Patrick Peterson's draft stock has never been as high as it is now following the NFL Scouting Combine, which concluded Monday afternoon as the defensive backs showed off their speed, leaping ability and footwork for NFL scouts. He's leapt into the top spot of many draft boards after posting a 4.34 forty time and other impressive numbers, as well as a superb performance in position drills.
So why isn't he projected at the top of every mock draft in existence? Is there some obscure issue that has teams second-guessing his ability as a long-term defensive weapon in the NFL? Absolutely not. Peterson isn't projected as the top overall selection to the Carolina Panthers simply because cornerbacks are not taken with the first overall pick. Historically, Peterson does not stand much of a chance to be taken with a top three selection. First of all, consider Peterson as a candidate for the top overall pick. Not since 1956, when the Pittsburgh Steelers made Gary Glick the first player selected in that year's draft, has a defensive back been taken first overall; and Glick played safety in the NFL whereas Peterson is a cornerback. Carolina is rebuilding its team and while they could use a player at just about any position, rebuilding teams typically look at quarterbacks, offensive tackles and defensive linemen as they begin the rebuilding process.
To consider Peterson's chances of being selected in the top three, top five or top ten (which is essentially a given), let's look at the recent history of defensive backs in the draft. The following data includes all defensive backs taken in the top ten since 1990. Each player is classified as either a cornerback or safety based on their position coming out of college and entering the NFL. For example, Antrel Rolle is currently a safety in the league, but was drafted out of Miami as a cornerback, so he is considered a cornerback for our purposes.
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There have been 29 defensive backs taken in the top ten since 1990, nine of them safeties and 20 of them cornerbacks. There have been 11 defensive backs taken in the top five, three of them safeties and eight of them cornerbacks. Finally, there have been three defensive backs taken in the top three, one of them a safety and two cornerbacks, but none have been taken in the top three since 1997.
As we stand now, Peterson is considered a very strong candidate to be a top three selection in April's draft. With history as an indicator, however, there's a strong possibility that he will not. If we look at the more recent trend in defensive backs drafted in the top ten (from 2000 to 2010), there are four years in which no defensive backs were selected, two years in which only one defensive back was selected, three years in which two defensive backs were selected and two years in which three defensive backs were selected. Eight of the fourteen defensive backs taken in the top ten since 2000 were cornerbacks, while six were safeties, indicating a lower instance of cornerbacks taken in the top part of the draft than in previous seasons. From 1990 to 1999, twelve of the 15 defensive backs taken in the top ten were cornerbacks. That means 15% of players selected in the top ten between 1990 and 1999 were defensive backs (12% cornerbacks; 3% safeties) and between 2000 and 2010, 12.7% of players selected in the top ten were defensive backs (7.2% cornerbacks; 5.5% safeties).
There's almost no doubt that Peterson will be the first defensive back selected in this year's draft, but as far as being a top three selection, his chances are historically slim. There have been only two cornerbacks taken in the top five since the year 2000, and they were selected in 2002 and 2003. Since then, the highest cornerback taken was Adam Jones with the sixth pick in 2005.
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Peterson will be a top ten pick; there's no doubting that. And I'm not saying that he will not be a top three selection on April 28. I'm only looking at numbers and despite his lofty draft stock, history is working against him, giving a team like the San Francisco 49ers a much better chance of landing the LSU Tigers product with the 7th pick than many believe. A talented player like Peterson, though, could always buck the recent trend.
Danny Hobrock, a sports journalist covering NCAA Football and MLB is the editor of our college football content. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. You may email Danny directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DannyHobrock
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