After redshirting in 2011, Marcus Peters worked himself into the starting lineup the following year, earning eight starts and leading the Washington Huskies in passes defended (eleven) and interceptions (three), adding 44 tackles (two for loss). As a sophomore in 2013, Peters started all but one game, leading the team with 14 passes defended and five picks, taking home Second Team All-Pac 12 laurels. In 2014, he started seven games before his dismissal from the program, finishing with 30 tackles (four TFLs), ten passes defended and three interceptions in 2014.
Judging solely from his on-field performance, Peters' talent warrants a first-round grade and perhaps even top 15 consideration. He is a long, fluid press corner with excellent size, ball skills and the supreme confidence you want in a number one CB at the NFL level. Plus, he has some "RKG" qualities: Peters is mentally tough (often too much so) and passionate about football. During 2013 and 2014 seasons, he allowed just 38.1 percent of the passes against him to be completed and had 24 passes defensed and eight interceptions, with five of those in a team-leading effort in 2013.
On the other hand is the oft-covered off-the-field stuff. Peters was held out of the first quarter of the Huskies' bowl game at the end of the 2013 season, and then repeatedly clashed with new coach Chris Petersen's staff in 2014. Peters served a one-game suspension after a sideline tirade against Eastern Washington in the second game of the season, and reportedly got into an argument with an assistant coach in a November practice, which ultimately led to his dismissal from the program.
Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his measurables:
|6' 0"||197||31½"||8⅜"||4.53||1.61||17||37½"||121"||7.08||4.08||117.0 (49.0)|
As his pSPARQ score indicates, Peters is a middling athlete for an NFL corner. And here are his numbers in the form of a spider graph, courtesy of the folks at Mockdraftable.com:
And over at Draft Breakdown, they have seven of Peters's games on tape, awaiting your review. From 2014, check him out against PAC-12 rivals Oregon and Colorado (seven tackles, no picks in each game). Plus you can get a glimpse of how he'll fare against NFL-caliber athletes inn his head-to-head matchup against Arizona State's Jaelen Strong (a pair of tackles and two passes defensed). From 2013, check him out at Stanford (3 tackles and a pick).
Let's see what our esteemed panel of scouts has to say about Peters and his game:
Gary Horton (ESPN.com) 2nd-ranked CB; 22nd overall:
Instincts/Recognition: Displays strong overall awareness and recognition skills. Possesses a good feel for leverage. Flashes above-average anticipation in man coverage. Has quick and active eyes in zone coverage deciphering route combinations. Was more cavalier this year and played with better discipline in 2013.
Cover Skills: Has good size, strength and natural athletic ability as a press cornerback. Possesses quick feet along with very good agility and change-of-direction skills. Technique will waver at times and feet will get outside of frame, especially in off-man coverage. Was able to get away with it at the collegiate level due to pure athleticism, but that might not be the case against NFL competition. Good short-area burst and long speed provide him with plus range.
Ball Skills: Natural playmaking instincts. Locates the ball and tracks it well. Flashes the ability to turn and play the ball in trail position. Plays strong in contested situations, and does a nice job of jostling to maintain positioning. Good hand-eye coordination. Times his leaps well, and shows good body control to high-point throws. Flashes ability to create with the ball in his hands, but not a difference-maker.
Run Support: Willing in this area. Good size and strength. Not afraid to put his body on the line. However, will pick and choose his battles (see: Stanford, 2014). Does a nice job of playing with his eyes when taking on blocks to stay alive in the play. Does a nice job of limiting yards after the catch. Angles can be cleaned up a bit, and he will tackle high on occasion. Constantly looking to strip the ball when given the opportunity.
Intangibles: Maturity and accountability need to be heavily investigated by teams. Has a laundry list of off-field incidents. Has openly admitted to failing a drug test in 2011. Suspended for the first quarter of the Fight Hunger Bowl versus BYU in 2013 for an academic issue. Was banned by the coaches from working out with the team for four weeks during the offseason prior to the 2014 season. Suspended for the Illinois game in 2014 for throwing a tantrum while arguing with coaches after head-butting an opponent and drawing a personal foul call against Eastern Washington the week prior. Showed up late to meetings the week of the Stanford game in 2014 and was suspended for the first two series. Missed a practice the week of the UCLA game in early Nov. 2014 and was dismissed from the team. Peters claims that he was in court that day dealing with a parking ticket. Has recently openly taken responsibility for his maturity issues and lack of accountability. Grew up in a football family and loves the game. A fiery competitor who is extremely vocal on the field with opponents. Father Michael was a long-time assistant coach at his high school (McClymonds) before recently being named the head coach. Family has close ties with Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch, who grew up in the same town in Oakland, and Marcus considers him a 'cousin.'
Nolan Nawrocki (NFL Draft 2015 Preview) 2nd-ranked CB; 18th overall:
Strengths: Outstanding size. Very good press strength to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage and knock them off routes. Maintains good positioning and stays in phase in coverage. Smoth and fluid in transition. Good ball skills and instincts. Is aggressive playing the ball in the air and baits quarterbacks oto throw his way. Very solid supporting the run. Plays with confidence and carries a swagger. Took accountability for his mishaps in college with teams at the Combine and eliminated many concerns resulting from his team dismissal.
