Richard Sherman has said he can name all the cornerbacks that were drafted ahead of him in the 2011 NFL draft, a long list that includes a trio of first-rounders in Arizona's Patrick Peterson, New York's Prince Amukamara and Baltimore's Jimmy Smith and also a handful of players you have never heard of.
I wonder if he can name the first cornerback who was selected after him, late in the draft’s fifth round.
There are no indications that the Ravens would have taken Sherman over Brown. If he was on their draft radar, he was probably a small blip. But they have to be one of 31 NFL teams that are kicking themselves for overlooking the towering Sherman, a raw draft prospect who has become one of the NFL’s best corners for the Seattle Seahawks.
Sherman played wide receiver his first two years at Stanford before the Cardinal coaching staff, then led by some guy named Jim Harbaugh, moved him to cornerback. After two seasons on defense, he was viewed as a late-round prospect by many draft analysts (NFL general managers obviously agreed). Check out some of these scouting reports, though.
This NFL.com draft profile said Sherman would be “a contributing backup corner for a press-heavy team.” ESPN’s Scouts Inc. said that Sherman, who made the game-saving pass deflection in the closing minutes of Sunday night’s NFC championship game and also made headlines for his post-game comments, “lacks elite instincts and awareness.” Rob Rang wrote that Sherman had questionable speed and was prone to mental lapses, but did say Sherman “may be just scratching the surface of his potential.”
It turns out Sherman was indeed doing just that.
In his three NFL seasons, the two-time first-team All-Pro has 20 interceptions, including eight in each of the past two seasons. Playing an aggressive, physical style, he blankets and intimidates wide receivers for a Seahawks defense that was statistically the NFL’s best this season.
It’s easy to daydream about how Sherman would fit in this Ravens defense, with Sherman playing tight press coverage on one sideline with Smith on the other. (I have to think Sherman would be a nice fit in pretty much every defense, by the way.) But the Ravens passed on him four times and then took Brown in the fifth round, 10 picks after Sherman.
Brown is no superstar, but he has become a useful player for the Ravens. While he is fourth on the depth chart at cornerback -- he could move up to third in 2014 if the Ravens lose Corey Graham -- he has developed into a pretty solid player on special teams and is contributing something, unlike some of the corners drafted before Sherman and him.
Still, Sherman is not the first great player to last deep into the draft and he won't be the last. Hall-of-Fame talents like Tom Brady, Shannon Sharpe and Richard Dent were drafted later than him. But Sherman has vowed to “destroy” the league, specifically the teams that passed him up. The Ravens are one of them, but they are by no means alone.