INDIANAPOLIS -- If you're the Dallas Cowboys you hope nobody takes LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson before the ninth pick of the draft. The Cowboys need a cornerback, Peterson is the best one in the draft and Dallas plays in a division where it's trying to catch Philadelphia.
But good luck, guys, because you're going to need help here. Peterson is a top-five talent who can run, has the size you want at the position and can return kicks. There's a premium on people like that. Plus, there are clubs in line ahead of Dallas that could use him.
Buffalo is one of them, though the Bills probably look to shore up the league's worst run defense or find a quarterback with the third pick. Arizona is another at the fifth spot, though the Cardinals must find a quarterback. Cleveland's a possibility at six, though the Browns took a cornerback with the sixth pick a year ago and have depth at the position. San Francisco could take the plunge at seven, too, though the 49ers need a quarterback.
Basically, it's a minefield out there if the Cowboys want Peterson. It's not just that he's one of the top cornerbacks in recent drafts; it's that there's competition everywhere for his services, with Peterson falling to the ninth spot only under the most ideal of circumstances.
|Patrick Peterson is primed to be the first CB selected in the draft, and his resume at LSU only backs it up. (US Presswire)|
Now that's the spirit. Peterson will have his chance and probably have it early because, as we're reminded all the time, it's a passing league -- with 12 quarterbacks last season throwing for 3,500 or more yards each and 10 producing 25 or more touchdown passes apiece.
But Green Bay won Super Bowl XLV not only because it had the better quarterback that afternoon but because it had the better cornerbacks, too. The Packers played the second half without cornerback Charles Woodson and the third quarter without nickel back Sam Shields, yet they won because they had Tramon Williams and enough capable defensive backs to hold off Pittsburgh's pass attack.
Coaches say you can never have enough pass rushers, but you can never have enough defensive backs, either -- not when there were 96 300-yard passing performances last season.
That's especially true in Dallas, where the pass defense regularly sprung leaks and cornerback Mike Jenkins led the NFL in interference penalties. The Cowboys surrendered a league-high 33 touchdown passes and ranked last in pass plays (13) of 40 or more yards. They were 28th in pass plays of 20 or more yards (57), too, ranked 26th in overall pass defense and in one three-week period were torched for 121 points and 11 touchdown passes.
I think you get the idea. The Dallas Cowboys could use an elite cornerback, and if it's not Patrick Peterson then maybe, just maybe, it's Nebraska's Prince Amukamara. Or maybe they default to one of the outstanding defensive linemen that are available. Whatever they do, they must act to fix a secondary that was exposed far too often in a season where the Cowboys hemorrhaged 30 or more points eight times -- or half their games.
"You definitely need a solid secondary," said Peterson, "because everyone is throwing it all across the yard."
That includes Philadelphia. The Eagles went vertical in 2010, with Michael Vick's 8.1 yards per attempt the best outside of Philip Rivers (8.7), Aaron Rodgers (8.3) and Ben Roethlisberger (8.2). Rodgers and Roethlisberger were the Super Bowl quarterbacks; Vick quarterbacked the NFC East champions. If you want to get to the top you must defend the pass.
That's why Dallas better hope that somehow, some way, Patrick Peterson lasts until the ninth pick. I don't see it happening, either, but then I didn't see Darrius Heyward-Bey as the seventh choice of the 2009 draft or Tyson Alualu as the 10th pick last year.
Peterson is a must-have for a defense in search of an impact player because he is, as he put it, "an all-around cornerback." He defends the pass. He defends the run. He is effective in 'man' coverage. He can close in zone. He's a reliable open-field tackler. He is fast. He is fluid. He is quick. Plus, he played big-time competition in the SEC, allowing one touchdown pass last season (to Alabama's Julio Jones).
"He is a guy who can do a lot of things for you," Denver executive VP John Elway said. "Athletically, he is as good as anyone in the draft."
Peterson said he'd like to "be in play" for the first pick, and who wouldn't with the millions of dollars teams invest in the No. 1 choice? But history is against him. No cornerback in NFL history has gone higher than the third pick, so Peterson probably is out of play at the first position.
But he's probably out of play at the ninth one, too, and, sorry, Dallas fans. Your team could use him. For that matter, everyone could.