MOBILE, Ala. — With many of the NFL’s top wide receivers coming in bigger and stronger packages in recent years, the league has started to trend toward defensive backs of similar molds. Cornerbacks like Seattle’s Richard Sherman can create mismatches with smaller wideouts, and also match up with the bigger targets, taking away some of their size and strength advantages.
That success has caused college coaches to experiment with players of similar body types, moving some would-be safeties or receivers to cornerback.
As NFL talent evaluators look for the next big corner, they have had a number of candidates to study during this week’s Senior Bowl practices. Ten of the 12 cornerbacks on hand measured out at 6 feet or taller, and seven are 6-1 or taller.
The prospect generating the most buzz here this week is Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who at 6-3, 215 pounds is the biggest of all the corners, and also ranks among the most talented.
“My size helps me a lot, being physical and putting hands on them, slowing down the connection they have with a quarterback,” said Jean-Baptiste, who as a senior tallied four interceptions to lead Nebraska, and also recorded 35 tackles and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.
“Hopefully it helps me a lot,” he continued, discussing his size. “Richard Sherman has a part to do with that. He’s playing good football right now and showing that people our size can move and play.”
A year after drafting 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback David Amerson in the second round, the Redskins are expected to make additional moves to upgrade their secondary this offseason. They rank among a high number of teams that have interviewed Jean-Baptiste this week in Mobile.
Jean-Baptiste is still considered a work in progress because he has only played cornerback the past three seasons. He originally was recruited out of Miami Central High School as a wide receiver, and played there during a year at Fort Scott Community College. In 2010, he didn’t appear in a game at Nebraska, and the following season as a sophomore, he made the switch to cornerback and appeared in nine games. Jean-Baptiste played in all 14 games as a junior, making five starts.
Having played safety in high school, cornerback wasn’t entirely foreign to Jean-Baptiste. But he did have to break some habits, like tending to watch the backfield too much.
Once comfortable and as a full-time starter, Jean-Baptiste has demonstrated an ability to play well in press coverage and in zone coverage.
“I like to mix it up, but I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” he said. “As long as I’m on the field, helping a team out, I’m cool with that.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
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