Morris Claiborne (LSU)
-- Courtesy of ESPN --
Height: 5110 Weight: 188 40 Time: 4.50 Bench: N/A Vertical: 34.5 Broad: 9’8
Final Grade: 9.7
Player Comparison: Charles Woodson
Projected Draft Position: Top-10
After playing quarterback, running back and defensive back in high school, Claiborne joined LSU as one of the top-rated athletes in the nation. As a high school 4A Louisiana state track champion, Claiborne initially entered LSU’s fall camp as a wide receiver before being moved to defensive back just one week into drills. Claiborne takes very well to good coaching, improving his play each season. Off the field, Claiborne is well-spoken and supportive of his team and their abilities. Claiborne is a natural football player who wasted no time becoming a full-time starter in just his second season at LSU. Claiborne maintains confidence and positivity, seemingly unaffected by the attention surrounding him, whether it be hype or disappointment. For his position, confidence is a must and Claiborne certainly has it. As a player, Claiborne has much more room to develop and coaches describe him as a good student. While on a team as successful as LSU, Claiborne is accustomed to the pro-football setting.
Claiborne has good size for his position and his football moves are very natural. Claiborne plays with good balance, adjusting his hips with ease and not compromising speed. Claiborne’s ability to track and adjust to the ball make him a very agile athlete. Combine that with Claiborne’s leaping ability and he makes for a very threatening defender on receivers of any size. Claiborne runs well and keeps position throughout plays, demonstrating good footwork and drive on cuts. Claiborne’s strength may be tested at the next level, but natural atheltic ability and a solid frame allow for him to add muscle/weight. Although not an ideal height, Claiborne is a very long player and his wingspan helps in coverage, just as much as it helps for closing on opponents and overall range.
Claiborne has very good instincts with a natural read-and-react action. Claiborne’s high football IQ will impress coaches, but it’s even more exciting to know that his football mind isn’t even close to capactiy. Although he can play at a very high rate of speed, Claiborne adjusts his game to his oppenent in order to bait when necessary and take advantage of opposing quarterback’s mistakes. Claiborne’s very quick reflexes and almost immediate reaction time can sometimes appear that Claiborne understood the play before the huddle even broke. Claiborne was the nation’s top cover corner last season and wasn’t picked on often. However, Claiborne is a ball-hawk that can make opponents pay with sure hands of intercepting most passes. Claiborne is effective at jamming receivers at the line and his physicality is easily recognized. Claiborne could add some strength to better shed blocks, but that should come in time with the natural maturity of his body and frame.
Claiborne is effective in any form of coverage. In press-coverage, Claiborne is physical on the line, effective in extending his arms to jam receivers and knock them off their time. To better improve, however, Claiborne could afford to become physical stronger to hang with bigger receivers at the next level. In zone, Claiborne’s closing speed makes for the perfect bait in order for him to come in and make a play on the ball. It shouldn’t take long for quarterbacks to recognize Claiborne’s ability to close, so he’s a perfect fit for press-coverage at the next level. Claiborne plays with good pad-level at the line and he never loses control of his body, regardless of the receiver’s moves. Claiborne can trace his opponent and he moves fluidly in his hips. Claiborne is disciplined in coverage, not falling vicitim to double-moves or pump-fakes. He has an eye for the ball and he is best in the nation at reading a quarterback. Claiborne has very few flaws in his coverage skills. Even in the cases where Claiborne appears beaten, his length, athleticism and instincts make up ground.
One of Claiborne’s best attributes is the use of his hands, specifically at the line of scrimmage. Claiborne can jam effectively and gain initial position on his cover. Claiborne possesses a superb combination of both physicality (notably at the line) and finesse (positioning and baiting). Claiborne’s movement on the field looks natural. He can shift his hips with ease and he rarely loses speed with change in direction. Claiborne’s footwork is a very natural motion for an athlete of his caliber and it plays a huge role in his ability to read and react. Claiborne’s tackling ability is a direct result of his intelligence–taking a majority best angles and aligning position in preparation of the tackle. Claiborne is far from a flashy tackler or a corner looking for the big hit, as his strength isn’t a strongest enough part of his game. Claiborne sometimes struggles to get off of blocks, but he keeps himself close to the play even when blocked well. As Claiborne matures physically, his ability to get off blocks should improve.
Claiborne is a superb athlete with the instincts necessary to be a top cover-corner in the NFL. Claiborne is a natural football player with effortless flow in his hips and feet. His back-pedal is effortless and he has the drive to plant and turn with almost no loss in speed. Claiborne is a natural athlete–gifted with long arms, speed and the leaping ability necessary to succeed in the NFL. Claiborne has great speed and a knack for reading the quarterback. Despite being avoided for most of his collegiate career, Claiborne is a demonstrated ball-hawk and his hands are above-average for the position. Although inexperienced in zone-coverage, Claiborne is capable of playing in any system. In man-coverage, Claiborne can effectively jam his receiver and succeed in throwing off the offense’s time. When cushions are given, Claiborne has great closing speed and he uses it to his advantage by baiting quarterbacks and making them pay. Despite not being a great tackler, Claiborne can improve by adding muscle/weight to a strong frame that permits it. Claiborne needs to use his hands more effectively to shed blocks and contribute in run-support, but it’s not a negative dig on his game. During plays that occur away from him, Claiborne can usually draw closer, but he can’t always make a play. After spending time as a wide receiver during his prep years, Claiborne’s experience on both sides of the ball provides him with great anticipation and intellect for the cornerback position. Claiborne seemingly knows a receiver’s route before the break of the huddle and he waits before using his above-average reaction time to close on the ball, cover the ground and make a huge play. It begins with Claiborne’s effective pre-snap read, but it’s a developing characteristic to his game. At the next level, Claiborne will get a much better feel for the position and the given scheme, as he is still a somewhat raw talent in terms of the cornerback position. Claiborne is already a very good cornerback and very deserving of a top-ten draft pick, but it’s his potential to become even better as a pro that makes Claiborne that much more valuable.