Among NFL Draft anaysts, Chris Steuber of Ourlads.com is higher on North Carolina State defensive back David Amerson than most. But maybe he's onto something.
Hear him out.
"He's a great ballhawk," said Steuber on Cheesehead TV's Railbird Central. "He's a centerfield type of defender. He played the cornerback position at NC State, but you see him not having those great cover skills. You see him better in space. He's great reactionary kind of defender. He is very aware of situations...
"He reminds me a lot of Ed Reed when Reed declared for the draft out of Miami. And I think that's what you're going to see in NFL is a playmaker who's eventually going to be a steal for some team, because I think he's a late first round prospect."
On the surface, Amerson makes sense for Green Bay.
The Packers are owners of a late first round selection with the 26th overall pick, and out of any position on the entire team, there's an immediate opening at safety now that Charles Woodson has been released.
Amerson is a true talent, and he has a high ceiling. But the obvious drawbacks are that he's not a true safety and not all teams may view him as one after lining up at cornerback through his entire college career.
"I know that me personally, being a safety in high school, I don't have a problem with it," said Amerson at the NFL Combine. "I just see myself as a playmaker in the secondary wherever."
While at NC State, Amerson gained attention for his nation-leading 13 interceptions in 2011 as a sophomore, a total surpassed by only one player in a single season in NCAA history (Washington's Al Worley had 14 in 1968).
During his junior season in 2012, Amerson grabbed another five interceptions and broke up 12 passes, but he also got burned far too many times for comfort.
In the season opener against Tennessee, Amerson allowed multiple touchdown passes in the first quarter alone, not a good way to start the year. On two separate occasions, Volunteers receiver Cordarrelle Patterson––among the top wideouts in this year's draft class––pulled away from Amerson for long scores. He was also responsible for another receiver on a 72-yard touchdown as the Wolfpack lost 35-21.
As bad as the first game of the season was, Amerson hit his low point at Miami, when he gave up four touchdowns and was arguably responsible for a fifth when another receiver came into his zone.
To his credit, Amerson didn't point fingers. He was brutally honest with reporters at the Combine, admitting he got greedy after nabbing so many interceptions in 2011. He wanted to match or break the record in 2012.
"A lot of it was me just beating myself, just sitting on routes," said Amerson. "I know I'm way better than that and I know I could play extremely better."
Amerson was the recipient of tough love from his secondary coach, Mike Reed (now at Clemson), who told him to stop looking at the quarterback and end his freelancing. The message got through that Amerson needed to get back to fundamentals and let the game come to him instead of the other way around.
Getting toasted so many times is precisely why some feel Amerson would be better off at safety where he can line up deeper in the backfield and scan the action going on in front of him.
Then Amerson ran a very respectable time of 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Suddenly he started to assuage any fears at cornerback if he could just curtail his gambling ways.
But the comparisons to Reed are not to be taken lightly. If Amerson truly can play at a level near one of the best safeties of the past decade, he probably should be considered first-round material, even though Steuber acknowledges others likely have him rated lower.
"Some teams may not view him until the second or third round, but whoever gets him past the first round is getting a steal and a guy that's going to be an instant impact player," said Steuber.
Amerson would be a safety with great measurables. His 4.4 speed to go along with a 6-1 and 205 lb. frame make him an ideal candidate to make the position switch.
Maybe Amerson would make more sense to the Packers if they were to trade backwards, perhaps to a team looking to move up in the first round to find a quarterback.
If the Packers were to take a safety early, that person would very likely be inserted into the starting lineup from Day 1. Sure, that player would receive competition from the likes of Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings opposite Morgan Burnett, but it's unlikely either of those players would keep a first-round talent on the bench.
Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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