By Frank Cooney
The Sports Xchange
This year's class of defensive backs may be the best Bruce Kebric has seen in the 45 years he scouted college prospects for pro football.
"There is a lot of talent at the top and then plenty of draftable players well down the line," Kebric said. "And there a lot of very intriguing players with unusual talent."
According to ratings by NFLDraftScout.com, there are 18 defensive backs who project to be drafted in the first two rounds, including a dozen cornerbacks. It is just what long-suffering defensive coordinators need in an NFL full of quarterbacks and rules intent on erasing defenses.
Kebric, a consultant with NFLDraftscout.com, agrees that possibly the most intriguing player is one some say can't be considered for the first round because, well, just because. He is too small. He is too much trouble.
Sure enough, both Kerbic and NFLDraftScout.com rate this little trouble maker as one of the more interesting third-round prospects in memory.
He is LSU's former Honey Badger, and several-time marijuana bustee, Tyrann Mathieu, 5-9, 186-pounds of trouble on and off the field. He says he is clean and has been so since late October, which was also his last bust. He has the backing of Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders and current All-Pro Patrick Peterson, a teammate at LSU.
"I've been around a long time and can't recall somebody just like him," Kebric said. "He has instincts, especially ball instincts, as good as anybody I can remember. He measures small, but he plays huge. And I mean he is strong, too."
Kebric has been scouting players since signing on with the great Sid Gilman of the San Diego Chargers in 1968. Kebric was also with the Houston Oilers, Arizona Wranglers (USFL), and, for the last 31 years, the Oakland/L.A. Raiders.
Kebric shared his scouting report here with NFLDraftScout.com on Mathieu, and several of the top rated defensive backs. His scouting reports are written in the same style, with the same scouting expressions and lingo as he has always used.
Scouts refer to cornerbacks, for instance, as defensive corners, or DC.
Included in his reports is the blunt, to-the-point, lingo of scouts -- such as "flabby body" and "good butt" or "bubble" (meaning buttocks). Height is measured to the eighth of an inch in the four-digit, industry standard system: 6043 = six feet (first digit), four inches (middle two digits) and 3/8ths of an inch (last digit reflects eights of an inch).
Although Mathieu did not crack the list of top 10 defensive backs, here is Kebric's report based on film and other study:
#7 TYRANN MATHIEU DC/PR (5086-186-4.50).
Body: Short, square frame. Muscular upper body, arms. Good butt (bubble), thighs, calves. Duck-footed. ARM: 31 1/8; HAND: 9 3/8.
Left Corner base position 2011 tapes; moved to slot in nickel (thought played best as slot); one-year starter; suspended 2012 season. Short but excellent player and punt returner. Excellent instincts, aggressiveness, big play ability. Excellent athletic ability, quickness, movement. Good speed, range. Excellent body control/balance, feet/hips, change direction. Good man and zone cover ability. Backpedals easy, good break on ball, close quickly on all routes. Anticipates well, good ball react, ball skills, hands, run after catch. Strong for size, hitter; supports quickly with good angles but inconsistent wrap as tackler. Has a knack for stripping ball from both receivers and running backs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt return-excellent return ability (2011: 15.6 average, 2 TDs-92 vs. Arkansas, 62 vs. Georgia). Good catcher with initial quickness, vision, cut ability, use blockers at all levels, break ability. Punt: Right gunner; downfield well.
Third Round: Good player/punt returner with off-field problems.
SUSPENSIONS/LEGAL PROBLEMS: October 19, 2011: Positive synthetic marijuana test; one game suspension (Auburn). August 10, 2012: Dismissed from team for multiple marijuana test failures. August 17, 2012: Entered drug rehab program in Houston. October 25, 2012: Marijuana Possession Arrest (Baton Rouge).
