As Sean mentioned earlier today, Morris Claiborne finds himself in the news for negative reasons.  Who knows if the reports are true, but let’s assume they are. It doesn’t matter. Claiborne is going to be the first defensive back taken on the April 26, and deservedly so.

Comparisons to former teammate, and fellow Jim Thorpe Award winner Patrick Peterson are apt. Peterson electrified the NFL in the return game last year, but was far from a lock down defender. Claiborne, while having some return skills of his own, has been tabbed by some as a better Cornerback with the ability to shut down half the field. Claiborne’s agent is rightly pissed off about the leak of his client’s wonderlic score, but it shouldn’t affect the Shreveport native’s stock.

Vitals

Height: 5’11

Weight: 188 Pounds

Class: Junior

Born: February 7, 1990

Combine Numbers

40-yard dash: 4.50

Vertical jump: 34.5 inch

Broad jump: 118 inch

Three cone drill: 7.01

20-yard shuttle: 4.12

60-yard TD shuttle: 11.44

Arm length: 33 1/4 inches

Hands: 8 1/2 inches

College Stats

2011: 14 GP  51 Tackles  6 Pass Break Ups  6 INT

2010: 12 GP  37  Tackles  6 Pass Break Ups  5 INT

2009: 7 GP  7 Tackles

What the experts say

National Football Post

The top corner in this year’s draft. He’s tall and long which allows him to play big off the line. However, he showcases the footwork, balance and quick-twitch ability of a much smaller corner out of his breaks. With improved technique he should mature into one of the leagues best.

Tony Pauline

Though not the caliber of athlete as former LSU star Patrick Peterson, the fifth pick in last April’s draft, scouts think Claiborne is more polished in his ball skills. The junior has the ability to develop into a No. 1 corner for an NFL franchise.

Walter Football

Claiborne’s strong showings at his Pro Day and the Combine helped to validate his stock. He has proven himself to be the top cornerback prospect for the 2012 draft, and right now, he is the top-rated defensive prospect in the entire draft. In Indianapolis, Claiborne showed off his excellent coverage skills in the field drills. His length and athleticism are very rare, plus he had a nice 40-yard dash time.

CBS Sports

Arm length and tenacious attitude make him a solid, if not fearsome, tackler on the edge. Height and flexibility to attack the thigh of opponents instead of needing to cut or grab an ankle. Not afraid to throw a shoulder but will miss tackles if he doesn’t wrap in the NFL.

The Fifth Down

At this point, his biggest weakness is his coverage of in-breaking routes (like slants, digs and so on).  On these routes, he often finds himself on his heels, incapable of breaking quickly on the ball.  Note that on almost all such routes, Claiborne would only follow the receiver in man coverage.  Again, he has a chance to excel for a team that plays primarily zone.

Russ Lande

Claiborne had a more impressive performance Thursday than his Scouting Combine workout last month. He ran in the mid-4.4s on his 40-yard dashes. He also displayed a combination of smooth and fluid movement with explosiveness out of his transition. Catching the ball like a receiver in the drills, Claiborne also proved he has the soft hands to make interceptions. As a result, the Vikings will strongly consider taking him ahead of offensive tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall pick.

And two more in light of today’s news

Mel Kiper Jr.

(The Wonderlic score) should not have an impact. Not to minimize his position, but this isn’t a quarterback, this isn’t a middle linebacker, this isn’t a guy that needs to memorize a dozen reads. He needs to react. Assuming he was fine in interviews — and all I’ve heard is he’s a good kid — it shouldn’t change the way teams view him. I will have him as the No. 5 pick to the Bucs. These things pop up now and then and teams do a quick check, and they do their own evaluations, and they move on. Besides, not all teams trust everything they hear anyway.

John W. Michel

We found in no cases was cognitive ability related to (football) performance. We did find a negative relationship for tight ends and defensive backs. For defensive backs, it was the most pronounced; basically, the lower you scored on the Wonderlic, the better you performed.

Reports indicate Claiborne has a learning disability that impacted his Wonderlic performance. If he was a quarterback then perhaps there would be reasonable cause for concern, but as Michel and Kiper state, the Wonderlic doesn’t dictate success for defensive backs.

Tampa Bay’s need for a corner, thanks in part to the trials and tribulations of Aqib Talib,  make them a logical fit for Claiborne at fifth overall.