With the 223rd pick of the 2010 draft the Panthers selected Utah DB RJ Stanford. The 5'10" 184lb Stanford has 46 tackles, 7 pass break-ups and 1 INT in the 2009 season. Though Stanford was not considered a candidate to get drafted at the end of the college season his Pro Day performance obviously opened some eyes:
3/12/2010 - PRO DAY RESULTS: The University of Utah held a well-planned pro day workout on Monday for 16 pro prospects indoors on FieldTurf. Representatives from 20 teams evaluated the players, including offensive line coaches from the Ravens, Seahawks and Steelers, and a wide receivers coach and linebackers coach from the Browns. Many Utah players were not present at the scouting combine in Indianapolis and worked out for scouts for the first time. These two players stood out: Defensive back R.J. Stanford (5-10 1/8, 183) ran 4.45 and 4.44 in the 40, had a 37.5 inch vertical jump, 10-11 broad jump, a 4.26 short shuttle, 6.81 three-cone drill and 12 reps in the bench press. - Gil Brandt, NFL.com
In looking around as many Ute blogs I could find there was little discussion of Stanford beyond the discussion of the fact he only became a starter at CB as a senior. I also saw a mention to a key PI call that cost Utah a game against BYU (pictured). That has to suck for him that one of the things he's remembered for is a call to lose a key game. Though its hard to tell much from a picture it looks like good coverage to me! Beyond there just isn't much to go on. More after the jump...
. So we'll have to stick to the pre-draft analysis where CBS Sports offers the most detail:
Read & React: Though relatively new to the position, he seems instinctual and aware in coverage. Not usually fooled at the line of scrimmage. Quickness and fluid hips allow him to react quickly to stutter and double moves. Reads quarterback and receiver well when playing off.
This skill only with his speed has to be the reason the Panthers decided to take a chance on Stanford. Findings DB's that can turn and run with WR's is a skill that is hard to teach so the Panthers are hoping the rest of the game comes easy.
Man Coverage: Runs with most any receiver in college football. Fluid hips to turn and run when playing near the line. Will mix it up with hand play down the field but gets overaggressive at times (regularly flagged for pass interference). Loses the physical battle and gives up height to receivers on the outside. A nice fit in the slot, mirrors receivers well on two-way routes.
The physical play sounds like last years 7th round selection Captain Munnerlyn.
Zone Coverage: Played mostly man, but appears to have the change of direction, closing speed, awareness to identify underneath routes and discipline to come off his initial target to make a play. Quick pedal, won't allow receivers to eat up cushion too fast.
Stanford sounds better suited for the nickel or dime position given his size and ability to stay with fast, shifty receivers.
Closing/Recovery: Excellent closing speed to the ball when it is in the air. Gets to receiver at the same time as the pass on slants when playing off. Fast enough to trail receivers on crossing routes to prevent the catch or stop them soon after. Only one interception in his career.
Run Support: Mostly a cover corner, he won't blow up NFL running backs but can effectively cut tackle to stop plays behind the line of scrimmage (on runs and receiver screens). Struggles to get off physical receiver blocks downfield.
Tackling: Not contact-shy, but is best as a cut tackler because he lacks the size and strength to consistently wrap up and drag down larger receivers. Effective blitzer off the edge with his speed; makes the quarterback feel the hit. Comes to aid of other defensive backs to bring down large receivers and tight ends. Should be a good special teams coverage tackler because he is fast, willing to hit and can break down in space to corral elusive returners.
Even more reason he fits as a nickel or dime corner.
Intangibles: Excited to take on the responsibility of replacing McCain and Smith, Stanford focused on his craft and conditioning before his senior year. Has the confidence teams look for in corners. Scouts excited about his upside once coached up at the next level.
It's going to take more than personal confidence for Stanford to get serious PT in the near future but I iamgine the Panthers expectations are set pretty low. Stanford has enough speed and natural ability that the Furney brain trust were willing to risk a 7th round pick in hopes they strike gold as they did in the 7th round the past two drafts.
Stanford sounds like a bets a decent nickel corner but doesn't seem to have the size and strength to play the outside against the better WR's in the league. Of course we have heard that before but then again Stanford wasn't a three year star on his team like Captain Munnerlyn. He could develop sooner into a special teams gunner on the outside with his closing speed and ability to break down and not be fooled by stutter steps. Regardless Stanford is a project who might be given a couple seasons to develop.
In spite of his speed and fluid hips if Stanford fails to pick up the coverage schemes and doesn't shine in special teams play he could end up on the practice squad given the high number of special teams specialist on the roster fighting for one or two spots. Being a 7th round pick the Panthers would find the practice squad a safe option.
The Panthers already had plenty of second-tier DB talent on the roster with the FA additions of Brian Witherspoon and Marcus Walker to go along with Panther vet CJ Wilson. Add in fellow 7th round pick Robert McClain and the Panthers appear to be rolling the dice with these two DB draftees hoping one of the two rises to the top in time. For the 2010 season though Stanford will simply be lucky to make the roster much less make an impact in the near future. At the very least though Stanford will stick to the practice squad for 2010.
EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 19: Walter Thurmond III #6 of the Oregon Ducks loses the ball as he is hit by R.J. Stanford #25 of the Utah Utes in the second quarter at Autzen Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 31-24.
I love a DB that can separate a player from the ball!