New Orleans, LA (St. Augustine High School/DC). LSU (2010). Outgoing person, emotional leader, likeable personality. Parents never married (father serving prison life sentence for murder conviction). Mother in life but was raised initially by grandparents (deceased) and later adopted by Uncle and Aunt.
So there it is. Where should he be drafted? Watch for somebody to take a shot earlier than the third round. Meantime, here is an explanation on more scouting reports from Kebric.
Grade system: 1.0=top 5 pick; 1.5=5-10 pick; 2.0=11th-20th overall; 2.5=21st-32nd overall; 3.0=Rd. 2; 3.5- Rd. 3; 3.7=Rd. 4; 4.0= Rd. 5; 4.25= Rd. 6; 4.5= Rd. 7; 4.7= FA with pos trait for team; 4.9= FA Pos trait general; 5.0= Reject.
Here is a closer look at the top defensive back candidates in the 2013 draft (Players are listed in order of NFLDraftScout.com ratings; first line for each player shows his positional and overall rating):
Top 2013 Defensive Backs
1. (1 CB/5 overall)
#28 DEE MILLINER, Alabama, DC (5117-201-4.37).
Body: Adequate frame. Adequate upper body, arms (long muscle). Adequate butt, thighs; slender calves. ARM: 32; HAND: 8 3/4.
Boundary corner (one-year starter); nickel corner in 2011 tape. Alert, aggressive, confident player. Good athletic ability, speed, quickness, movement, range. Good body control/balance, feet/hips, change direction. Good burst and catch up ability at all levels. Good man cover ability: slides most of time, good stop, change direction, break on ball, close. Runs easy, nice stride. Good ball react, play ball (time, jump), hands. Good zone position, break on ball, close. Good run support; adequate strength, tackler.
SPECIAL TEAMS: FG/PAT Block-Right corner; PUNT- Left gunner; downfield well; PUNT RETURN- Right jammer; KICKOFF RETURN- Deep; blocker (breaks down, block effort). First round: Combines instincts, cover ability, aggressiveness.
INJURY: March 2013- Right shoulder surgery (labrum tear). September 8, 2012- Hip flexor (DNP vs. Kentucky).
Millbrook, AL (Stanhope Elmore High School/RB-DC: Parade All-American). Alabama (2010).
2. (2 CB/14 overall)
#27 XAVIER RHODES, Florida State, DC (6014-210-4.43).
Body: Big frame; impressive physically. Muscular upper body, arms. Good butt (bubble), thighs; muscular calves. ARM: 33 3/4; HAND: 9.
Boundary corner (three-year starter). Big corner with good athletic ability, speed, strength; adequate quickness, movement. Seems alert, good aggressiveness, tackler (breaks down, wraps). Best press cover: good bend, jam, turn and run with receiver. Good position, ball react, no interceptions tapes but coaches say he has good hands. Adequate backpedal when plays off; good feet, little hip tightness and gather to change direction but good front and lateral close once turned. Good zone depth, adequate break on ball, good close. Competitive player but no big plays on tapes. Has some hip tightness, puts hands on receiver all over field and two pass interference penalties in tapes. Could be quicker, do not see top speed (does not play as fast as 40 time), deep burst. Might be best suited for safety (particularly strong safety).
Second Round: Like his strength, aggressiveness, press cover ability.
Miami, FL (Norland High School/RB-DB). Florida State (Medical Redshirt 2009; Hand injury second game). Birthdate: June 19, 1990.
3. (1 FS/19 Overall)
#4 KENNY VACCARO, Texas, FS (6000-214-4.63).
Body: Good frame. Adequate upper body, arms. Good butt (bubble), thighs, calves. ARM: 32 3/4; HAND: 10.
Free Safety (three-year starter); nickel slot cover. Alert, strong, aggressive safety with adequate athletic ability, speed, quickness, range. Good body control/balance; adequate feet; some hip tightness. Supports quickly, good pursuit angles, tackler. Keeps good position slot cover; adequate break on ball, change direction, close on routes in front. Runs with a lot of arm action, do not see deep speed, catch up burst. Adequate hands in drills; one interception tapes. Best as center field type free safety since appears instinctive, aggressive and has range; not a natural cover guy. Two pass interference penalties in tapes.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt Return- Left jammer; FG/PAT Rush- Right end.
