Jan. 6, 2008, University of Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib announced that he would forgo his senior year and declared himself eligible for selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. After three years of excelling on both sides of the ball in the Big 12, Talib is widely regarded as one of the top cornerback prospects in the nation.
Aqib has been called a shutdown corner by many because opposing teams tend to throw to away from him during games, respecting his playmaking ability. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old Sociology major has racked up some impressive statistics over his three collegiate years. Although he was recruited as a safety in 2004 and redshirted his freshman year, he had two interceptions and a team-leading eight passes defensed in 2005, earning him an honorable mention on the All-Big 12 team as selected by the league's coaches. This was only the beginning: 2006 saw Talib record 22 pass deflections (leading the nation) and intercept six en route at a First-Team All-Big 12 selection, and 2007 ended with five more interceptions while becoming the first Jayhawks All-American first-team selection in more than 20 years. Arguably his biggest junior year achievement came during the 2008 Orange Bowl, when Talib returned an interception for a touchdown and earned game MVP honors.
Talib is a very smooth and talented natural athlete whose 6-foot 3/4, 202-pound frame and long arms give him an advantage over smaller receivers. While many taller corners lose speed, Talib ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine, making him a freakishly dangerous and rare combination of both.
He is a solid tackler and can support against the run. He has been developing a strong one-on-one man coverage game, making him one of those cornerbacks you can trust on an island with a receiver. Talib has mainly made his name, however, as a ball-hawking back with outstanding hands and is always a threat to take an interception to the house.
His versatility should be an asset to any NFL team. He has extensive experience playing spot duty on offense as a receiver (scoring five touchdowns) and has been seen as a possible safety convert. Whichever team selects him could also use his special team abilities, where he has excelled as a kick returner.
He is constantly talking out on the field and is supremely confident, which induces him to gamble on opposing receiver's routes. Like any gamble, Talib's playmaking heroics have been countered with a fair share of over-pursuits and mistimed jumps. Some of the Big 12's better receivers managed to exploit this fault and burn him for big plays. His lack of elite recovery speed also hurts him once he is beaten initially.
He is not a physical tackler and doesn't deliver many big hits; instead he tends to drag down opposing ball carriers.
Expected Draft Placement
Despite the trash talking and his tendency to gamble, the consensus is that Aqib will be selected in the first round. His most likely landing point appears to be between picks 16-25, by a team in need of a versatile defensive back or returner. Like his play, selecting him might be a risky gamble: he has the skills to become a big-time cornerback or just an overhyped bust. Some NFL teams that could have interest in Aqib include the Arizona Cardinals (15th), Washington Redskins (21st), Dallas Cowboys (22nd) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (23rd). Were he to slip the Green Bay Packers could certainly select him at the 30th spot as they look to infuse some youth in an aging secondary.
About James Li
James Li has been a KFFL contributor since 2006.
Don't miss these great reports....