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Peterson's versatility is greatest asset

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About the Author

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Posted March 01, 2011 @ 10:17 a.m. ET
By Nolan Nawrocki

Last of a six-part series

Each day during the Scouting Combine, we've featured Nolan Nawrocki's in-depth scouting report of a top draft prospect.

CB-FS-RS Patrick Peterson, #7 (Junior)
| Grade: 7.50
6-0¼ | Wt: 219 | Sp: 4.34 | Arm: 32 | Hand:

Notes: Changed his last name from Johnson to Peterson in 2008. Cousin of Bryant (Steelers cornerback) and Walter (Raiders '10 fifth-rounder) McFadden along with Santana (Redskins receiver) and Sinorice Moss (Eagles receiver). Did not play his sophomore season of high school (grades), but was the consensus top-rated cornerback in the nation, USA Today Defensive Player of the Year and a Parade All-American after his senior year as a Florida prep. As a true freshman in 2008, played all 13 games (started the final four) and tallied 41 tackles, three pass breakups and an interception with 1½ tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Started all 13 games at right cornerback in '09, logging 52-13-2. Lost eight pounds while battling the flu leading up to the Alabama contest and experienced cramps and dehydration during the game. In '10, registered 42-6-4 with 1½ tackles for loss and a blocked kick in 13 starts at right cornerback. Also returned 32 kickoffs for 932 yards (29.1-yard average) and 26 punt returns for 418 yards (16.1), including two scores. Won the Bednarik Award (nation's top defender) and the Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) while being voted by SEC coaches as the Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Year.

Positives: Excellent size and press strength at the line of scrimmage. Matches up well against size and can knock big receivers off their routes. Outstanding competitive play speed — seldom lets receivers get on top of him. Carries a swagger and plays with confidence. Very good plant-and-drive quickness. Outstanding ball skills — attacks it in the air and beats receivers to the break point. Strong, physical tackler — hits with thump — and can secure tackles in the open field. Torpedoes blockers to set the edge and understands run fits. Regularly matched up with elite receivers and showed he can lock them down in man coverage. Rises to a challenge and produces in the clutch. Has big-play capability and can flip the field in the return game — exceptional vision, short-area burst and acceleration. Very durable and has NFL pedigree.

Negatives: Is heavy-boned and thick-bodied and could struggle matching up with elite quickness. Has a tendency to freelance and can play with more discipline — see 85-yard TD allowed against Arkansas. Overaggressive jumping routes in short zones and will leave his feet too much as a tackler. Takes some bad angles. Often uses a shuffle technique instead of pedaling and tends to rise in his pedal — footwork is not clean in transition. Loses awareness with his back to the ball.

Summary: A big, strong, thick-bodied press-and-bail corner who may turn out to be best suited for the safety position in the pros, Peterson can man and zone cover, roam, blitz and play near the line of scrimmage while bringing a playmaking dimension to the return game, and his versatility may be his greatest asset. Would fit best as a press corner for a team such as the Raiders, Ravens or Packers. Has Pro Bowl-caliber potential. A rare physical specimen in a similar class with Charles Woodson. Is deserving of consideration with the top overall pick.

NFL projection: Top-10 pick.


Nolan Nawrocki's 2011 Draft Preview book, with scouting reports on approximately 500 prospects, will go on sale March 29 at bookstores everywhere. It also can be preordered at either individually or as part of a combo-pack with the 2011 Draft Guide magazine, which goes on sale March 1.

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