Consider this an open plea to the Carolina Panthers: Don’t repeat the same mistake other teams have made by not taking the best player available with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Not only is LSU CB Patrick Peterson my favorite player in the draft, I think he’s the best player available. I don’t think you need to be a talent evaluator or a scout to see that Peterson just plays the game at a different speed.
My mother could scout Peterson and probably reach that conclusion.
Take a look at the draft position of four select cornerbacks. Hall of Famer Rod Woodson was taken 10th overall in 1987 (behind notables Mike Junkin, Kelly Stouffer and Reggie Rogers). The Falcons took Deion Sanders, another Hall of Famer, at No. 5 in 1989. Champ Bailey was taken seventh overall in 1999, behind QBs Tim Couch and Akili Smith. Darrelle Revis lasted until the 14th pick of the 2007 draft.
It shouldn’t take a high level of scouting to know these players were probably the best players in their drafts.
I have a problem with the fact a cornerback has never been taken first overall. There’s a mentality with NFL teams that you can’t take a cornerback there, and I think it’s misguided. If you’re in a position in need, or have a lot of needs like the Panthers do this year, why wouldn’t you just take the best player?
The time is now to stop ignoring the obvious and change history a bit.
Based on just his return ability alone, Peterson is worth a first-round pick. He changes the way the game is played, whether it’s on kickoff or punt returns. Most cornerbacks taken in the first round also provide immediate value on the field and can play right away, at the very least situationally. You get a player ready on day one because talent is what gets them on the field.
Ultimately, I see Peterson as a Charles Woodson-type of player. His size makes him valuable immediately in nickel situations and some teams, like the Packers, play 60 to 70 percent of games in the nickel package, and sometimes more. Woodson is difficult to block and makes every tackle from the slot. He works primarily the middle of the field, basically eliminating slot receivers and tight ends. He can blitz off the edge, and you can’t run at him because receivers can’t block him.
I see all of this in Peterson. He’ll be tough in the run game, a physical force in the way he tackles, he can lock up on the outside, he can play three or four positions and will force teams to reconsider every time they kick to him.
Teams have made this mistake in the past, but sometimes the obvious is too difficult to ignore. I don’t know why the Panthers would ignore Peterson with the first pick.