- All that separated fourth-round cornerback Omar Bolden from the upper reaches of the draft was his left knee. In the last three seasons, Bolden missed one year (2011) entirely and most of another (2009) because of injuries to it. A sprained MCL torpedoed his sophomore season three years ago; a torn ACL during last spring's practice brought his college career to a premature end. A torn labrum that necessitated post-season surgery in 2008 only adds to the litany of pain that has dogged Bolden throughout his career. But his talent and potential was undeniable; in his only full season of the last three years (2010, Bolden was a first-team All-Pac 10 cornerback and second-team all-conference returner. The Broncos are banking on 2010 being the norm for Bolden, who missed 21 of Arizona State's 37 games the last three seasons. "We think was a first or a second-round talent, and we were able to get him in the fourth," Elway said. - The Sports Xchange
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One of the top corners in the country, Bolden was looking forward to a big senior year--until he tore his left ACL at an April practice. NFL teams, however, have shown in recent years that will gladly use high picks on players (QB Sam Bradford, TE Kyle Rudolph, TE Rob Gronkowski) who missed most or all of their final year of college.
When healthy, Bolden's resume speaks for itself. He earned nine starts in 13 games, and Freshman All-American honors, in his first year in Tempe, intercepting one pass and breaking up six others. His second year was even more successful, as the 12-game starter intercepted two passes and deflected seven others. A knee injury in the fourth game of 2009 knocked Bolden out of the line-up (one INT, one PBU, 89-yard kickoff return for TD), but he bounced back as a junior to garner first-team All-Pac-10 honors at cornerback (three INT, seven PBU) and second-team as a kickoff returner (29.2 avg).
Bolden's cover skills and return ability could earn him good grades as long as he can prove himself healthy at the Scouting Combine next February or a campus workout soon afterwards. Even with missing part of two seasons with knee injuries and lacking great size on the outside, his talent may be too much for teams to pass up in the top 100 picks.
Man Coverage: Excellent quickness and straight-line speed to stay with any receiver down the sideline and recover from double-moves. Closes quickly on out routes, often beating the ball to the spot. Smaller than teams prefer on the outside but plays tougher than his listed size would indicate. Larger receivers separate with length and strength off the line in press. Has enough recovery speed helps him to catch up but can struggle to make the play if in that mode. Gives up height and size in the red zone, as well. Needs to learn how battle receivers without drawing penalty flags, gets very physical downfield. Must work on staying in backpedal until receiver tips off his route; lets up at times, allowing his man to run past him.
Zone Coverage: Would excel in zone systems with closing speed and toughness. Usually plays well off the line to see the field but possesses the foot quickness to play near the receiver and adjust to inside and outside routes. Gives up few yards after the catch and is capable of breaking up throws by accelerating into the receiver, wrapping him up, and getting his hand on the ball. A step late passing off initial receiver but usually recovers quickly enough to stop underneath route after the catch.
Ball Skills: Excels in the tip drill, taking advantage of jump balls to take the pass the other way for a score. Quick hands allow him to knock away passes when in position, though he will struggle to find or dislodge the ball when recovering or being physical downfield. Possesses enough quickness, elusiveness and straight-line speed to be an effective NFL kickoff returner, though he lacks breakaway speed and has only average vision to find running lanes.
Run Support: Provides assistance in the run game because his average height belies his strength. Secure tackler who does not rely on cuts to bring down backs coming into his area. Nearly always avoids or frees himself from receiver blocks with tenacity and quick hands after initial contact, though NFL receivers may be more able to control him with their advanced strength and length.
Tackling: Very reliable wrapping up a ballcarrier's leg or midsection to bring them down, breaks down quickly and plays with real aggression. Hustles on deep angle to opposite sideline for plays run away from him. Willing to stick his shoulder into a receiver to separate the ball when coming to the aid of another defender in zone.
Intangibles: Well-liked teammate with positive attitude who leads with words and by example. Rehabbing torn left ACL from spring 2011 will test his work ethic; being healthy for the Scouting Combine or pro day would be a big positive. Very confident player who gives full effort and owns a short memory.