Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert entered the offseason among the most coveted defensive backs available when the NFL draft commences on May 8, and that distinction remains just four weeks away.
Many consider Gilbert to be the premier corner prospect in this year’s draft, and some draft experts have the 22-year-old pegged as a potential top-10 pick.
The six-foot, 202-pound Gilbert has the size to match up well in man coverage, and is perhaps the fastest defensive back available in this year’s draft. At the NFL Combine, Gilbert turned in a 40-yard dash time of 4.37 seconds, tops among corners and safeties.
Gilbert has utilized that speed not only in coverage and run support, but also in the return game, where he excelled in each of his four years in college. Gilbert returned six kickoffs for touchdowns in his collegiate career, averaging 26.3 yards per return.
Of a class that includes Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, TCU’s Jason Verrett, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech, Gilbert rises above the rest of his class due in large part to his superior physical tools and experience at the collegiate level.
“I think I’m the best corner in this draft,” Gilbert said while meeting with media at the Combine. I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’m not going to let anyone take that away.”
Gilbert, a three-year starter in his four years at Oklahoma State, saw his stock rise quickly last
“I’ve played a lot of press coverage—we were in press 70 percent of the game,” Gilbert said. “I think Big 12 defensive backs are some of the best in college football and are overlooked because we give up some plays, but at the same time, we also have way more plays coming at us. In the SEC, they have more of a running attack, so the cornerbacks aren’t being pressured. We have a lot to live up to. I think that style of offense that they play in the Big 12 is going to transition and make its way into the NFL in a few years, so I think that is going to be a part of my success in the future.”
Most projections have Gilbert selected prior to the Rams’ second first-round selection, at 13th overall. In a recent CBSSports.com mock draft featuring five panelists, four predicted Gilbert to be selected 10th overall to Detroit. The Rams could, however, be in the market for either a corner or safety with that draft slot, and Gilbert could represent an enticing option should he slide to No. 13.
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