Third Round: Like his size, instincts, aggressiveness.
INJURY: High School (2008): Knee injury.
Brownwood, TX (Early High School/DB. Basketball). Texas (2009). Team co-captain.
4. (3 CB/24 Overall)
#6 DESMOND TRUFANT, Washington, DC (5115-190-4.38).
Body: Good frame; impressive physically. Muscular upper body, arms. Good butt (bubble), thighs; adequate calves. Little duck-footed. ARM: 31 1/4; HAND: 8 5/8.
Left Corner (four-year starter). Alert, confident, aggressive corner with good man and zone cover ability. Good athletic ability, speed, quickness, movement. Good body control/balance, feet/hips, change direction. Good strength; adequate block ward, tackler.
PRESS: Good bend, jam, turn and run downfield. Quick stop ability, good ball react, play ball (time, jump), hands.
OFF: Backpedals easy (quick feet, stays in pedal), good break on ball, close burst all levels. Speed to recover, catch up.
ZONE: Plays primarily man here but good depth, react, break on ball, close. Smooth movement, good plant and drive. Likes to get physical with receivers and gets hands on downfield frequently, will use arm bar.
SPECIAL TEAMS: FG/PAT Block: Left corner. PUNT RETURN: Good catch in pre-game; no returns in tapes.
First Round: Has all the qualities to be good NFL corner; just needs to keep hands off of receiver downfield.
INJURY: November 2012-Injured (did not play vs. Colorado).
Tacoma, WA (Wilson High School/RB-DC. Basketball-Track: Triple Jump @ 46-5, #2 WA 4A; Long Jump @ 21-2). Washington (2009). Team co-captain. Outgoing, competitive person. Excellent man cover ability. Good family; parents together; brothers Marcus (Seahawks) and Isaiah (Jets) are NFL players. Birthdate: September 10, 1990.
5. (4 CB/ 30 Overall)
#5 JAMAR TAYLOR, Boise State, DC (5105-192-4.39FI1).
Body: Adequate frame. Muscular upper body, arms. Wide butt, good thighs, muscular calves. ARM: 30 3/4; HAND: 9 1/8.
Boundary Corner (three-year starter). Confident, aggressive, quick corner with good instincts, man cover ability. Good athletic ability, speed, movement, range. Good body control/balance, quick feet/loose hips, good change direction (no wasted motion) along with close burst all levels. Good force, support vs. run; adequate tackler (low most of the time). Good press (excellent bend, adequate jam, good turn & run) and off cover ability. Backpedals easy (does not stay in) but prefers to slide; excellent break on ball, stop, plant & drive ability. Good zone depth, break on ball, close. Keeps good position all routes, good ball skills, hands. Runs easy, nice stride. Height appears to be only negative.
Second Round: Like his cover ability, ball skills, aggressiveness.
INJURY: Fall 2011-Injured (out four games).
San Diego, CA (Helix High School/DC). Boise State (2008; Redshirt 2009). WAC academic.
6. (1 SS/34 Overall)
#22 MATT ELAM SS (5097-208-4.54).
Body: Short, thick body; impressive physically. Muscular upper body, arms. Good butt, thighs, calves. ARM: 32 5/8; HAND: 9.
Strong Safety (two-year starter). Alert, explosive safety with excellent aggressiveness, strength. Big hitter, good tackler. Good athletic ability, speed, quickness, movement, range. Good body control/balance, feet/hips, change direction. Productive both in box and space. Supports quickly, good block ward, shed, anxious to get involved vs. the run. Good blitzer. Displays safety cover ability vs. slot. Backpedals easy, good break on ball along with close burst all levels. Seems very comfortable in coverage. One interception in tapes (Florida State). Height appears to be only negative but plays much bigger than body.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt-Right End; anxious to get downfield and tackle.
