As the NFL offseason continues to progress and we get closer to the NFL Draft, many of the experts charged with guessing what player each team will select are beginning to hone in on their final selections.
This week's Mock Monitor is evidence that many are still unsure what the Falcons will do at pick No. 30, but one name that has come up recently is Washington's cornerback Desmond Trufant.
A sleek defensive back with lock-down cover skills, Trufant to the Falcons showed up four times in the Mock Monitor, headlined by NFL.com's Charlie Casserly. Our own expert, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller (@NFLDraftScout), has great things to say about Trufant, but as the No. 2 rated corner on his own board, Miller disagrees with Casserly that Trufant will be available for the Falcons at the end of the first round.
Regardless of the difference of opinions, we spotlight Trufant and his NFL lineage this week.
The Trufant family apparently knows cornerbacking in the NFL pretty well. First came Marcus, a first-round pick in 2003 and then came Isaiah, who had to go a different route to the league but has been with the Jets for the last two seasons. Miller says lineage doesn't hurt Desmond's stock, especially when he's linked to two players who have demonstrated solid work ethics in their careers in the NFL and seem to be strong character guys as well.
Miller says he sees flashes of the older Trufant brothers in Desmond's game with his ability to play smoothly and cleanly in coverage. As far as comparisons go, Miller sees another former first-round corner, Joe Haden, who has done more than hold his own in the league since coming in in 2010.
"Like Haden, Trufant isn't a natural ballhawk, but has the potential to take away one side of the field," Miller said.
Trufant escapes a comparison to older brother Marcus from Miller, but he says the youngest Trufant can be better. Back to the Haden comparison, Miller sees Trufant as a similar fluid cornerback with the size and ability to play physically at the point of attack.
At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Trufant has the requisite measurables to play at a high level in the NFL and during the scouting offseason, he's shown he has the other skill sets, as well. He was one of the top performers in his class at the Combine, running a 4.38 40 and 3.85 20-yard shuttle, demonstrating speed and quickness to go with his size and heady play. He continued his strong workouts last month at Washington's Pro Day and has worked himself into an unquestioned first-round prospect. The rise of Trufant started at the Senior Bowl and Miller says when the players began their practices that week, it was clear to many that Trufant was primed for a run at a first-round grade.
"An NFL scout told me at the Senior Bowl that Trufant 'looks like a first-rounder, covers like a first-rounder and will run like a first-rounder.' " Miller said, and unlike the top CB in the draft, Alabama's Dee Milliner, Trufant has shown anyone willing to watch that he's a fluid athlete that can cover and turn and run up the field with any receiver. "Trufant is very smooth and very quick in his backpedal and in his transition to a run."
Miller won't say Trufant is better than Milliner, but he doesn't think the gap between the two is as big as some would have you believe. The Alabama corner is more physical on the outside, but Washington's product has the better coverage skills currently.
Some will look at Trufant's senior season stats and not see the coverage skills, but as always, stats can be deceptive. A four-year starter at Washington, Trufant's game improved each season, culminating in a senior season that saw just one interception, but Trufant took away whatever opponent he was covering. As a junior Trufant had two interceptions and 16 passes defensed and while even those stats aren't eye-popping, most scouts believe Trufant has what it takes. On the other hand, Miller admits scouting players like Trufant can be challenging because his talent means other teams won't always test him and thus film of him actually making plays isn't always available.
"It's a challenge when scouting defensive backs to know what the coverage call was and if or why offenses aren't targeting a player," Miller said. "You can sometimes tell if the receiver matched up against the cornerback isn't going all-out on his routes or is asked to run decoys, but it's definitely a great challenge for every scout when looking at cornerbacks in college. This is a big reason why I find cornerbacks one of the hardest positions to scout based on game film."
One other thing scouts love about the All-Pac-12 first-teamer is his scheme fit. He's talented and athletic enough to fit either man or zone and that makes him highly valuable in a league that features most teams running a hybrid of different schemes.
"Trufant is one of those cornerbacks that can fit in either a man or zone scheme, I really don't see him as better in one over the other," Miller said. "He has the quickness to turn and run in press-man coverage but shows the awareness to work in a zone set. He has to increase his awareness and timing in both, he's not flawless, but I see the potential to do either/or."
With the Falcons losing former corners Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson in this offseason, it appears that cornerback will be a target for the Falcons at some point in the draft, possibly sooner rather than later. Trufant appears to be the kind of player that is a great fit for the Falcons from a personal and athletic standpoint, there's just one question: Will he last until pick 30?