A Rush to Judgement? Almost Definitely.

21 Nov

Have you ever seen a man less enthused about being drafted into the NFL?

I’m not sure how to put this without sounding like a typical Bills fan but, I believe with every fiber of my being that this is another Superbowl year for Buffalo. Granted, I’ve never not believed the Bills were destined to be champions in any season for as long as I can remember. Our bone-marrow is filled with optimism, what can I say? This year’s shameless optimism is different.  It’s more specific.  I can tell you exactly why the Buffalo Bills are winning it all this year. Stephon Gilmore.  The Lenny Kravitz-esque rookie cornerback out of South Carolina.

I’ll get the comparison game done early: Peanut Tillman. Cornerback is a dynamic and challenging position, especially mentally and emotionally. To be a Cornerback one must have supreme confidence in himself. He needs to be able to shrug off being burned as if it were an anomaly. He needs to believe that he has the upper hand on every play simply by having been born a superior being to the wide receiver. This cockiness—in some form–is essential in being an aggressive and effective Corner. On the flipside, this type of attitude tends to cultivate harmful arrogance and sluggish work-ethic. When one views themselves as great despite anything that may prove otherwise, they open up the doors to offseason issues, weight and conditioning issues as well as media and social issue. Peanut is one of the greats because he has that platinum confidence without any apparent arrogance; the perfect balance of a humble, motivated kid with a chip on his shoulders and a superstar. I see the same in Stephon Gilmore.

Along with the attitude Stephon has, of course, freakish athletic ability. He is tall but quick, plays the ball well in the air but can also come up for a tackle behind the line. His college highlights show explosive tackling ability. Not just a flying shoulder with his eyes closed, but a fundamentally sound shoulder scoop with the arms in position to snag a foot if the runner decides to jump for it.

I noticed, also, Stephon’s tendency to go for the pass breakup first and the interception second.  This is why, I believe he has yet to tally a pick but has multiple pass break-ups and forced fumbles.  I love this in a cornerback.  What this tells me is that the corner is more concerned about giving up a big play than he is making a big play.  An opportunistic play maker is fantastic, but a lockdown cornerback who is happy with simply ruining a receivers YPG average is a treasure.

Stephon brings the speed, size and ball awareness that every team looks for in a Cornerback. One does not get drafted in the first round if they are not a physical phenomenon. However, it is the preciously rare combination of tremendous confidence without an overbearing ego that is going to propel Stephon Gilmore to the Pro Bowl and beyond.

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