Continuing with my Q&A of possible players that the Bills could select in the first round of the draft, I met up with Kris Brauner over at Saturday Night Slant, the LSU website for bloguin.com, to talk shop about Patrick Peterson. Hope you guys enjoy.
1) What type of player is Peterson? Strengths and weaknesses?
Peterson is a dynamic big defensive back that has the athleticism, speed, and ball skills that you typically see from a smaller player. At 6’1” 215 pounds, Peterson can match the physicality of some of the NFL’s bigger receivers, but he can also run and change directions with the faster ones. That versatility is what makes him so valuable and is his greatest strength. He has the natural instincts that you like to see from a shutdown corner and has an uncanny ability to stay right on the receiver’s hip. When close to the line of scrimmage, Peterson is not afraid to stick his nose in there and make a tackle.
With the ball in his hands, Peterson is electric. The same things that make him an excellent corner…acceleration, change of direction, top-end speed….make him a difference maker as a return guy. Whether he gets his hands on an interception, punt, or kickoff, he can really impact a game.
Peterson is good. And he knows he’s good. When pressed to come up with a weakness, it’s that Peterson relies on his talent and gambles a bit too much. Teams often stayed away from him, and he tended to get impatient. He got beat bad a few times on pump fakes while peeking at the quarterback. He tried to force a big play rather than stay disciplined within the framework of the defense. To his credit, he improved greatly on this as a junior.
2) What was his best game you seen him play and what happened?
A few games stand out. Against Mississippi State as a junior, Peterson had a pair of acrobatic interceptions and gobs of return yardage. Against North Carolina to open the 2010 season, Peterson was unstoppable as a returner and took a punt all the way back for a touchdown. But Peterson was at his best when going against the best. He stepped up his game when facing the likes of A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Greg Childs. The game that stands out the most to me was against Alabama during Peterson’s sophomore season.
Peterson was matched against Julio Jones for most of the game and frankly…he owned him. Alabama tried to force a few passes to Jones but Peterson was there to break them up. Peterson battled the flu for the week leading up to the game and unfortunately had to come out intermittently due to cramps. With Peterson out, Alabama went right at his replacement and Jones took a quick pass to the house for what proved to be the game winner. Late in the game with LSU desperately needing a big play from their star to give them a chance, Peterson delivered. Alabama needed to convert a first down, and LSU needed a stop. They again went to Jones and Peterson gobbled up the sideline pass and intercepted the ball. Unfortunately for LSU, the SEC replay officials were brain dead and denied Peterson the interception. But his performance that day really showed how special a player he is.
3) I've heard rumblings that some teams may make Peterson play safety. Do you think he can adjust to that and why?
You don’t typically see many cornerbacks who are 6’1” 215 pounds, so it’s natural to think that safety may be his best position. But Peterson looks to have elite skills as a cover guy, and elite corners are rarer than safeties and therefore more coveted in the NFL. I’ve seen a few comparisons to Malcolm Jenkins, who was a college corner but now starts at free safety for the Saints. I’ve seen some compare Peterson to Eric Berry who briefly played corner at Tennessee before moving over to safety. But I believe Peterson’s future is at corner.
The good news is that Peterson has the physical tools and skill set to make a good safety if, for some reason, corner does not work out for him. He can cover a ton of ground, and he is certainly physical enough. So I’d consider it an added bonus when drafting him, but I’d be surprised if a team drafted Peterson with the sole purpose of moving him to the middle of the secondary. But to answer your question, yes I do think Peterson could adjust to playing safety rather easily. For what it’s worth, I asked the same question to an NFL Draft expert from DraftBreakdown.com for a piece on my site. You can read what he had to say right here. That piece also details the other draft eligible guys from LSU, and I noticed a couple (Barksdale, K.Sheppard) were on your mock draft.
4) Do you think taking Peterson in the top 5 is too high for a cornerback?
I have always subscribed to the “take the best available player” approach. Otherwise, you could end up with Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan. So I suppose I do not think a cornerback in the Top 5 is too high. I have heard the argument to the contrary. Many claim that a team can simply look to the other side of the field and that the cornerback won’t make an impact on every play and is less valuable as a result. But I don’t really buy that. If a player is good enough to force the opposition to focus on only one side of the field, while essentially taking out their best receiving option….that’s making an impact to me. You don’t have to make the tackle or deflect the pass in order to impact the play. When you throw in Peterson’s return ability, he makes it a lot easier to pick him very early in the draft.
5) The Bills run a 3-4 defense and seem to like their safeties playing close to the line of scrimmage, does Peterson fit that bill?
As a corner, that sounds perfect for Peterson. He’s more effective playing man coverage than playing off. And if he lives up to his hype, he should hold his own without a ton of deep safety help. So he should be a nice fit. As a safety, I think Peterson would probably excel playing further away from the line of scrimmage. He’s used to covering and is very sound as a tackler. But he’s not used to playing “in the box” and sifting through trash or shedding blocks. I believe he could do those things well in time, but there would be a learning curve.
I appreciate the invitation to talk a little LSU on your site. A former Tiger great and fan favorite, Kyle Williams, is currently doing some good things up there and I’d love to see some other guys get the same opportunity.