One of my favorite parts of the draft process is scouting small-school prospects. I guess I just like rooting for the underdog. I’m usually quick to job on the bandwagon of a small-school sleeper, but one position which I stay away from is cornerback.
The track record for small-school cornerbacks isn’t just poor, its almost non-existent. Since 2000 there have been 16 cornerbacks drafted from non-FBS schools in the first three rounds. All but two – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Rashean Mathis – have been non-factors in the NFL.
Physically, Owusu-Ansah (I’ll just call him AOA from now on) has the skills of a 1st-round pick. In fact, I believe he has more raw talent than any cornerback in this year’s class. With his blend of size an speed, he would be a 1st-round lock had he played at USC or Ohio State.
However, as demonstrated by the 16 names above, transitioning to the NFL from D-II isn’t easy for cornerbacks. At his level of competition, he has rarely faced receivers with his speed. As a result, its difficult for a cornerback to develop the instincts necessary to transition to the pro game. Typically, only those with off-the-charts athleticism (see: Rodgers-Cromartie) are able make a seamless transition.
So while I’m tempted to give AOA a late 1st-round grade, I’m forced to play the odds and knock him back a full round. If someone grabs him in the late 2nd or early 3rd round they could have themselves an absolutely steal.
Or they could have the next Ricardo Colclough.