He’s been considered the second fiddle in the cornerback class since the 2011 NFL pre-draft process began. Perhaps it’s fitting that the supremely talented Nebraska cornerback who’s forecast to go as high as the top 10 in April’s draft has a first name of Prince. To casual observers and those in the know, LSU’s Patrick Peterson is king when it comes to cornerbacks this year. That puts Prince Amukamara second… a very close second.
To Amukamara’s credit he recognizes talent when he sees it, even at his position of choice.
“Patrick Peterson is an amazing player,” he said. “Whatever attention or notoriety he's getting, he deserves it.”
That notoriety and Peterson’s production has him expected to come off the board in the first five picks. Amukamara however, who took home Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 could be gone in the next five selections.
A good number of prognosticators have the Cornhusker cover man going to the Cowboys with the ninth overall pick.
“Patrick Peterson is not getting to nine,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “Amukamara could get to nine and if he gets there I think you take him. He can play press, he can play off, he will tackle. He’s a starting corner in the NFL and the Cowboys need that.”
Some might find it difficult to see Amukamara go that high after he registered no interceptions as a senior coming off a junior season in which he posted five INTs. But opponents weren’t all that interested in challenging him. Of the 52 passes thrown to his coverage assignment only 34 percent were completed. Amukamara had a team-high 13 pass breakups in 2010.
Much like Peterson, Amukamara is a big, physical corner. Having been a highly touted running back in high school he does not shy away from contact as evidenced by his 36 last season one quarter of which went for loss (9).
“That's something Nebraska touched on a lot,” he said. “Good tackling technique and just wrapping up. Some players don't like to stick their nose in and get dirty. I'm one of those corners who do.”
Coming into the NFL combine, a lot was made about Amukamara’s perceived lack of elite speed. He asked what the so called experts expected him to run for a 40 time. When he was told in the 4.5s he rolled his eyes.
“Man,” he said sighing. “I think some people don't know what they're talking about and haven't seen me on film. I guess I'll show them.”
Amukamara posted a 4.38 and a 4.43 along with a 38-inch vertical and a 10’8” broad jump. He let the numbers speak for him.
Not resting on his laurels, Amukamara is trying to hone some of the techniques that he has received feedback on from league scouts and talent evaluators.
“I think I'm too high in my backpedal, so that’s one thing I've been working on in the off-season with respect to my technique,” he said.
Amukamara is not one to pound his chest or demand attention, but there is a quiet confidence about him that might only surface for a moment.
“Every corner should have that confidence because they are on an island,” he said. “And yes,
I do feel I'm one of the best corners in the draft.”
When he’s taken high in the draft, that self-belief will be validated. Of course Amukamara intends to validate it on an NFL field as a rookie.
“That is my plan,” he said. “I'm definitely not trying to redshirt in the NFL.”
Throughout the month of April, we are running 2011 NFL Draft prospect stories each week. In addition, Bills fans can vote in the Bills and M&T Bank Draft Day Challenge who they think will be the Bills first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and have the chance to win a Bills Game Day Experience to remember. Five grand prize winners will get sideline passes, M&T Bank Club tickets that include food and beverage, a Bills Alumni meet and greet and a Bills helmet. Click here to vote.