Sunday, June 23, 2024

Three-Point Stance: Deion Sanders, Portal Standouts, CBs In The NFL Draft

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In this edition of the Three-Point Stance, Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has some thoughts on Colorado coach Deion Sanders and the transfer portal, he looks at four recent portal additions who can use a fresh start and he wonders if we’re falling in love with taller cornerbacks even though NFL teams might not be:

Whether you love Deion Sanders or despise him, believe he’s going to resurrect Colorado football from the doldrums or believe it’s a circus in Boulder, he sure is interesting.

Over the last few days alone, on multiple occasions Sanders has made newsworthy statements about all kinds of topics.

He predicted on a podcast his son, Shedeur, and former five-star Travis Hunter would both be top-four NFL Draft picks and one of them would go No. 1 overall.

Sanders said on the same podcast that he, “kind of know(s) where I want them to go. There are certain cities that ain’t going to happen. It’s going to be an Eli.”

A week-and-a-half before Eli Manning’s NFL Draft, his people told the San Diego Chargers (who had the No. 1 pick) that he didn’t want to play there. That’s what Sanders meant when he said there’s going to be an “Eli” for Shedeur Sanders or Hunter. That should go over well in the pre-draft process.

Somehow those comments were twisted into reports that Sanders would only let those two players go to six NFL teams. That seems false (unless Sanders said it privately and it leaked) but Sanders seems to be steering his son and Hunter away from certain NFL cities at least.

That was one semi-issue that Sanders dealt with this week. Another was the flood of transfers out of Colorado including former five-star cornerback Cormani McClain, who to his credit Sanders tried to do everything for over the last year but just couldn’t get McClain on the same page.

And to be fair to Sanders, there is a rash of players leaving Colorado but also a rash coming in. The numbers basically equal themselves out plus he has Elijah Herring (Tennessee’s leading tackler), Dayon Hayes (led Pitt in tackles for loss), Ohio State four-star transfer RB Dallan Hayden and many others on campus this weekend.

In defending Sanders at Colorado, though, Keyshawn Johnson made some interesting statements on Undisputed in recent days where he basically said the good players on teams aren’t transferring – which couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Most of the dudes transferring can’t play or they can’t withstand the pressure of Deion Sanders,” Johnson said.

“Guys that can play, they don’t transfer because they’re playing, they’re getting ready to get to the real bag. … When guys are on the team and they’re starters and they have an NFL future, they don’t transfer.”

Caleb Downs was Alabama’s leading tackler by far last season – he had 40 more tackles than anyone else on the Crimson Tide – and he transferred. Walter Nolen was a starter and he left Texas A&M for Ole Miss. Evan Stewart was Texas A&M’s leading receiver and he went to Oregon. Kadyn Proctor started as a freshman on Alabama’s offensive line, transferred to Iowa and then transferred back to Alabama. Cam Ward turned down the NFL to transfer to Miami. Dante Moore transferred after being the starter at UCLA to be the presumed backup at Oregon.

So in that case Johnson was totally off the mark but I digress back to Sanders, who even sort of ripped his own daughter for – you guessed it – going in the transfer portal, calling that move “stupid.”

“You get a team,” Sanders said. “You kind of get a team before you enter the portal. That’s what I would advise a child. And I know, ‘It’s illegal.’ Come on. Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody.”

Take those comments however you want.

To his credit, Sanders is running Colorado his way. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. A parent of an elite recruit told me recently he wonders how long Sanders will stay in Boulder with Shedeur and Shilo Sanders gone, with Hunter (who’s almost like a son) gone and with his daughter transferring now.

These are all good questions. Only time will give us the answers. But as Sanders said this week – have some faith in him.

The spring transfer period is entering its second week and already dozens of high-profile FBS players have entered the portal. Here are four players in the portal that are in need of a change of scenery.

The former four-star from Cocoa, Fla., is a very talented player and has all the tools to be special but maybe at Ohio State he got over his skis a little bit. The Buckeyes are loaded not only with talented defensive backs but the elite of the elite and it seems like Hawkins got lost in the shuffle. On Saturday, Hawkins committed to UCF and that’s a perfect spot for him – close to home and somewhere he can shine on Day 1.

A former Florida State commitment, the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard four-star defensive end decided to decommit and then later sign with Miami. He was injured for most of last season and is looking for a fresh start but the word throughout his recruitment is that he didn’t want to go too far from home. Could Florida State be a landing spot? Kelly has a ton of talent, he just has to put everything together now.

The five-star cornerback has all the talent in the world and the belief was that getting him to the other side of the country and in the hands of coach Deion Sanders, one of the best defensive backs to ever play, would mold McClain into the player he could be. But it was a year of ups and downs, struggles and some high points and now the five-star is in the portal. Looking for warmer weather, McClain could end up back in the Southeast but as Sanders even said, the former five-star needs to want it.

If Williams would have been patient and waited his turn at Georgia, he could have been one of the Bulldogs’ top pass-catchers in the coming years but after one season, the former four-star is looking for a new home. That’s fine, too, as North Carolina and Minnesota are pressing him hard to commit and others are getting involved. He and McClain have traded messages about playing together again as well.

The two five-star cornerbacks in the 2025 class – Ohio State commits Devin Sanchez and Na’eem Offord – are 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, respectively. The top-five prospects at that position are all 6-foot-1 or taller. Nine of the top 10 are 6-foot or taller.

But one look at the projected top cornerbacks for next week’s NFL Draft and we might have an issue: Maybe it’s just a one-off scenario or a strange year at the cornerback spot in the draft but only one of the top 17 in Dane Brugler’s pre-draft guide is taller than 6-foot. Twelve of them including the top corner – Alabama’s Terrion Arnold fall under that height category.

Again, this could be an anomaly and NFL teams are looking for longer, rangier cornerbacks to compete on the outside. But maybe from a rankings perspective we’re falling in love with players who have incredible talent on the high school stage and can mask some deficiencies even at the college level but that might be too gangly or cannot play in a tight space like some sub 6-footers at the cornerback position.

It’s incredibly tough. Sanchez has been a lockdown cornerback for years. He can turn and run. He can play in space, close on the ball, use his length to his advantage. Same with Offord. Same with four-stars like Dijon Lee and Purdue commit Tarrion Grant, who both measure 6-foot-3.

The question remains, though. Should we trust our eyes or trust the numbers that say maybe NFL teams are looking for those 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11 bulldogs and then will take that length and ranginess at the safety spot?

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