2011 NFL Draft: Secondary Sleepers
By: Justin Onslow
March 20, 2011
Buster Skrine
Every year, dozen of players are drafted in the middle and late rounds of the NFL Draft that go on to have exceptionally successful careers in the league. The list is extensive and full of recognizable names. Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round in 2000. The Patriots also drafted Asante Samuel in the fourth round three years later. In 2001, the Rams drafted T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who went on the have several great years in Cincinnati. Pro Bowlers Jeff Saturday and London Fletcher even went undrafted in 1998.

There will always be hidden diamonds in the thick rough that is the NFL Draft. With the league continually making a push toward high-octane passing offenses, finding quality defensive backs in this year's draft is more important than ever, and some teams may have the good fortune of digging deep into the draft pool and plucking out a future Pro Bowl defensive back. The following list of defensive backs consists of players who are not yet being talked about as early-round selections, but these players could have a major impact on Sundays in the near future.

Buster Skrine (CB, Tennessee-Chattanooga) -- Skrine is not exactly a household name. In fact, most people probably don't know how to pronounce Skrine's last name (pronounced "screen"). But few defensive backs did more to improve their stock at the NFL Combine than Skrine. Although his official 40-yard dash time was a rather mild 4.48 seconds, he was unofficially timed at 4.29, and his blazing speed is very noticeable on film. Skrine also put up 20 bench-press reps at 225 pounds, which for a 5'9", 186 pound corner is well above average. At Tennessee-Chattanooga, Skrine put up marginal statistics, but the film shows why he may be a true sleeper this April. He is physical and feisty, and seems to have a pretty good feel for the game. Some may argue that Skrine only stood out in college because of the level of competition, but anyone who has seen his quickness and athleticism may have to reconsider. He's a raw prospect, but has the physical tools that, with the right coaching, may make him a good defensive back at the next level.

Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman (CB, Stanford) -- When Sherman showed up in Mobile as a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, few knew anything about him. It didn't take long for him to turn some heads, however. Sherman is a 6'2⅝, 195 corner with physicality to match his length. He also has no shortage of football skills. Sherman performed well during Senior Bowl week, and was rewarded with a starting spot on the North squad for the game. Sherman is an interesting cornerback prospect in that he played wide receiver his first three years of college. As a result, Sherman's ball skills are well above average for a defensive back. Paired with leaping ability and speed, Sherman's attributes make him an intriguing player and possible mid to late-round steal in April. He may be a bit of a project for a couple years because of his relative inexperience at the position, but he has a lot of upside and the possibility to be a solid defensive back in the future.

Kendric Burney
Kenric Burney (CB, North Carolina) -- Some NFL Draft followers may already know about Burney because of his exceptional performance at the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately for Burney, his combine performance was not equally beneficial to his draft stock. Burney ran a 4.72 40-yard dash at the combine, which is potentially crippling for a hopeful NFL cornerback. Even for a safety, 4.72 leaves a lot to be desired. However, even the best athletes can have a poor performance, and I am not entirely sure Burney's performance at the combine is indicative of his true potential. Burney is undersized for an NFL corner, and he didn't do himself any favors at the combine. So why does he have potential? There is more to being a football player than great size and burner speed. Instincts, passion and football smarts also decide whether a player is a boom or a bust. Burney is a football player, plain and simple. He recorded 11 interceptions in college, and not because he runs a fast 40 or has a massive frame. His success at North Carolina was a result of a high motor and a solid head on his shoulders. Those are the factors that transfer to the next level, and are the exact reasons why a team is going to fall in love with Burney's intangibles and potentially turn him into a future starter.

Shiloh Keo
Shiloh Keo (S, Idaho) -- There is nothing that can launch a prospect's stock to the top of draft boards quite like production. Big stats can take a late rounder and move him into first or second-day discussions. Keo is one such player who could see his stock rise in the coming month. If Keo falls into later rounds, he could also be a big steal for a lucky NFL team. Keo is a big, physical, bruising safety who, over the last five years, amassed stats any defensive back would be proud of. His 354 tackles and 11 interceptions jumps off the stat sheet, but his play on film shows why Keo has the ability to make an impact on Sundays. Scouts love prospects that play with intensity, and few defensive backs in this year's draft class have more than Keo. He loves to hit, and isn't afraid to fill hard and take down runners or blow up blockers. Although Keo lacks great coverage skills, he possesses a lot of the traits teams look for in an in-the-box strong safety in the NFL who can be a fine contributor in the NFL.





(May 1) -- The NFL Draft is in the books and Sideline Scouting would like to thank our visitors for making this our most successful year to date. We hope you enjoyed our coverage. Sideline Scouting will be back next year and better than ever. We have some big changes planned that we hope will make your visits here even more enjoyable.


*Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn
Von Miller
LB, Texas A&M;
*Marcell Dareus
DE, Alabama
*A.J. Green
WR, Georgia
*Patrick Peterson
CB, LSU
View Mock Draft »