffalo Bills take Stephon Gilmore

Maggie Hendricks
Shutdown Corner

With the 10th overall pick, the Buffalo Bills boosted their secondary by taking Stephon Gilmore, a cornerback from South Carolina. Here's what our scouting reports had to say about Gilmore:

Pros: It is unusual to start a cornerback's scouting report by praising his run defense, but Gilmore stands out in this area. He often played the "force defender" role for the Gamecocks, deterring running backs from trying to run to the weak side of the formation by attacking from the edge on that side of the field. Gilmore reads running plays quickly and attacks them aggressively. He is a very willing hitter, though his tackling technique leaves something to be desired. Gilmore will fight through blocks by wide receivers and will pursue plays from behind to make touchdown-saving tackles. Gilmore has seven career sacks and can be a weapon as a corner blitzer.

Gilmore has exceptional speed and can run with top wide receivers. He covers a lot of ground in zone coverage. As a three-year starter, he has learned to diagnose plays when he is in a short zone, and will sit in a spot on the field and wait for an easy interception or pass breakup. Gilmore gambles and guesses sometimes when jumping routes. That can be good or bad, of course, but Gilmore picks his spots fairly well when he gambles.

Gilmore returned a blocked kick for a two-point conversion against Nebraska in the Capitol One Bowl and had an interception return touchdown in 2010. When he bursts into the open field, no one will catch him.

Cons: Gilmore's man coverage technique is very raw. His footwork is not great, and he will lose his receiver at the top of the route. When playing off the receiver, he gets caught flat-footed when the receiver breaks. Gilmore is a long, lean defender who will always have trouble with compact, nifty receivers. In deep zones, he sometimes relies on his pure speed to bail him out when he did not take proper position against a route combination.

Gilmore tries to drop the hammer when tackling in run support, which means he sometimes lunges at the ball carrier's legs and fails to wrap properly. As a result, running backs sometimes bounce off of him and keep running.

Despite his experience as a high school quarterback and Wildcat performer, Gilmore does not project as a two-way contributor at the NFL level.

Conclusion: Gilmore is a safe pick for any team: coaches know they will get a hard working, experienced defender who is tall and runs fast. He can step in as a nickel defender who helps in run support and matches up against taller receivers. Whether he grows into an All Pro or a solid Cover-2 type second cornerback depends on how well he refines his technique, both in pass coverage and as a tackler. He provides a very high potential yield for relatively low risk.

NFL Comparison: Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears

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