The Oregon State Beavers ranked second in the PAC-12 in scoring defense in 2012, and a big reason for that was the play of first-team All-American cornerback Jordan Poyer. The lanky senior was taken in the 42nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Florida Marlins, but elected to focus on his football career at Corvallis. It looks like he made a good choice, as he’s likely to be selected on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
In Poyer’s four years and 49 games with the Beavers, he amassed 152 total tackles, 13 interceptions, seven tackles for a loss, three sacks, 23 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. He also returned 96 kicks for a total of of 1,711 yards (17.8 yards per return), and had 31 punt returns for 312 yards and one touchdown (an 85-yard return against UCLA in the 2011 season opener). He didn’t blow up the combine; in fact, he ranked in the bottom half of nearly every workout. But since he usually wins with his intelligent play rather than his athleticism, his stock shouldn’t be affected too much by his combine rankings.
| Ht || Wt || Class || Ranking || Projection |
| 6'0" || 191 || Senior || 48th || Mid-Late Second |
Physicality: Despite a slight frame and a lack of elite athleticism, Poyer takes to the field with an aggressive, physical approach. He picks his way through traffic well, and he’s not afraid to mix it up in a pile. He does a good job keeping his outside shoulder free as he sets the edge, and he throws himself into tackles. In coverage, he uses a decent jam to disrupt bigger receivers off the line. He’s stronger competing for the ball in the air than you’d expect based on his slighter build.
Zone Coverage: He’s at his best playing off the line of scrimmage and reading the quarterback. He started with the Beavers as a safety, and he looks most comfortable with the play in front of him. His click and close burst is an asset (that is, reversing his backpedal by planting his foot and breaking forward on a pass).
Versatility: After joining the Beavers as a safety, Poyer took over as their number one cornerback when Brandon Hardin went down with an injury at the beginning of the 2011 season. He started outside and regularly moved inside. He has the chops as a run defender and a blitzer to hold up inside in the NFL, which means he could get on the field as a rookie for most teams. He also has extensive experience as a kick and punt returner, though his lack of breakaway speed may limit that at the next level.
Frame/Athleticism: At a shade under six feet tall and 191 pounds, Poyer is on the small side, especially in a league where larger cornerbacks are coming back into vogue. He looks exactly his size, and he doesn’t look like he could add much weight. Typically smaller cornerbacks can make up for their size with superior explosiveness and short-area quickness, but Poyer is high-waisted, which affects his change-of-direction ability. He’s really just a very average athlete.
Man Coverage: Because he lacks elite upper-end speed and makes his living reading the quarterback, Poyer struggles in man coverage. He’s susceptible to double moves, and doesn’t have the recovery speed to make up for it.
Poyer is a smart, crafty cornerback. There are plenty of cornerbacks in the NFL who have survived on their intelligence and ability to read the quarterback. It only limits the schemes in which they can succeed. Poyer actually reminds me a good deal of a cornerback in the 2012 draft whose underappreciated skill set led to a bit of a drop into the second day. Casey Hayward is only 5’11” and close to 190 pounds, and he didn’t overwhelm at the combine. When I put his numbers next to Poyer’s, the comparison grew on me.
| Name || Ht || Wt || 40-yard Dash || Bench Press || Vertical Jump || Broad Jump || 3-cone Drill || 20-yard Shuttle |
| Hayward || 5'11" || 192 || 4.47 || 19 || 34" || 9'11" || 6.76s || 3.90s |
| Poyer || 6'0" || 191 || 4.50 || 20 || 30.5" || 9'10" || 6.87s || 4.18s |
Hayward dropped because he lacked elite athleticism and made his living reading the quarterback, playing the ball in the air, and defending the run. The Packers snagged him with the 62nd overall pick, he won the job as the starting nickel cornerback at the beginning of the year, and he ended up a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year after picking off six passes. Poyer could have similar potential, but he’ll need a strong dedication to his craft. He should expect to picked in a similar range, sometime in the middle to the end of the second round.