I'm not going to be offering a whole lot of original material on this, as the subject of slot cornerbacks has been addressed here already a bit. Thomas put together this interesting post on the slot cornerback position with respect to the Seahawks recently, and a few things he said really stuck out to me. Principal among them was this succinct summation: "I've been banging the "slot/nickel guys are like .75 of a starter" hammer for a while now, their value is really close to that of your starters, and you could well use high-level players at the slot and nickel spots if you want to compete in the modern NFL."
Thomas points out that though the Seahawks have addressed the position with the selection of Walter Thurmond (and possibly Byron Maxwell), WT3's inability to stay healthy is a concern. Will they look to address this somewhat overlooked position in the Draft? Possibly. With that in mind, let's consult with everyone's favorite, Greg Cosell, who said the following on the Shutdown Corner podcast with Doug Farrar this week:
There's a player at Alabama named DeQuan Menzie, who I think, on film, is the best slot corner in this draft. He played outside in their base then moved inside in their subpackages. I'm reading a lot of people saying "he can't play outside so he's going to have to move to safety in the NFL." Now, he might be able to play safety very well, I don't know, I didn't see him do that, but what I did see him do on film is play in the slot. And, he played it better than anyone else I saw on film. He'd probably play 50% of the snaps if he was your slot corner.
Similarly, fairly identical really, but still worth posting - Cosell wrote on his blog:
Based on my film study, Alabama's Menzie is the best slot corner in this draft. He played outside in the base defense and moved inside in sub-packages. He was physical in the run game, he was utilized as a blitzer, and he played both press and off coverage versus slot receivers. I have heard some say, due to his limitations as an outside corner, that he best transitions to the NFL as a safety. I can see that, especially with the proliferation of hybrid tight ends. Menzie would likely be effective as a cover safety with his corner experience. That's a projection. What we do know is he's an outstanding slot corner. Leave him there. He will play the majority of the snaps at a position that's difficult to find.
This goes along with the spirit of Cosell's article, that which partly prompted Thomas' piece, pointing out the underrated importance of the nickel cornerback position. The Seahawks have, since deciding not to re-sign Jordan Babineaux prior to last season, gone with Walter Thurmond as their slot corner, and he's flashed brilliance there when healthy. Unfortunately, as I said, he can't seem to stay that way, and after a recent setback in his rehab from his broken leg, the Seahawks went out and re-signed veteran defensive backs Roy Lewis and Marcus Trufant as stop-gaps for this year, if need be.
I've still got high hopes for Byron Maxwell at that spot as a big nickel- as Thomas has suggested for some time - and I've also been a keen fan of little-known Ron Parker, a guy that the Seahawks signed as an undrafted free agent rookie last year, released him at final cuts, and after he was briefly with the Raiders for a spell, returned to Seattle toward the end of last year on the active roster. Parker's size and speed are intriguing - 6'0, 205, with a 4.36 40, 6.71 3-cone, and 4.18 short shuttle - and he played at single high safety at small-school Newberry. Range - physicality, speed, fluidity - these are things necessary, plus anticipation, tackling, and blitzing ability.
The Seahawks also have guys like Jesse Hoffman, Coye Francies, Phillip Adams, Chris Maragos, and Jeron Johnson on the roster. Here's the thing though - we have absolutely no idea if any of these guys, outside of Roy Lewis, has any business at the slot cornerback position. I would think the Hawks would entertain the idea of a guy like Menzie in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th rounds - and that's about where he's currently projected.
As Cosell framed it: "Keep in mind teams also run three-wide groups in normal down and distance situations as a regular feature of their offense. What burden does that place on the defense, as it specifically relates to the slot corner? It means he has three responsibilities: cover man (the most apparent), blitzer and run defender (not talked about enough). Those are three distinct skill sets, but they are all required of a slot corner. Think about that for a minute. It's not a filler position, simply employed because the offense lined up with three wide receivers. It's a well-defined position that is essential to NFL defense, and it demands a specific set of attributes."
Take a look at the tape after the jump.