As the Jaguars make a transition to the defense of new head coach Gus Bradley, the most useful way to predict what said defense will look like is to evaluate what made the Seattle Seahawks defense such a success. And anytime the Seahawks defense is discussed, all fingers point to the tall, lengthy cornerbacks that are throughout the team's roster.
At just a fraction of an inch under 6-2, UCLA's Sheldon Price is one of the lengthier cornerbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft, although he measures in two inches shorter than Seattle's Brandon Browner and an inch shorter than Richard Sherman. However, one of the more concerning things for scouts will be Price's 178 pounds, making him one of the leaner builds in the entire draft.
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While he does have a lean build, don't make the mistake of thinking that means Price is a soft player. As can be seen by the cut-up video against Houston, Price often played close to the line of scrimmage and didn't shy away from physicality at UCLA. He also showed strength, but the question will be whether or not he can play with that same level of strength and physicality against NFL receivers.
At times during his career with the Bruins, Price flashed brilliance and looked like a cornerback worth taking early in the 2013 NFL Draft. No game was a better example than his performance against the Houston Cougars. He hauled in three interceptions as he consistently put himself in the right position to make plays and flashed great ball skills.
However, those were three of five career interceptions during his entire collegiate career, despite being a four-year starter at cornerback in 45 career games. In fact, just one week after his breakout performance against Houston, Price was abused by Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton, at times, who finished the game with nine receptions, 150 yards and a long touchdown over the head of Price.
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But it's important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect late-round prospect. When the first two days of the draft pass, the third day is marked by teams looking for one of two things: A) A player with limited upside that can fill a particular role (i.e. special teams, back-up), and B) A player with large upside that can develop into a very good player.
Price fills the second category and displayed much of those skills that could make him an attractive prospect for teams in the third day in the above game against Houston. Two of his three interceptions in the game (3:27 and 4:32) actually came during man coverage, but were taken away from receivers Price wasn't lined up against. He displayed awareness throughout the game as he was able to balance staying with receivers and keeping an eye on the opposing quarterback.
The three interceptions weren't the only highlights of the strong game for Price, twice during the game (0:18 and 1:17) he was able to stay with a receiver underneath and use his long arms to knock away passes without drawing pass interference penalties.
Perhaps the only thing that would cause scouts to question Price's long-term developmental value would be a poor showing in the 40 yard dash. Some have questioned Price's straight-line speed and quickness to stay with faster receivers, although Tom Melton thought he answered some questions during his week at the East-West Shrine Game:
Price had a solid season this year at UCLA and while I still have some questions about his game he definitely has the speed to play corner and he looked pretty good when flipping his hips in coverage this week. He has sub 4.5 speed which allows him to recover when beaten initially as well which helped him in 1 on 1's this week.
Price will have to wait until the UCLA Pro Day on March 12, as he wasn't one of the 333 players or six Bruins selected to go to the 2013 NFL Combine.