04/29/2012 - If getting what you want, sticking to your board while filling needs and taking your kind of guys constitute a good draft, then that's exactly what the Cowboys accomplished with their seven picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. They hit a home run on opening day with the trade up for LSU shutdown cornerback Morris Claiborne. They then continued the momentum by taking four straight defenders and five overall in an attempt to upgrade a unit that contributed to five blown fourth-quarter leads last season, including an NFL record three of 12 points or more. BEST PICK: Cornerback Morris Claiborne: The Cowboys wanted cornerback Mo Claiborne so bad that they gave up a second-round pick to move from 14th to sixth in the first round. Claiborne was the highest ranked defensive player on their draft board and the second highest rated player. According to owner Jerry Jones he graded out as the highest cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders. That's important because the Cowboys were not just looking for a cover guy they wanted a playmaker to help improve a secondary that gave up more passing yards than any other time in team history. - The Sports Xchange
Claiborne arrived at LSU expecting to play wide receiver, but was moved to corner as a freshman at the insistence of teammate Patrick Peterson. In 2010, Claiborne started opposite Peterson (No. 5 overall selection in 2011 draft, Arizona Cardinals) in what will be remembered as one of the best cornerback tandems in college history.
Peterson won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in 2010 and Claiborne won the award himself last season when he grabbed six of his 11 career interceptions. That popular term shutdown corner comes to mind watching Claiborne, who has in-your-face coverage instincts and is one of the best returners in this draft.
A versatile athlete, "Mo" piled up 2,000 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns at quarterback as senior at Shreveport's Fair Park High School, where he also played baseball, basketball and won the Louisiana State 4A, 110-meter championship (10.76 seconds). Little wonder he is dangerous with the ball, evidenced by a college career total of 274 yards after the theft, including an 89-yard touchdown. He also averaged 28.8 yards last year on kickoff returns, including a 99-yard touchdown.
At the Scouting Combine his unofficial time in 40 yards was an acceptable 4.50, but his speed wasn't in question. Claiborne will need to add bulk to be competitive at the next level.
Man Coverage: Size, quick feet and reach allow him to be effective in press, press-bail and "off" coverage. Rarely loses a step off the line because of his length and subtle knack for maintaining contact on the move. Packs a solid punch when extending near the line to re-route receivers. Gives up significant weight and mass to top NFL receivers. Lazy and high in his backpedal on occasion, receivers lull him to sleep and get a step on him with a quick move.
Zone Coverage: Used primarily in man. Has the physical tools to handle zone and is not contact-shy. Doesn't give up many yards after the catch -- long arms to pull down receivers and intensity to stick his nose in the pile. Recovers well but overestimates his closing speed and angle in zone.
Ball Skills: Former receiver has the hands to make difficult catches and will jump routes. Comfortable with the ball, elusive and has good vision after the catch. Often plays the man and doesn't get his head around to find the ball.
Run Support: Used on run blitzes on occasion with size and length as a tackler. Holds up his man, maintains outside leverage, and sheds to make the tackle if needed on most plays. Has to be aware of coverage call and avoid overpursuit, giving up the sideline.
Tackling: Arm length and tenacious attitude make him a solid, if not fearsome, tackler on the edge. Height and flexibility to attack the thigh of opponents instead of needing to cut or grab an ankle. Not afraid to throw a shoulder but will miss tackles if he doesn't wrap in the NFL.
Intangibles: Stood up well to being targeted by teams in 2010 while playing across from Patrick Peterson. Still learning the position, but coaches and teammates consider him a great student.