NFL Draft Profile: Washington CB Marcus Peters

Analysts are shuffling the 2015 NFL Draft cornerback prospects on their draft boards, with Kevin Johnson and Byron Jones rising and P.J. Williams falling after a recent DUI arrest. Dave Archibald has already analyzed them in addition to Trae Waynes, the likely first corner off the board. If Waynes isn’t the first corner chosen, it could be Washington CB Marcus Peters.

Marcus Peters is one of the most difficult prospects to evaluate in the draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay says Peters has the best tape of all the draft cornerbacks, and the junior’s 11 career interceptions and 27 passes defensed speak to his ball skills. However, the 22-year-old comes with red flags as he was dismissed him from the Huskies program a month before the end of the regular season. Teams must do their due diligence on not just Peters’s game film but also his coachability and discipline.

Tale of the Tape

The chart below shows Peters’s measurement and performance in NFL Combine drills, as well as the percentile rank of how these figures stack up to other cornerbacks since 1999:

Height Weight Arm Length Hand Span 40-Yard Bench Press Vertical Broad Jump Short Shuttle 3-Cone
72 197 31.5 8.375 4.53 17 37.5 121 4.08 7.08
63% 68% 51% 6% 37% 68% 68% 46% 69% 29.4%

Data from NFL.com and NFLCombineResults.com

Peters posted a disappointing 40-yard dash at the Combine and didn’t stand out in the other events. He has good size, and while his average measurables won’t turn any heads, they also suggest he doesn’t have athletic limitations.

What He Does Well

Playmaking

Peters tallied 11 interceptions in his three seasons with the Huskies, showing the instincts, ball skills,  and hands to create turnovers:

Peters (#21) is in trail technique against Oregon State’s Richard Mullaney (#8), pursuing with his back to the quarterback and safety help downfield. When Mullaney cuts inside, Peters looks back for the throw. He leaps and deflects the pass into the air, then corrals it as he falls to the ground.

Peters has the instincts to make plays even when the intended target isn’t his man:

Stanford tries to hit Michael Rector (#3) on a deep cross. Peters starts the play offscreen to the left, covering another player, but sees the throw and jumps the route, intercepting the pass before the receiver can break on the ball.

Press Coverage

Peters is experienced and skilled in a variety of coverages, but his press abilities figure to draw the most interest from NFL teams, as they are rare for a college cornerback:

Peters lines up against Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong (#21), a highly regarded receiver prospect in the 2015 draft. On 3rd-and-9, Strong tries a fade route, releasing outside against the press, but the corner uses his strength to ride Strong to the sideline. Peters then looks back for the football, anticipates the back-shoulder throw, and breaks up the play. Few college cornerbacks possess the balance, strength, footwork, and anticipation that Peters displays here.

Like many college defensive backs, Peters can be too handsy at times, taking advantage of the NCAA’s lax rules against illegal contact. He will need to tighten up his technique, but this should be correctable given his other talents in press coverage.

Areas to Improve

Discipline / Coachability

Peters spent much of 2014 butting heads with the Huskies first-year head coach Chris Petersen and his staff. Early in the 2014 season, Peters committed a costly away-from-the-ball personal foul penalty and followed that with a sideline outburst against Eastern Washington that led to a suspension.

It is unclear exactly what precipitated Petersen eventually dismissing his talented cornerback, but Washington played its final five games, including the Cactus Bowl, without him. Peters has evidently made amends and is back in good graces with the program and it’s unfair to penalize college students too heavily for immaturity. Still, there is a risk factor with the player that isn’t present in the other top cornerback prospects. Individual teams will have to assess how much to weigh that when projecting his NFL fit.

Furthermore, Peters occasionally shows coachability issues on tape, not always pursuing at full speed when plays are on the other side of the field and sometimes getting chippy with opponents. His chippiness may lead to personal fouls but can also be an asset, as cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and Cortland Finnegan have made getting under their opponents’ skins a weapon in their arsenal.

Consistency

Peters’s film is strong on the whole, but he occasionally lapses in his technique or concentration:

Peters lines up across from Hawaii’s Marcus Kemp (#14). At the snap, the corner tries to jam the junior receiver, but the WR wins the matchup and shoves Peters, knocking him to the ground. The Huskies get interior pressure and the quarterback never looks in Kemp’s direction, but it could have resulted in a big play.

In almost every game there are one or two plays where Peters struggles. For a cornerback, one or two plays can be the difference between a solid outing and a poor one.

Comparable Player

Chris McAlister. Peters had an eerily similar Combine to the longtime Raven, posting identical numbers in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, and 20-yard shuttle. McAlister did not come out of Arizona with Peters’s coachability questions, however.

Projection

Teams and draft analysts are all over the place on Peters and the picture is unlikely to be clear by draft day. He has obvious talent and perhaps the best ball skills in the class, but he comes with risks that other prospects don’t. Some team will likely make him a first-round pick. That selection could net them a disappointment that runs afoul of his professional coaching staff, but, by the same token, it could result in a shutdown corner that locks down half the field for a decade.

Follow Dave on Twitter @davearchie.

Dave Archibald knows pass defense, specifically how coverage, the pass rushexcellent cornerbacksversatile safeties and in-game adjustments can make a big difference.

Footage courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com. Raw video cut by Adrian Ahufinger (@ahufinger7), Josh Deceuster (@DB_JoshD)

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