The following is the ninth of 10 installments previewing the 2003 NFL draft class. Today, we feature the defensive backs.
Two cornerbacks head a strong collection of defensive backs that is expected to earn the Jaguars' attention early in this year's NFL Draft.
Terence Newman of Kansas State and Marcus Trufant of Washington State are projected to be top 10 picks, and several draftniks are predicting Trufant will be the Jags' pick with the eighth selection of the draft.
Newman, 5-10, 189, is a talent in the mold of Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson, and Newman is expected to be long gone by the time the Jags step to the plate, but concerns about a shoulder injury have surfaced recently, and others point to Newman's age, 25, as a deterrent.
In terms of performance, Newman has no equals. He has sub-4.4 speed, intercepted five passes last season and played wide receiver in spots. Newman is also a big-play return artist. The only rap on Newman is that he is not a physical player and, therefore, suffers in run-support.
Trufant, 5-11, 199, has similar physical skills and also excels in the return game. Though he's judged to be a cut beneath Newman's level, Trufant is considered capable of being an immediate player of impact as a rookie.
A third cornerback, Andre Woolfolk of Oklahoma, has first-round potential, and if the Jaguars don't go for a cornerback in round one, Oregon State's Dennis Weathersby might offer sound value in round two.
Woolfolk, 6-1, 197, is big, fast and talented, but he's made the move from wide receiver and he may need development time. He is clearly an upside pick; a true best available athlete selection. Time and technique could make him one of the steals of the draft.
Weathersby, 6-0, 254, is not in the same class with the top three cornerbacks. He has scintillating speed but he is said to avoid contact and doesn't always play with energy or determination. A team drafting Weathersby is likely not to involve its corners in run-support. He does have considerable bump-and-run coverage skills.
Eugene Wilson of Illinois, Sammy Davis of Texas A&M, Rashean Mathis of Bethune-Cookman and Kevin Garrett of SMU are other first-day cornerback prospects.
The safety crop is similarly strong, led by USC's Troy Polamalu and Ohio State's Mike Doss. Both are first-round candidates, and three other safeties -- Ken Hamlin of Arkansas, Terrence Holt of North Carolina State and Julian Battle of Tennessee -- figure to be drafted on the first day.
Polamalu, 5-10, 206, has seen his stock skyrocket recently, on the heels of an eye-popping personal workout. He ran a 4.3 and put on an awesome display of weightlifting for scouts who left USC believing they had just seen the strong safety prototype of the next 10 years. The only knock on Polamalu is that he doesn't have the greatest of ball skills.
Doss, 5-10, 207, may be the biggest hitter in the draft, and if you like your safeties involved in run-support, you may overlook Doss' inconsistencies in coverage. He's an honor student who mixes instincts and leadership. One team will fall in love with his heart and character and push Doss into the first round.
Hamlin, 6-2, 209, is big and physical, but before you begin comparing him to Arkansas alum Steve Atwater, take a closer look at Hamlin's coverage deficiencies. He doesn't have Atwater-speed or coverage instincts. Hamlin is a linebacker in a safety's body. Free or strong wouldn't seem to matter.
Holt, 6-1, 208, is a special teams star who blocked 12 kicks in his college career. That alone will light some coach's fire; so will Holt's leadership skills. But you must look past his lack of speed and coverage skills.
Battle, 6-2, 205, has all the physical tools. Technique is at issue. Battle needs lots of schooling, which could become a steal in the third round, but he is not expected to become an immediate star. He will require patience and development.