By Kyle Rota
Note: This close to the draft, there are a lot of good articles pushing down other good articles here. Do yourself a favor and make sure to read through the entire first page and possibly the second, depending on how frequently you visit Seahawks Draft Blog. Without further ado, I present my most controversial report yet, Eric Berry the Cornerback.
Name: Eric Berry
Height: 5115 V
Weight: 211 V
Athleticism: Despite being one of the more high-cut players in this draft, Berry is an elite athlete. He has very good if not great pure speed for the cornerback position, changes directions well, and is very fluid with his hips. He also has great strength for a cornerback and has that explosive trait in his burst and his hitting. 7.0
Man Coverage: Although Berry was nominally listed at S for Tennessee, he played a lot of cornerback in man coverage and looked very good there, a result of playing cornerback in high school. His backpedal is excellent and he possesses the closing burst needed to recover when he is beat. He generally avoids giving too much cushion and has the ball skills to make quarterbacks pay. He will need to adjust to playing outside, so his potential is higher than the grade indicates. 6.0
Ball Skills: Berry has fantastic ball skills, making a few interceptions that most cornerbacks wouldn’t have even touched. While not the constant presence on the ball that Haden is, Berry still has the hands to grab a lot of interceptions in the NFL. 7.0
Zone Coverage: 6.0 Another area that Berry will need adjustment. As a safety, Berry was very proficient in zone coverage, especially shorter zones. He reads them pretty well and reads the quarterback very well. With his hitting ability, burst, intelligence, and ball skills I think Berry could become a very good zone cornerback.
Coverage Instincts: 7.0 Berry has very good coverage instincts, diagnosing the play fairly quickly and reading the QB very well. Smartly plays double moves and pump fakes.
Tackling: 7.0 Berry has major issues tackling as a safety. While he is capable of making strong tackles and even powerful hits, too often he is out of position and has to lunge to compensate. Berry tends to take better routes (and this use better form) when close to the LOS, and compared to other cornerbacks Berry will be an explosive and largely reliable tackler.
Run/Pass Recognition: 6.5 Berry is an intelligent player who reads run/pass well. While occasionally prone to bit on misdirection runs, his generally quick reads will be an asset.
Avoid/Shed Blockers: 6.5 Berry surprised me with his ability to shed the blocks of much bigger players. While he lacks the size to be playing in trash a whole lot, he will have little to no problem beating WR blocks.
Blitzing: 6.5 Berry is an explosive blitzer out of the nickel package, and an explosive hitter when he gets a straight line to the quarterback.
Press/Tight Coverage: 6.0 Don’t let the grade fool you, it is only “average” because I didn’t see Berry consistently play tight on WRs. Given his combination of fluid hips, athleticism, instincts, and strength, this could be a major strength. I just can’t assign a higher grade without actually seeing it on the field.
Fluid Hips: 7.5 Players at high cut as Berry should not be this fluid. He looks like he is 75% leg, but changes direction very well and can flip his hips without wasted motion.
Footwork/Technique: 6.0 Berry has not had to consistently play as a cornerback since high school, and while his backpedal could be faster it does not have wasted motion and I think Berry can improve on the speed of his drop. His hips are loose and he can turn with WRs easily. Another area where Berry is restricted (to a solid grade) because of experience, not capability.
Summary: There are not too many others projecting Berry as a cornerback, and truthfully I didn’t want to because changing positions is always a risky affair. However, it became clear that Berry plays much better when near the line of scrimmage – when he lines up deep, he struggles to make an impact. Tennessee used him all over the field, and many of Berry’s big plays came when lined up at cornerback or SS. Because of his ball skills and athleticism, I think Berry should become a very good cornerback at the next level. He compares similarly to Haden, with a little less upside but Berry is far more capable of playing (well) at least as a nickel corner in his first season.
Final Grade: 6.6