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Corners strong, safeties weak


Another in a series of strong cornerback crops should produce no less than four first-round picks. Meanwhile, this is not the best of years for safeties.

Ohio State's Nate Clements, Syracuse's Will Allen, Mississippi State's Fred Smoot and Wisconsin's Jamar Fletcher are all expected to be selected in the first round. Mississippi's Ken Lucas, Memphis State's Michael Stone and Minnesota's Willie Middlebrooks are certain first-day-of-the-draft picks, and this draft could produce another two or three cornerbacks of eventual impact.

Clements has the size, speed and athletic ability teams seek in a first-round cornerback, but he needs to refine his skills. Scouts believe Clements is a player with big upside.

Allen has really come on in personal workouts. He's not the biggest of corners, but he's run a 4.3 and has looked very smooth in man-to-man coverage.

Smoot is a fully-developed, ready-to-go cover corner. The rap on him is that he's a little light for run-support, which isn't his cup of tea.

Fletcher is smallish and not all that fast, but he's rugged and plays the ball very well. He plays a lot better than his numbers would suggest he should.

Lucas looks like a second-round pick. He's big and physical and his speed is adequate, however, he's not all that smooth in coverage. He may be best-suited for a team that plays a lot of zone.

Stone's numbers aren't especially attractive, but he's considered to be a player on the rise.

Middlebrooks is big and fast but lacks refinement. He's not ready to go but could become a big-time corner.

Arizona State's Adam Archuleta and Florida State's Derrick Gibson top a safety crop most believe isn't worthy of a first-round selection. Archuleta, Gibson appear to be second-round candidates, while Baylor's Gary Baxter, North Carolina State's Adrian Wilson, Memphis' Idrees Bashir and Washington's Hakim Akbar are certain first-day selections. After that, there's a big fall-off at the position.

Archuleta is a player moving up the boards. He played linebacker in college, but will move to safety in the NFL and projections are upping his stock. Of course, Carnell Lake played linebacker at UCLA.

Gibson is big, fast, durable and likes to hit, but isn't the best in coverage.

Baxter offers cornerback potential, but may be best-suited to play safety in the NFL. He doesn't have top coverage skills.

Akbar is a junior eligible who comes out of a fine safety tradition at Washington.

The Jaguars aren't expected to spend early on a defensive back, but special teams needs almost require the addition of speed and aggressiveness. Look for the Jaguars to pick a corner or safety late in the draft.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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