With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
#23: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
We continue this year's series with Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, who will soon likely give his parents, Lloyd and Constance, the unusual distinction of having two first-round cornerbacks, and three cornerbacks overall, in the NFL at the same time. Marcus has played with the Seattle Seahawks since he was taken 11th overall in the 2003 NFL draft, and Isaiah has played for the Jets since 2010, when he came up as an undrafted free agent. While Marcus went to Washington State and Isaiah went to Eastern Washington, Desmond chose to make his bones closer to his Tacoma, Wash. home. As a result, he played on defenses that were constantly in transition as the program tried to move on from the Tyrone Willingham era. This was especially true of the 2011 dumpster-fire version under defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who "led" his charges to a ranking of 97th in Football Outsiders' NCAA defensive efficiency metrics, and watched his defense give up 482 rushing yards to Baylor in an Alamo Bowl loss.
Because of Washington's defensive inefficiencies under head coach Steve Sarkisian, and while the Huskies have made a bowl game in each of the last three seasons, some have been late to the party on Desmond Trufant, despite his bloodlines and 45 NCAA starts. That started to change when he made himself into one of the defensive stars at Senior Bowl week, and tore up the scouting combine with a 4.38 40-yard dash (third-fastest among all defensive backs), as well as excellent performances in the agility and positional drills.
"Really, he just told me to be myself," Desmond said at the scouting combine, when asked if big brother Marcus had helped him to prepare for the pre-draft process. Do what I have been doing, and just take it to another level. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and just let it come to you naturally."
That's now happening for the youngest of the three Trufant brothers. Desmond doesn't have the run-stopping ability Marcus had in his prime, but when it comes to coverage skills, he may wind up with the family bragging rights over time.
Pros: Outstanding route-jumper who times his "interventions" well -- this may be his best attribute, and he really showed it off during Senior Bowl week. Shows good timing in close coverages to bait quarterbacks into making the throws to receivers he's covering. Mechanically sound player with a smooth backpedal and efficient hip turn. Can play outside or in the slot/flex in coverage. Played a lot of off coverage in college, but has enough experience playing press to man up against receivers and affect timing off the line. Has the height and leaping ability to cover tight ends. Closes to tackle on swing and screen passes. Goes from quick to fast when defending the deep seam and long sideline passes; Trufant will stick with speed receivers on vertical routes. Understands angles well enough to establish inside and outside position.
Technician and student of the game who is willing to learn and will apply concepts to the field quickly. Mastery of the "little things" will serve him well at the next level. Often caused quarterbacks to make their first read to his man and move away. Gets his hand on a receiver in coverage and keeps his eye on the ball. Mirrors short and intermediate routes well; transitions quickly on cuts in space. Has the speed to blitz around the edge and will impress when trying to block kicks.
Cons: Trufant isn't an especially physical player -- he doesn't tackle consistently against the run and needs to peel off blocks with more strength and leverage. Could struggle against bigger, more physical NFL receivers who like to mix it up. Gets his feet caught up at times on combo routes.. Benefitted from his status as the best player on Washington's defense; he wasn't as challenged as he would have been in better secondaries because opposing quarterbacks could (and would) avoid him as a target. Could read keys more effectively; will bite on play and run action at times and uses his athleticism and "make-up" speed -- the NFL moves faster.
Conclusion: Trufant's excellent performances at the Senior Bowl and scouting combine had teams going back to the tape, and for the most part, the tape matches up. Though there are overall strength issues in his game, Trufant has the experience, physical attributes, and technique awareness to start and excel in the right kind of NFL defense sooner than later.
The question is, how many teams in the mid-first round will take him in direct conflict of the clear trend toward bigger, more physical cornerbacks who can affect routes at the line? Trufant is a bit more old-school -- a great cover corner who can play some press and a lot of zone or off-man. Like Asante Samuel, Trufant is far more about these attributes than he is about getting all handsy and aggressive, and that probably won't change too much. For the team that sees him as a scheme fit, Trufant should be a plug-and-play guy pretty much from the word "Go."
NFL Comparison: Asante Samuel, Atlanta Falcons
More Shutdown 50:
#50: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State | #49: John Jenkins, DL, Georgia | #48: Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State | #47: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State | #46: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse | #45: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State | #44: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU | #43: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson | #42: Kyle Long, OL, Oregon | #41: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State | #40: Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International | #39: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame | #38: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU | #37: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama | #36: Johnthan Banks, DB, Mississippi State | #35: Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama | #34: Matt Barkley, QB, USC | #33: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas | #32: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford | #31: Matt Elam, SS, Florida | #30: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas | #29: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M | #28: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State | #27: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia | #26: Robert Woods, WR, USC | #25: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU | #24: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama