Shutdown Corner - NFL

With the 2010 NFL season in the books, the draft edging ever closer (and a lockout battle now headed back to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.

But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.

We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Expected at the start of the 2010 season to be a first-round prospect, the two-time Second Team All-ACC (2008 and 2009) suffered through a series of leg injuries in his senior season that impacted his play, prevented him from a full workout at the scouting combine, and caused his draft stock to plummet. But in 40 total games for Virginia, Dowling showed enough on tape to make himself a very intriguing prospect and a possible steal if he can stay healthy. Totaling eight interceptions, 28 passes defensed, 160 tackles (115 solo), and four forced fumbles, Dowling proved that he was one of the most well-rounded defensive backs in the nation before everything fell apart. Based on the tape we have, and the fact that Dowling is considered to still be a second-round possibility by some, what does he bring to the NFL?

Pros: While Dowling doesn't have burner speed, he is fast and experienced enough to trail bigger receivers very effectively. Physical corner in press coverage; he can get his hands on and engage without drawing penalties, and he doesn't get twisted out of press. Keeps his eyes on the play and doesn't assume that his defense ends with his own coverage. Understands route concepts better than some of the receivers he's covered — Dowling is rarely fooled. If he does get beaten in coverage, it will more likely be the product of a speed disadvantage. Good ball skills on plays where he can stay with his receiver; keeps his eye on the ball, times his jumps well and goes for the catch rather than the deflection. Plays even taller than he is — he's trouble for receivers on jump balls.

In run defense, Dowling uses his size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and field awareness to set the edge and bail off coverage to help stop ballcarriers. Has the valuable ability to watch the run without getting drawn extensively into play action. Potential force defender with free-safety-level tackling skills. Wraps up and lifts his man off the ground.

Cons: Plays much better in near and slot route coverage than outside against speed receivers; Dowling simply doesn't have the gear to keep up with faster wideouts. Reasonably quick and smooth hip turn, but will occasionally lose a first step to more agile receivers. Could be baited by short-area speed at the NFL level because he doesn't close with elite quickness. Struggled through hamstring, knee, and ankle injuries before he was shut down with a high ankle sprain in 2010 — he's a fast straight-line guy, but he doesn't have short-area speed to lose.

Conclusion: Just about every NFL team could use a smart, hyper-aware player like Dowling on its defense. It's clear that Dowling doesn't have the speed to keep up with the DeSean Jacksons of the world, and he may frustrate in the pros as he gets the hang of more advanced option routes and double moves. But he's also displayed an impressive amount of skill and smarts on the field, and as long as his medicals pan out, he could recover from all those 2010 problems and really help a team. However, Dowling doesn't have any speed to give up — and like Trufant, who shares his on-field acumen and dynamic tackling skills, he could get toasted pretty heavily when he's less than 100 percent.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Trufant(notes), Seattle Seahawks

More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky | #54 -- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada | #55 — Sam Acho, OLB/DE, Texas | #56 -- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU | #57 — Davon House, CB, New Mexico State | #58 -- Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt | #59 — Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU | #60 — Drake Nevis, DT, LSU | #61-- Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina | #62 — Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami | #63 — Titus Young, WR, Boise State

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