Cardinals cornerback is a rookie to watch

June, 15, 2012
6/15/12
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Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, mindful of minicamps' limitations as tools for evaluation, has regularly balanced his excitement for the coming season with disclaimers.

One recent example: "I'm excited for our defensive players because of their confidence and how they feel about where we are, but it doesn't mean anything if we don't play well and we don't win games."

Whisenhunt's excitement for rookie third-round cornerback Jamell Fleming seemed instructive in that context:
"He’s been a productive player at a big-time program, one that has played in some big-time games against good talent, so you like that. But the thing that jumped off the film to me was his quickness. Even watching him out here and doing some of the stuff inside in the nickel, his change of direction is really, really outstanding. You like to see that. He’s a competitive guy, he’s big, he was physical off the tape, which is one of the things you like.

"But when you talk about a guy who can play inside or outside, those guys have to be physical. The bigger they are, makes it more difficult for the offenses. I’m interested to see how it’s going to translate, if he can handle that position. The physical skill set is a good match for that."

Fleming, chosen 80th overall from Oklahoma, was the eighth of 34 cornerbacks selected in 2012 and the third by an NFC West team.

Cornerback depth has improved dramatically within the division over the past two seasons.

I'll be interested in seeing how Fleming develops relative to St. Louis' Janoris Jenkins (second round, 39th overall) and Trumaine Johnson (third round, 65th overall). NFC West teams did not draft another corner until Seattle chose Jeremy Lane in the sixth round. The Cardinals took Justin Bethel five picks later, also in the sixth.

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