Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Draft 2008 – Round 1 #16 – Arizona Cardinals – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

NFL Draft 2008 Logo The Arizona Cardinals are on the clock and – what do you know — there have already been 15 picks made. Their 8-8 record, perfect mediocrity, was their best in a decade.

I absolutely despise this annoying Under Armour commercial that has run 500 times already.

They’re taking their time, not having made a choice with 2 minutes to go. Are they looking to trade? Or just having trouble deciding?

The pick is in: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State.

Scouts, Inc.: 19th

Strengths: Possesses above average height with outstanding hip-fluidity for his frame and is also one of the fastest corners in this class. He has great feet and plays with good balance. Displays better technique than most small-school corners, especially in terms of his hands in press-technique. Gets decent knee bend in backpedal, explodes out of his pedal and shows exceptional closing burst. Is tall and can compete for jump balls. Can make up a lot of ground when the ball is in the air and will use long arms (32 ¾) to knock passes away when caught in a trail position. Reads quarterback’s eyes, aggressive and jumps routes. Has good ball skills, is a playmaker in coverage and flashes the ability to pick up big chunks of yards after turnovers. Can contribute on special teams as a kick blocker (eight in his career) and a kick returner (6 TD returns) in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Played at a small school and there is some concern about ability to make the jump to the NFL. There are concerns regarding his toughness, as well. Does not support the run as aggressively as we would like to see and he must improve his efficiency as an open-field tackler. Does not possess great upper body strength, doesn’t always use hands well and can take too long to shed blocks. Doesn’t have great bulk for frame and bigger receivers will have some success shielding him from the ball. He has soft hands and will time his jumps well when he sees the ball but it occasionally takes him too long to find the ball in the air  particularly with his back turned covering the nine-route.

Overall: Rogers-Cromartie played in all of a possible 44 games during his Tennessee State career, making 38 consecutive starts (mostly at left cornerback) to close out his career. In his first three seasons (2004-’06), he recorded 121 tackles (six for losses), nine interceptions, 14 pass breakups and three touchdown returns (two picks and one fumble). As a senior in 2007, he had 37 tackles (two for losses), two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns) and 11 pass breakups. Rogers-Cromartie also was a versatile special teams standout, occasionally appeared on offense and competed on the Tigers’ track team. For his career, he had eight blocked kicks, 14 special teams tackles, averaged 23.9 yards on 36 kickoff returns and 7.3 yards on six punt returns, and scored a total of six touchdowns. An ankle sprain kept him from competing in the OVC Outdoor Track Championships in 2007. Bottom line: Rodgers-Cromartie is a playmaker who possesses a good blend of height and burst. However, he is a small-school prospect and he doesn’t have elite size or speed raising concerns about his ability to compete at the NFL level. Cromartie, cousin of Chargers’ standout CB Antonio Cromartie (first-round pick in 2006), has been one of the fastest rising prospects during the postseason draft process. He dominated his small school level of competition but his stock didn’t begin to soar until he made his mark as one of the top playmakers at the Senior Bowl. Some scouts project him as a better fit at free safety but Rodgers-Cromartie displays outstanding feet and hip-fluidity for his size, which is why we think he’s capable of playing cornerback fulltime in the NFL. Running the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash time of all the defensive backs at the combine doesn’t hurt his case, either. Rodgers-Cromartie ranks among the top-three cornerback prospects in the 2008 class and he also has upside as a kick return man, which is why we expect him to be selected in the top-20 picks overall.

Rick Gosselin: 12th

The three top cornerbacks in this draft all should go in the top 20 of the first round and all offer different looks. Mike Jenkins of South Florida is the safe pick. He’s the most polished of the three corners. A three-year starter in the Big East, he’s an instant starter in the NFL. Leodis McKelvin of Troy is the most physical of the three and the best kick returner in the draft. But he has the worst hands of the three, with only four career interceptions. Rodgers-Cromartie is the farthest away from an NFL field, because he didn’t see the quality quarterbacks and wideouts at Tennessee State that Jenkins and McKelvin saw. But two years from now he may be the best of the bunch. He’s the fastest, most athletic corner on this board and an elite playmaker, with 11 interceptions and five TDs.

Mel Kiper: 13th

After enjoying a stellar career at the Division I-AA level, Rodgers-Cromartie stood out against the big boys at the Senior Bowl practices, then wowed the NFL brass at the combine. He has the height, athleticism, recovery speed and ball skills to be an outstanding cornerback in the NFL.

A great pick here. The Cards benefited from the run on linemen and got one of the best athletes in the draft.

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