Summary: Claiborne projects to be a shutdown corner at the next level. He is an excellent man cover corner who blankets receivers in their routes. Claiborne has an elite skill set with the size and speed to match up against top NFL receivers. His quickness and athleticism should allow him to be a cover corner against the weekly No. 1 wideout. Plus, Claiborne has the ball skills to punish teams for throwing his direction. He also has the talent to be a ballhawk in the NFL and has Pro Bowl protential. His NFL team may not want to risk his health on kick returns, but he could be a good returner if given that role.
In his final collegiate season, Claiborne had 51 tackles with six passes broken up and six interceptions. Furthermore, Claiborne averaged 25 yards per kick return. He had great performances against Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Arkansas and West Virginia. His two interceptions against Mississippi State were impressive plays that showed off great ball skills and body control. However, both Claiborne and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick were burned by Florida's Andre Debose for a 65-yard touchdown pass on a go route.
Claiborne had a signature performance for the Tigers in their first game against Alabama. The junior was rock solid in pass coverage and had an excellent interception that he returned 33 yards. Claiborne made a good read in zone, picking up the H-back running an out route, and was able to jump the route. His clutch pick set up the game-tying field goal that would eventually force overtime. Claiborne also had three tackles and a pass broken up in the game. He was solid, but quiet in the rematch.
Claiborne had an impressive debut for the Tigers in 2010. He recorded five interceptions with 37 tackles and six passes defensed. With Patrick Peterson on the other side, Claiborne held up well with a lot of passes thrown his direction.
Player Comparison: Patrick Peterson. The closest comparison to Claiborne is his former teammate. Both LSU products are similar prospects. They are extremely fast and great athletes. They can make game-changing plays on defense and special teams. Peterson was the fifth-overall pick last year, and it wouldn't be surprising if Claiborne is the fifth selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Washington, Jacksonville, Carolina
Claiborne should be the first cornerback taken, and right now he is a lock for the top 10. The Rams need cornerback help badly, but it is a stretch for them to take Claiborne over offensive tackle Matt Kalil or wide receiver Justin Blackmon. If the Rams grab Kalil in front of the Vikings with the third pick, Minnesota would have a tough decision to make between Claiborne and Blackmon. The latter is the higher-ranked prospect, but Claiborne may fill a bigger need. The Browns could use a corner to pair with Joe Haden, but it seems unlikely that Claiborne would be the pick.
Claiborne could easily land with the Bucs. Their biggest need is at the position. The Redskins could use some youth at corner, and the Jaguars have a big need at the position. Worst-case scenario, Claiborne should fall no further than the Panthers, who could use a corner badly.
As the NFL Draft approaches, I will be making weekly adjustments up until the 27th of April. Rest of the writeups will be coming later this week. Any questions/comments/criticisms can be voiced in the comments. I will respond to all.