The move cost the Cowboys their No. 14 overall pick — which St. Louis used to select Claiborne’s teammate, Michael Brockers — and the No. 45 overall pick. But when a general manager and coach find a player they believe is the most talented at a position of need, that cost is merely a means to an end.
“Use the word elite, we think he is,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I think he’s the most consensus pick and the most consensus move I can ever remember on our draft day.”
That’s high praise indeed, and also a clear indicator that Jones and the Cowboys don’t give a hoot about the infamous Wonderlic test. If they did, Claiborne’s decision to blow off the 50-question test given to all prospects at the NFL scouting combine might have raised a red flag or two.
“I mean, I looked on the test and wasn’t nothing on the test that came with football, so I pretty much blew the test off,” Claiborne told reporters when asked about his score of 4 — the lowest reported score in 12 years, as noted by ESPN.com The average score for NFL prospects is 21.
“We talk about the test scores, but we also talk about, ‘What is his football IQ?,’” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He has instincts, he has vision, he has the ability to make plays at his position at an elite level.”
Getting that type of playmaker in the secondary was critical for a team that allowed 244 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game — numbers that ranked 23rd and 16th in the NFL respectively.
Claiborne intercepted 11 passes over the last two seasons and won the Jim Thrope Award, which is given annually to college football’s best cornerback. His speed and coverage ability will help Dallas defend against NFC East quarterbacks Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III, Washington’s first-round selection. But while many considered him to be the top cornerback in the draft class (he was the second player on Dallas’ draft board), the Cowboys’ move to jump up the board to grab him at No. 6 still came as quite a shock.
“I didn’t see it coming in a million. I had no idea,” Claiborne said. “We didn’t talk none, none at all. That’s why it was shocking to me when I got the phone call.”
Living up to the lofty expectations for a top-10 draft pick can be challenging enough. But then Jones compared Claiborne’s talent to that of former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders, who the Falcons selected with the fifth overall pick in the 1989 draft.
Sanders discussed Claiborne’s potential Friday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Ben and Skin Show.”
“He ain’t going to be no shutdown corner coming right out of college,” Sanders said. “I don’t even know what a shutdown corner is right now outside of Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis. That does not exist.
“But this guy here, he should be able to start if he can pick up the scheme. It’s not about the physical ability, because you’re going to take your bumps and bruises and you’re going to get beat. That’s how you learn. That’s how you process things in the NFL.”
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