2013 NFL Draft: David Amerson Scouting Report
David Amerson entered the 2012 college football season as the consensus top cornerback in the nation. Many people expected the dynamic junior to be drafted in the top-ten in 2013, with many people even touting him as worthy of a top-five overall pick. He’d finished his sophomore year with 13 interceptions, falling one short of the FBS record. Expectations were high, and he fell short.
Now he’s only rarely discussed as a second-round pick, and most cornerback rankings have him behind at least Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant, Johnthan Banks, and Jamar Taylor. Why the huge drop-off? After watching five of his games from 2012, it looks like he tried too hard to equal the production from his fantastic sophomore year, and got caught with his pants down in coverage a few too many times.
However, he’s still a supremely athletic prospect, as evidenced by his excellent Combine. He ran a 4.44 forty-yard dash, and added a 35.5” vertical jump and a 10’07” broad jump. Will NFL teams draft him early, banking on the potential he showed in 2011? Or will they pass him over after his shaky 2012? I suppose we will see in about a month. For now, let’s take a look at his biggest strengths and weaknesses.
Ball Skills: Amerson didn’t accidentally end up with 18 interceptions and 17 passes defensed in two years. He has fantastic ball skills. He’s at his best playing zone coverage, reading the quarterback and breaking on the ball, using his top-notch instincts and high-point ability to break up the pass or intercept it. His ball-hawking is his biggest asset and will be the reason he’s drafted as high as he goes, wherever that is.
Size: He was listed at 6’3” throughout his college career, but he measured in at the Combine at 6’1” and 205 pounds. He’s not quite the outlier he appeared to be before, but he’s still taller than most cornerbacks. He also has long arms (32”), which should suit him well if a team decides to use him in press coverage.
Mentality: He’s extremely aggressive on-field, though it remains to be seen whether that was a side effect of a desire to repeat his dominant year. He’s quick to jump routes and is an aggressive tackler. His coaches also report that he is a workaholic and is consistently one of the best players in practice.
Double Moves: Amerson’s biggest weakness in his junior year was double moves. His extremely aggressive mentality lent itself to a boom-or-bust style that sometimes rewarded him with big interceptions and clutch pass-breakups, but also left him grasping at air as receivers ran away from him. He was burned for big plays multiple times over the season, particularly against Tennessee (against Cordarrelle Patterson) and Clemson (against DeAndre Hopkins).
Speed: While Amerson demonstrated that he has terrific straight-line speed in his underwear, his inability to chase down speedier receivers on the field raised some eyebrows. When he was beaten on a route, he rarely ran down a receiver from behind. He was able to run away from most defenses once he picked off a pass, so it’s possible that it was more of an effort issue.
Tackling: The big cornerback was one of the most inconsistent tacklers I’ve ever scouted. He tends to lead into ballcarriers with his head, and leans into them rather than remaining square and driving up through his hips to bring them down. He wraps up well enough when he can get his hands on them, but he lacks the upper-body strength to rip them to the ground in spite of his poor technique. He also tends to take poor angles in run support. On numerous other occasions, when he identified wide receiver screens early, he broke on them hard and made sound, explosive tackles for a loss. He drove through the wide receiver with power and separated them from the ball. This disparity again leads me to believe his confidence may affect his aggressiveness as a tackler.
It seems that a lot of his issues relate to coachable poor technique or confidence issues. His poor tackling form is easily remedied with good coaching, and his size and long arms lend nicely to a press system. So it strikes me that he may have suffered from poor coaching, and may blossom under a capable NFL staff. A cornerback with his size, length, and ball-hawking ability will have a role in the NFL.
Some people have suggested that his coverage issues may lead to a position change to free safety. He could be successful there, but his poor tackling would be an obstacle. He can also be a successful cornerback, but his over-aggressiveness will also be an obstacle. So his success will depend on him being drafted by a team that is willing to identify his strengths and fit him into a scheme that will take advantage of everything he does so well. If they determine that he fits best as a free safety, they need to clean up his tackling technique. If they determine that he fits best as a cornerback, they need to reign in his aggressiveness.
He’s demonstrated that he has all of the tools to be a successful cornerback or safety. Now it’s up to an NFL team to identify those tools, mold him into a system that fits him, and cut him loose to attack the football.