Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback out of the University of Virginia, is in Detroit today for a pre-draft visit with the Detroit Lions. Dowling becomes the third cornerback prospect to visit the Lions. Jimmy Smith and Prince Amukamara made trips last month.
Dowling had an injury plagued senior season that ultimately ended when he fractured his ankle last November. Hamstring and knee injuries had limited him to just five games before the ankle served as the final blow to his season. The injuries were certainly disappointing but don’t represent an overall pattern with Ras-I, he had been a dependable part of the Cavalier defense for the previous three seasons.
Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Weight: 198 lbs.
Arm Length: 31 in.
Hand Size: 9 1/2 in.
40-yard dash: 4.46 sec
Dowling entered the 2010 season as one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, but after playing in only five games due to injury, his draft stock may have taken a hit. He is a monster of a cornerback who seeks out contact in run support and is a sound tackler. He really excels in zone coverage with terrific instincts and has the ball skills to make plays on underneath routes. He does not have the recovery speed to play in a man-heavy scheme at the next level, but he should be a good fit in a Tampa 2 system. A potential first-round pick before the season, Dowling still likely will be a second-round pick.
Before we get too far into what the scouts say about Ras-I Dowling, I want to point out something that stuck out to me as I was doing some research. The following is from an article about Dowling’s season ending injury:
Dowling probably would have been picked in one of the first two rounds had he entered the 2009 NFL draft. But he chose to return to UVa for his senior year, in part because he wanted to become the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
It might not mean anything in terms of his play on the field but it means a whole lot about what you’re bringing into the organization. Taking that kind of pride in his work is something I would rate as “exceptional”, ESPN gives Dowling an “above average” intangible rating and notes the following:
Selected co-captain for 2010 season. On track to graduate in first semester of senior year. No off-the-field issues to our knowledge. A hard worker who continues to improve both as a player and a leader.
Alright, good guy. Can he play? That depends on who you ask.
FanSided’s NFL draft scouting site, With the First Pick, features a two round mock draft from March in which Larry McDaniel sent Dowling to the Lions with their second round pick. He gave the following explanation in that post:
The Lions pass defense was atrocious last year. As far as needs, on a scale of 1-10, cornerback is a 10 for sure. With the NFC North possessing some of the best quarterbacks and receivers in the league, it is an area that must be attended to immediately. Ras-I Dowling is a big and physical corner who has good instincts. I love the way he competes for the ball and comes down hill against the run. With the Lions pass rush, Dowling should excel.
Wes Bunting runs the scouting department for the National Football Post and he rates Dowling as the number 20 corner in the draft. Here are his observations:
A physically strapping corner with good size and ball skills, and he knows how to tackle in the run game. However, I wouldn’t trust the guy at this stage in man-to-man coverage at the next level. Looks more like a cover-two type corner only to me or a potential free safety prospect. Not as high on him as most.
Does that sound too much like Amari Spievey to anyone else? Bunting grades him out as a depth guy with potential for spotty contributions.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock likes Dowling a lot more following his April 4 pro day in which he put up numbers that would put him in the top five among corners at the combine. He likened him to Chris Cook, another former Cavalier corner, that went 34th overall to the Minnesota Vikings last year. ESPN has Dowling as the sixth best corner on the 2011 board and a likely second round pick. Their “cover skills” report reveals some of the same problems Spievey dealt with last year before moving to safety:
Can hold up in certain man-to-man matchups but would need deep-safety support versus NFL WR’s with upper-echelon quickness. Has some tightness in hips and while top-end speed is very good. Lack of elite initial quickness can get him in trouble when false stepping in man-coverage. However, shows an extra gear to recover when caught out of position. At his best in zone coverage, where he can keep WR in front of him and read QB’s eyes. Shows good leverage and quick feet in pedal. Has good burst out of pedal and plays with very good balance and body control. Tries to get physical with WR as much as he can. Has the size, long arms, strong upper body and physical mentality to succeed with some good coaching in the NFL.
Questions about Ras-I Dowling’s long term viability at corner might be enough to force the Lions’ eyes elsewhere. With Delmas locked in at one safety spot and Amari Spievey still making his own switch from corner there may be too much risk for the Lions to consider Dowling in the second or even third round. He might be a good play as a best player available but the Lions need a cornerback, not a safety, out of this draft.