Has excellent speed and shows good closing burst on the crossing routes. Has very good hips with excellent burst out his breaks. Turns and runs well with receivers and hard to beat on the deep pass. Will turn and locate the deep ball. Hard to beat on the slant and does a good job keeping things in front of him. Shows good closing burst on the ball and is able to cut the legs of the ballcarrier to make the stop in the open field, showing some pop as a hitter. Excellent press corner that is able to consistently get the jam even against bigger wideouts, able to lock on and ride a guy. Has good ball skills and will challenge the errant throw. Has good speed off the corner as a blitzer. Flashes a fairly good feel for zone and playing in space. Dynamic return threat that has excellent homerun speed and a sudden first step. Makes first guy miss on punts and is gone. Gets up to speed very quickly on kickoffs, and he's past you before you know it.
Not very disciplined, and needs to improve his footwork. Doesn't use backpedal, sliding instead or relying on his natural athleticism. Not as effective in off coverage because he'll give up too much cushion at times and may not be super instinctual. Sometimes goes for the interception on the hail mary instead of making the smart play and knocking it down, indicating a tendency to gamble. Does a poor job breaking down and wrapping up in run support, just lowering the shoulder. Doesn't always do a great job on the edge vs. the run at the point of attack, getting caught out of position. Muffs some punts because he doesn't show great concentration.
Peterson is as gifted an athlete as you'll see at any point in recent draft history. He's an elite cornerback prospect because of it, more gifted than any corner dating all the way back to Champ Bailey in 1999. He's unpolished, but his skills allow him to be a premier shutdown corner. Impact player since he moved into the starting lineup late his freshman year. Two-year starter that had 52 tackles, 2 picks, and 13 pass breakups as a sophomore. Came back with 42 stops, 4 picks, and 6 breakups as a junior. Did return duties as a junior, averaging 29.1 yards on 32 kickoffs, and 16.1 yards on 26 punts, including 2 scores. He is cousins of NFL corners Walter and Bryant McFadden, as well as receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss.
Peterson's potential impact at the next level is on par with someone like a Bailey, Asomugha, Revis, or Woodson because he has that sort of elite potential to be able to take away an elite receiver from an opposing offense. He shadowed premium receivers while at LSU, taking on A.J. Green and Julio Jones, as well as players like Greg Childs and Jeff Fuller in the past two seasons as well. Unfortunately for Peterson, he often didn't come out better in terms of shutting down those guys. But he is a guy that definitely made his presence known, and makes that opposing receiver work for every catch and yard they get. If he can polish up his game, he can potentially ascend to that next level of being a guy that actually shut downs these premiere receivers. I expect him to come in right away and impact the league. He'll be a gifted returner at the very least. He should be a good starting corner, although I'm not sure he'll be a great starting corner as a rookie. But if he plays in a scheme that is suited to his strengths, such as playing a lot of press coverage and bump and run, he can shine. As he develops and polishes up his game, he can be much more trusted to be left on an island against quality receivers and be allowed to shadow them like he did at LSU the past two years for the most part. Some think he could transition to safety, and while he wouldn't be bad there because of his size, speed, and ball skills, I don't think he's as disciplined in run support or instinctual there to really be a factor. Unlike a player like Malcolm Jenkins who was a very good tackler and had very good run stopping instincts, Peterson is a guy that I think is going to be impactful, but a guy that also misses a ton of stops and makes mistakes because he's not natural there. I would compare him to more of a LaRon Landry in terms of what he brings to the table as a safety. Landry is good, but inconsistent. Peterson would probably be the same way there and his potential is much more limited there because it's not quite a premium position in terms of how much impact he can have by containing an opposing team's No. 1 guy.
Peterson would be a good fit in Atlanta because he can immediately come in and upgrade the slot position and nickel defense. He's too talented not to be a starter pretty early in his Falcon career. In fact, the Falcons would potentially split his reps at free safety just to see if they can find a way to get him on the field when the team isn't in their nickel defense. And frankly, he's so good that the team may decide it's better operating out of a base nickel defense than it is going with a traditional 4-3 look. He would supplant one of the starters on the outside by his second year. He's a better match opposite Robinson, but they are similar in that they are very good press corners, allowing the Falcons to run a lot more press looks. And by the time his third year rolls around, if he's developed properly, the Falcons would likely scrap the idea of a left and right corner, and allow Peterson to shadow the opposing team's top wideout. That too would mesh better with Robinson, who similarly did the same thing in Houston. His value in Atlanta would be similar to that of Deion Sanders, in that not only does he tilt the field on defense, but he can also be a dangerous return man, an instant upgrade over Weems because of his ability to score every time he touches the ball, just like Sanders. The issue going forward is that as he develops on defense, is he going to be as effective on special teams sort of in the same way that Devin Hester developed in Chicago, meaning Weems would still have value down the road to get his return gig back from Peterson.
I personally think Peterson is the most physically gifted player in this entire draft class and is No. 1 on my draft board. If a defensive back could be worth the No. 1 overall pick, he would be the one.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Man Coverage: 4.5
Zone Coverage: 4.0
Ball Skills: 4.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.