2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Justin Gilbert

  • Cover corner who rarely allows separation
  • Capable of shutting down No. 1 receivers
  • Excellent in bump-and-run
  • Strong in off man-coverage separation
  • Can run with receivers in and out of breaks
  • Very fluid
  • Loose hips, no problem turning and running
  • Extremely athletic
  • Fast
  • Ball skills
  • Very good at snatching interceptions
  • Play-maker, capacity to make clutch game-changing plays
  • Good tackler
  • Ideal height, bulk
  • Solid contributor against the run
  • Fast feet
  • Can run with receivers downfield
  • Adept in zone coverage
  • Improved his game
  • Plays with a swagger
  • Has a No. 1 corner mentality
  • Kick-return skills
  • Upside
  • Good length (33 1/8″ arms)
  • Scheme versatile

  • Weaknesses:
  • Bouts of inconsistency
  • Had a rough junior season
  • Has a temper, can lose his composure

  • Summary: Gilbert had a rollercoaster career for Oklahoma State over the past three seasons. After a great start, Gilbert had a rough 2012 season before rebounding last fall to be one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. He made some huge plays for the Cowboys and did a superb job of neutralizing the other team’s top receiver. With two seasons of tape, Gilbert should be the first cornerback selected on draft day.

    Gilbert had a breakout season with an excellent 2011 campaign. The sophomore notched 59 tackles, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions. He had interceptions against the top three quarterbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft; Stanford’s Andrew Luck (Colts), Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (Redskins) and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins).

    Many were expecting Gilbert to build on his sophomore campaign with a great junior year. 2012 didn’t work out that way for Gilbert, who had some mistakes in coverage. He recorded 63 tackles, nine passes defensed, zero interceptions and averaged 26 yards per kick return for the season. Gilbert then made the mature decision to return for his senior year.

    The decision paid off as Gilbert had a phenomenal season and really improved his game. In 2013, he totaled seven interceptions, 42 tackles, seven passes broken up and one kick returned for a touchdown.

    Gilbert had an interception returned 31 yards for a touchdown against Iowa State and a 41-yard pick-six against Texas. Early in the season, he had a mixed day against West Virginia in that he batted away two passes in the end zone and grabbed an interception, but was also beaten for a 17-yard touchdown before later being ejected at the end of the game over a fight. Gilbert returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Kansas. To finish his collegiate career, he had good games against Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma and Missouri.

    Gilbert’s NFL Scouting Combine was superb. He had the second-longest arms of any defensive back and the second-highest bench press total among the cornerbacks with 20 reps. Gilbert led all of the defensive backs with a 4.37 official time in the 40-yard dash. Considering Gilbert (6-0, 202) is a big corner, that is a tremendous time. To top it off, he was excellent in the field drills. Gilbert was fluid in his backpedal and veering across the field. He showed loose hips to flip and turn, too. Gilbert also made a great leaping hands catch.

    For the NFL, Gilbert projects to being a No. 1 cornerback. He can line up in man coverage and take on the other team’s best receiver. Gilbert has the size to match up on big receivers and the speed to run with deep threats downfield. He is very good in bump-and-run and also excels in off-man coverage. Gilbert is very fast with the athleticism to turn and run with receivers to not allow separation. His loose hips allow him to flip around to stay with them in and out of their breaks to maintain coverage. Gilbert also has good ball skills and is adept at taking the ball away. As a pro, he should put up some good interception totals.

    Gilbert contributes in run defense, too, and is tough on the perimeter. He is strong in zone coverage, but there is little reason to take him out of man coverage. Gilbert could also contribute as a kick returner, but whatever team drafts him will probably use a different player to protect Gilbert from injuries.

    Gilbert’s senior year and Combine performance showed that he is worthy of a top-10 pick and can be viewed as a potential No. 1 corner in the NFL. Gilbert is the top-rated cornerback for the 2014 NFL Draft and is likely to be selected in the top half of the first round.

    Player Comparison: Aqib Talib. The gritty style of play of Gilbert reminds me of Talib. Both are fast corners with excellent size, strength, length and ball skills. Both are ball-hawks who are capable of taking the ball away. Gilbert and Talib can match up on big receivers and No. 1 receivers, and lock them down. Gilbert had a rough junior season, while Talib has had some bouts of inconsistency as a pro. Gilbert was rock solid as a senior, but in the NFL, it wouldn’t be surprising if he had some occasional rough patches like Talib. Coming out of Kansas, Talib was selected 20th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. Off-the-field issues hurt Talib, and Gilbert should be a top-20 pick this year.

    NFL Matches: Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, Tennessee, New York Giants, Chicago, Green Bay, Cincinnati, San Diego, Denver, San Francisco

    There are a lot of teams that could target Gilbert in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The highest that Gilbert could hope to go would be to the Browns with the fourth pick. They could use a corner to pair with Joe Haden, however they’re likely to use that pick on a bigger position of need.

    Detroit could consider taking Gilbert with the 10th-overall pick. That is a popular projection in mock drafts because the Lions have had weak corners for years and need a No. 1 corner. I don’t think Detroit will take a corner because Martin Mayhew put money into Chris Houston, while using early-round picks on Darius Slay and Bullet Bill Bentley along with some other draft picks. The Lions also hired the Ravens defensive backs coach Teryl Austin to be their defensive coordinator, and I think the organiztion wants Austin to fix the secondary rather than use the team’s first-round pick for it. Still, Gilbert is in play for Detroit.

    Tennessee could consider drafting Gilbert if Alterraun Verner isn’t re-signed. If the Titans bring back Verner, or bring in a similar-caliber free agent, they won’t be in the market for Gilbert after using other picks at corner in recent years.

    The Giants don’t have a screaming need at corner, but Jerry Reese could look for an upgrade. New York is more likely to address corner later on.

    After releasing Cortland Finnegan, St. Louis could be one of the favorites to take Gilbert with its first-round pick at No. 13. The Rams could use a corner to pair with Janoris Jenkins, and Gilbert would be a good scheme fit for them . Landing the No. 1 rated corner with the 13th pick is good value.

    Chicago could draft a cornerback in the first round. The team needs to find a replacement for Charles Tillman as the veteran is expected to leave in free agency. If Gilbert gets to the Bears, his draft fall could end.

    The Steelers could use a young replacement for Ike Taylor, but in past years, Pittsburgh has drafted its cornerbacks after the first round.

    Green Bay wants to improve its speed on defense and will probably take the best defensive prospect that falls to the team’s selection. If Gilbert is on the board, he would probably be the top defender available, so the Packers would grab him.

    Cincinnati could use some youth at corner. Veteran Leon Hall is coming off an Achilles injury, while Adam Jones and Terrance Newman are aging. Gilbert and Dre Kirkpatrick would give the Bengals a talented young duo, but Cincinnati would have to move up for Gilbert.

    There is little chance that Gilbert would fall late in the first round to the 49ers, but San Francisco has a lot of picks on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft, so the team could move up to get him. The 49ers could use some youth at corner and Gilbert would be a great scheme fit.

    In the AFC West, San Diego has a huge need at cornerback and cut Derek Cox. The Chargers need to land multiple corners and Gilbert would be a big upgrade. Denver also has a big hole at corner. Champ Bailey is nearing the end of his great career, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is hitting free agency. Denver and San Diego would both have to trade up to land Gilbert.


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