First Round: Reminds of Bob Sanders (Colts) but looser, better cover ability, does not appear as fast. Free safety may be best NFL position.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL (Dwyer High School/RB-S; Parade All-American, Florida Gatorade Player of Year. Florida (2010).
7. (2 SS/42 Overall) Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International, SS (6000-217-4.64).
No game film analysis. NFLDraftScout.com staff rating.
8. (4 CB/47 Overall)
#13 JOHNTHAN BANKS, Mississippi State, DC (6020-185-4.61FI1).
Body: Tall, angular, high-cut frame. Long muscle upper body, arms. Slender forearms, wrists. Adequate butt (bubble), thighs; slender calves. ARM: 33 7/8; HAND: 9 1/4.
Boundary Corner (four-year starter). Alert, athletic corner with excellent height, long arms. Good quickness, movement; adequate speed. Good body control/balance, feet/hips, change direction. Lot of press (no jam), bail cover technique (two-deep) but backpedals easy (short steps), good break on ball, close on routes in front. Runs easy; adequate stride, range. Good ball skills, hands. Smooth but not explosive; do not see deep burst, catch up. Not strong, physical player; question tackle desire vs. run (high, grabs frequently).
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt Return-Good catcher, adequate returner. Kickoff (R1)-does not appear anxious to get involved.
Fourth Round: Like his height, arm length, hands, movement but lacks top speed, good aggressiveness.
INJURY: January 1, 2013-Left leg nerve bruise and cut (stitches).
Maben, MS (East Webster High School/QB-DB. Basketball-Baseball). Mississippi State (2009). Birthdate: October 3, 1989.
9. (6 CB/50 Overall).
#1 DAVID AMERSON, N. Carolina State, DC (6010-205-4.44).
Body: Tall, high-cut frame. Average upper body, arms. Adequate butt, thighs; average calves. ARM: 32 5/8; HAND: 9 3/8.
Field Corner (three-year starter). Alert player with good ball skills, hands (13 interceptions 2011 season). Good athletic ability, speed (does not play as fast as 40 time), quickness, movement, range. Good body control/balance, feet/hips, change direction. Primary zone (cover two) here. Backpedals easy, good break on ball, close. Adequate press: waist bend, no jam; can turn and run downfield but do not see top speed, a deep burst, catch up ability. Smooth, not explosive. Not a physical, aggressive player; average strength, block catcher, low tackler.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt: Left gunner vs. Florida State. Kickoff: L1 vs. Maryland.
Fourth Round: Like his height, ball skills.
Greensboro, NC (Dudley High School/S). North Carolina State (2010).
10. (2 FS/55 Overall).
#1 ERIC REID, LSU, FS (6012-213-4.53).
Body: Good frame; impressive physically. Good upper body, arms (muscular). Adequate butt (bubble), good thighs, muscular calves. Little duck-footed. ARM: 33 5/8; HAND: 10.
Free Safety (two-year starter). Alert, strong, aggressive player with good athletic ability, speed, quickness, movement, range. Runs easy, nice stride. Generally around ball and involved. Good body control/balance, feet/hips, break on ball/change direction. Supports quickly, big hitter, good tackler but needs more consistent wrap. Short step backpedal but good feet, break on ball, stop & change direction, close. Displayed adequate man cover ability in practice. Good ball react, hands. SPECIAL TEAMS: Right guard; downfield well.
First Round: Like his athletic ability, speed, range, aggressiveness.
INJURY: October 17, 2012-Sternum bruise; December 2011-Quad injury (out one game-Arkansas).
Geismar, LA (Dutchtown High School/DB). LSU (2010). Defensive leader. Smart, good student. Birthdate: December 10, 1991.