This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Keep up to date on our Baker's Dozen series here.
For weeks, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson has been touted by many as the best prospect available in this year's draft class. That is lofty and well-deserved praise, but Peterson is not a perfect prospect. Questions about his technique and his true pro position haven't dented his outstanding draft stock, but playing in the defensive backfield, those questions may be enough to slide him into the latter half of the Top 10. Still, this is a unique and phenomenal athlete.
Defining Trait: Playmaking Ability. Cornerbacks don't go as early in the first round of an NFL Draft unless they're elite-level playmakers. That's exactly what Peterson is - the guy makes things happen on the football field. He's a dynamic athlete with elite-level ball skills, and simply has a knack for making game-changing plays. Add in his outstanding abilities as a return man, and Peterson is able to affect a game from more than just his cornerback position. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the best pure defensive playmaker available this year, and there isn't really a close contender.
Coverage Skills. A natural with tons of experience against elite competition. Elite burst and closing ability helps him make up for shoddy technique, where his footwork in particular is a problem. Average hip fluidity, and does not turn and run as effectively as you'd expect someone with his unusual athletic ability to. We've mentioned his playmaking ability - a lot of that derives from having some of the softest hands you'll ever see on a DB. Can struggle to locate the ball in the air, particularly when he's forced to turn and run with his back to the ball. Covers a lot of ground quickly. Good press corner, as his size, hand strength and physicality allow him to jam at the line. Often does not jam while pressing, and still excels. When he's got the ball, he's as good in the open field as anyone. When he's beaten, he forgets it quickly and comes back to make more plays. Will give up a play on occasion trying to make a play himself. May struggle with slot-type receivers.
Run Defend. Willing in this department, and extremely capable of making tackles on his own. Has the size and tackling ability to wrap up and deliver the big hit, but will sacrifice some of his size advantage with poor tackling technique. Has shown a tendency to try to deliver the big hit rather than simply wrap up. I've seen him dial down the effort when the play is away from him, allowing big runs to get bigger (a Cam Newton scramble comes to mind).
College Production. As a full-time starter in his sophomore season, Peterson was so effective early in the season that teams quickly began to throw away from him. He still set a career high with four interceptions in his final season at LSU.
Patrick Peterson: College Statistics
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Athletic Traits. Prototypical height and arm length with unusual bulk for a cornerback; his 219-pound playing weight has caused many to believe he's a better fit at safety. Explosively fast and quick with top-notch acceleration. Well above-average balance and body control, and is a fantastic leaper. Much of what he accomplishes on the field comes naturally thanks to outstanding instincts, awareness and athletic ability, and his athleticism does mask a lot of technical flaws in his game. Has NFL bloodlines: related to Santana Moss, Sinorice Moss and Bryant McFadden.
Patrick Peterson 2011 Combine Results
Injury Issues. None. Appeared in all 39 games LSU played during his three seasons as a Bayou Bengal.