Weaknesses: Has very small hands. Is not technique-sound and often freelances and plays outside the structure of the scheme. Could do a better job of shedding blocks - at times gets driven out of the play (see Stanford). Cold stand to be a more dependable tackler.Mental toughness could improve- - had issues controlling his emotions. Does not respond well to hard coaching and was dismissed from the team after repeated issues co-existing with a new coaching staff. Could be defiant at times and has been removed from some NFL draft bards for character concerns.
Future: The most talented pure cornerback in the draft, Peters has the playmaking ability, ball skills and toughness to factor readily in the pros, though he must mature and realize that he will not be able to coast on his natural talent in the pros. Would benefit from a demanding structure.
Draft projection: First-round pick.
Scout's take: "All these players have issues, especially the really talented ones. You have to be able to accept them for what they are and manage them. That's the big question with all of them. (Steve) Sarkisian recruited (Peters) and knew how to handle the kid....Chris Peterson came in with a button-down approach...He's as talented as any corner I have seen. He can be a shutdown corner. But he is not a square-cut, button-down, Peterson-conform type guy. That was the problem.
Lance Zierlein (NFL.com) 4th-ranked CB; 35th overall:
Strengths: Prototype size for the position. Fluidity in his hips to flip and run. Competes hard out of press-man coverage and tries to intimidate receivers with his physicality. Can redirect talented receivers with his length and flat-out stuff receivers with marginal foot quickness and strength. Stays in pocket of vertical receivers while turning to locate and track ball. Active and disruptive when ball is in the air. At his best when contesting catches and often comes away the winner on 50/50 throws. Outstanding feel for space with ability to track multiple receivers and quarterback at the same time. Closes on throws with above-average burst and brings some force on contact. Confident and tough.
Weaknesses: Suspended for one game in 2014 by head coach Chris Petersen for a sideline tantrum that followed personal foul penalty. Was ultimately dismissed from team over multiple run-ins with coaching staff. Inconsistent with footwork and loose with technique. Lacks patience in press and will open up early. Grabby off line of scrimmage and downfield when beaten. Average mirror-and-match and long speed. Overly emotional and prone to mental mistakes because of it. Slower than expected to squeeze routes in space. Doesn't take coaching.
Draft Projection: Round 1 or 2
Sources Tell Us: "I wouldn't take him inside the first two rounds. He's good, but he's not that good that I would be willing to deal with his emotional issues." -- NFC personnel director
NFL Comparison: Aqib Talib
Dane Brugler (NFL Draft Guide) 3rd-ranked CB:
Strengths: Desired height and frame for the position with above average arm length...flexible hips and coordinated footwork to transition out of his pedal and collect himself on the move...excellent spatial awareness and feel for coverage to float, read and react, using the sideline to his advantage...tracks the ball well with above average ballskills - routinely gets his head turned, gains body position and uses his hands to make plays...presses at the line with the feet and speed to play tight, using his functional length to stay in phase with receivers...always peeking in the backfield with natural anticipation and recognition skills at the position...highly confident and talkative with short memory - looks to bait and get into the head of receivers...physical in run support and aggressive as a blitzer, closing well in pursuit...tone-setting competitiveness with a great relationship with his teammates...above average production with 35 passes defended and 11 interceptions over 27 starts, including two defensive touchdowns...versatile experience and was effective in press-man, off-man and zone coverages...patched his relationship with the Washington coaching staff after his dismissal and was invited to participate at the school's pro day.
Weaknesses: Lanky frame with room to add bulk and get stronger...lacks ideal recovery speed for the outside and will struggle to catch up if the receiver gains a step vertically...highly aggressive and will get called for too much downfield contact...bad habit of getting sloppy with his footwork in his pedal, struggling to create a base and hindering his ability to mirror movements - will find himself off-balanced and undisciplined in coverage...allows his eyes to be stuck in the backfield, late reacting when in off coverage...will over run his target in run support and needs to harness his aggressiveness to break down in space...alarming character and immaturity concerns after he was kicked off the team for repeated run-ins with the coaching staff - suspended vs. Illinois (Sept. 2014) after head-butting an opposing wide receiver and throwing a tantrum on the sideline the week prior; late to several team meetings and missed practice, leading to his dismissal from the program (Nov. 2014)...history of poor decisions, including a failed drug test in 2011 and academic issues (suspended for the first quarter of 2013 bowl game).
Our panelists give Peters a range from the mid-first to the early-second round.And, if you look at the NFL clubs that have expressed interest in Peters thus far, this is borne out. But if we look a bit more closely, we see that they are clustered in the middle of round one: Minnesota (11); New Orleans (13); Miami (14); San Francisco (15); Houston (16); Cleveland (19); and Pittsburgh (22) have all schedule interviews, extended invitations for pre-draft visits, etc. Given the density of this interest, I'll slot Peters in the first round on my "little board" - but he comes after Kevin Johnson and Byron Jones in terms of first-round corners on that board are concerned.
If he proves to be the pick at #27, how will I feel? Although not an explosive athlete in the Byron Jones mold (who is?), Peters fits the athletic prototype at the position: a long, fluid, savvy cover corner. And the Cowboys certainly could use one of those. In that regard, therefore, I would be happy. That said, if the team wants to continue to have a strong locker room, I suspect the Cowboys can only spend so much draft capital on athletes with character concerns. If Dallas drafts one player who fits that description, I would rather it be Frank Clark; frankly, what he does is harder to find than what Peters does...
Next up: LSU CB Jalen Colllins