The SideLion Report NFL Draft Prospect Profile series provides an in depth analysis from a scouting perspective of college football players who could be on the Lions’ radar this spring.
Mel Kiper’s most recent mock draft had the Lions selecting Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the tenth pick. A three-year starter, Gilbert has proven to be a play-maker, snagging 12 interceptions over the course of his career. In addition to being an effective cover corner, Gilbert is also a dangerous kick returner, with six kickoff returns for scores and a career return average of 26.5 yards.
Based on evaluation of four games (Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Missouri), I gave Gilbert a 7.5 grade (mid first round). Here’s an excerpt from his scouting report:
STRONG POINTS: Excellent athlete with ideal height and adequate bulk for the position. Effective man cover corner with fluid hips and the speed to stay with vertical threats downfield. Field aware with good route recognition skills. Has very good ball skills (12 career INTs). Dangerous kick returner. Durable.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to get stronger. Technique is sloppy at times – rises in his backpedal. Not overly physical and needs to improve Press technique. Doesn’t effectively set the edge versus the run and is not aggressive – last line defender. Struggles breaking down to tackle in space.
SUMMARY: A three year starter, Gilbert is an effective man cover corner who offers added value as a kick returner. He possesses the necessary height and bulk to match up with the bigger receivers in the division. Though you’d like to see him be more physical at the LOS, Gilbert is more effective in man coverage than zone, possessing the speed and fluidity to stay on a receiver’s hip all over the field. However, when playing off the LOS, he does a good job of reading the QB and combines nice closing burst with long arms to consistently make a play on the ball. While you’d like to see him give better effort versus the run, Gilbert has the necessary size, athleticism and ball skills to be an effective number one shut-down corner in a predominantly man coverage scheme. Mid first round choice with added value as an effective special teams player.
Overall, Gilbert possesses the requisite size, speed and play-making ability the franchise desperately needs to match up against the big receivers in the NFC North.