With my St. Patty's Day hangover still lingering as I write this, I thought it would be appropriate to give you all a peek at the Fighting Irish's DB Robert Blanton. Despite Blanton's imposing 6-1 208 frame, he's not a highly touted prospect. Most scouts project him to go in the later rounds or possibly undrafted. The primary knock on him is a lack of lateral agility, stiff hips, and too many wasted steps.
I agree with that assessment. It's tough to envision Blanton as a starting corner in the NFL. Some have speculated about a possible switch to free safety but the Seahawks might have a better fit for him as a Big Nickel. The Big Nickel is not so much a cut-and-dried position as it is an idea. Generally speaking, the Big Nickel plays more zone than man is expected to be a strong tackler.
Jordan Babineaux's role in 2010 seems to be the closest fit to the position up to this point. He saw more snaps there than Atari Bigbi and Kam Chancellor did in 2011 combined. It's possible that Pete Carroll no longer sees a need for a player specific to the position but it's worth exploring some potential options in case he does. Blanton is a lot closer to Babineaux's skill set than Bigbi and Chancellor are.
What particularly appeals to me about Blanton is his knack for making big plays. I don't know if he'll be worthy of Bab's old nickname but he definitely plays with a decisiveness that could make him very dangerous in underneath zone. On the outside that decisiveness got him into trouble at times. He'll still need to temper those instincts but the Big Nickel role places a greater emphasis on making plays than holding responsibilities.
Blanton is not the type of talent that would take our defense to the next level. However, he does appear to fit a defined and vacant role on the team and could be acquired with a late round draft pick. He may require some seasoning before becoming fit for defensive snaps, but in the mean time he should be a capable special teams contributor. After the jump you can watch him against Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins in 2011.
Big thanks as usual to DraftBreakdown for the excellent scouting videos they put together. If it wasn't for their hard, unheralded and humble work, we'd be forced to watch those godawful horrible highlight videos with terrible soundtracks all day. So, thanks to Aaron Aloysius, JMPasq, JPDraftJedi, TTN2810, MARI0clp and the whole DraftBreakdown crew.