NFL Nation: Andre Woolfolk
They made Trufant the 11th pick of the draft.
Trufant wound up covering Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald while all were at or near their primes. He fared well enough to earn Pro Bowl honors during the 2007 season, but age and injuries eventually caught up with him.
As Danny O'Neil reports, the Seahawks plan to release Trufant in a move that seemed inevitable for various reasons.
Trufant, 31, missed 12 games to injury last season. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman flourished in his absence. There was no way Seattle was going to bring back Trufant at his $7.2 million salary for 2012. The question was whether the sides might work out something allowing Trufant to return at a diminished rate, and in a diminished role. He had taken a reduced salary for 2011 heading into the season.
Trufant was the longest-tenured current Seahawk. He started at least 15 games in seven of his nine seasons, picking off 21 passes. Trufant started the only Super Bowl in franchise history. He made an immediate impact, starting every game as a rookie and playing well early.
"It’s hard to put into words when you’ve been at this a long time how a young player like Marcus, who’s a rookie, can be as consistent and solid as he has been," then-coach Mike Holgmren said at the time. "I'm one of those who has said, 'Let's not anoint him yet.' But he has been playing very, very well for us."
Terence Newman, Andre Woolfolk and Nnamdi Asomugha were the other first-round cornerbacks entering the NFL with the 2003 draft class.
Back trouble slowed Trufant in 2009 and again last season. He started the first four games in 2011 before landing on injured reserve.
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Busts and late-round gems.
The previous regime traded with division rival Tennessee to get Western Michigan linebacker Jason Babin with a second first-round pick in 2004 and he never became what they envisioned. The first-rounder from the next year, Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson, wasn’t good either. Johnson flashed some but wasn’t long-term help. Wide receiver David Anderson (seventh round from Colorado State in 2006) is a quality slot receiver, and probably the team’s best late-round pick.
The Colts traded up in 2007 to take Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh 42nd overall. He was the man to replace Tarik Glenn when he surprised the team by retiring the same year. But Ugoh lost his starting job in 2009 and was often inactive. Two third-rounders from the same draft also faded: cornerback Dante Hughes from Cal didn’t make it out of camp in 2009 and Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock quit football in 2008. Late-round finds abound: Howard safety Antoine Bethea (sixth round) is a Pro Bowl talent; Mount Union receiver Pierre Garcon (sixth round, 2008) just had a breakout season; punter/kickoff man Pat McAfee from West Virginia (seventh round, 2009) is a consistent performer. And Indianapolis does consistently well with undrafted rookies, such as safety Melvin Bullitt and cornerback Jacob Lacey.
First-round busts have been a major reason the Jaguars haven’t broken through as a consistent contender: receivers R. Jay Soward of USC in 2000, Reggie Williams from Washington in 2004 and Matt Jones from Arkansas in 2005 are gone and safety Reggie Nelson (Florida, 2007) and defensive end Derrick Harvey (Florida, 2008) rank as major underachievers. Late-round gems? Purdue guard Uche Nwaneri was a 2007 fifth-rounder and has started a lot of games and Florida’s Bobby McCray was a good defensive end for a seventh-rounder in 2004. James Harris was ousted as the personnel chief and the team seems on a better track under Gene Smith, who was named GM about a year ago.
Any list of recent high-ranking failures has to start with first-round cornerback Pacman Jones, sixth overall from West Virginia in 2005. He was probably the best defensive football player there, but the Titans failed miserably in researching his personality. Other busts who hurt them: Ben Troupe (second-round tight end from Florida in 2004), Andre Woolfolk (first-round cornerback from Oklahoma in 2003) and Tyrone Calico (second-round receiver in 2003). Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was an All-Pro in 2008 and heads any list of recent late-round gems. He was a seventh-rounder from Samford in 2006. Tight end Bo Scaife was a sixth-rounder from Texas in 2005 and promising defensive end Jacob Ford from Central Arkansas was a sixth-rounder in 2007.
|Andy Lyons, Paul Jasienski and Marc Serota/Getty Images|
|With the prevalence of wideouts over 6 feet tall, teams are seeking similar-size cornerbacks such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Darrelle Revis and Sean Smith to match up.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Towering receivers make it seem so easy when they leap into the air and come down with the ball for a touchdown. They're tall. They can sky. They're often unchallenged.
The NFL has enough short cornerbacks to fill a forest of Keebler trees. That's the way it has been for years. By football standards, the cornerbacks are uncommonly good for men standing 5 foot 8 or 5 foot 9. You won't see quarterbacks or linebackers that size. Or punters, for that matter.
Cornerbacks are wiry bundles of fast-twitch muscles. What they give up in physicality they compensate with zippiness and vertical leaps.
But cornerback size has become an issue in some front offices.
Teams, including the Miami Dolphins, have made an effort to grow. There's a greater emphasis being placed on matching up physically, whether it be on jump balls in the end zone or press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
"When you have 6-5 against 5-8, you have some discrepancies there," Dolphins secondary coach Todd Bowles said.
Cornerbacks have experienced an acute growth spurt in recent years.
The Elias Sports Bureau found that 31 percent of cornerbacks who started at least eight games in 2004 were listed at 6 feet or taller.
|Tom Hauck/Getty Images|
|Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of four 6-foot-2 starting cornerbacks last season.|
Last year, the number was 41 percent.
No regular starter was taller than 6 foot 2 last year, but the four listed at that height were Nnamdi Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Ike Taylor. So that's the best in the business (Asomugha), the 2007 interception leader (Cromartie), a top rookie last year (Rodgers-Cromartie) and two Super Bowl starters (Rodgers-Cromartie, Taylor).
In previewing the 2006 draft, ESPN's John Clayton noted there also were four 6-foot-2 starting cornerbacks the year before. That quartet was considerably less impressive: Julian Battle, Gary Baxter, Mike Rumph and Andre Woolfolk.
Apparently, finer tall athletes are playing the position now.
"The receivers are getting a lot bigger, the Calvin Johnsons, Randy Mosses and Terrell Owenses of the world," said Bowles, who played eight seasons at safety for the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. "You can get a 5-8, 180-pound corner with all the quickness and skill in the world, but you get third-and-2, third-and-3, the [receivers are] running slants and pushing them out of the way and bodying them out in the red zone."
In Clayton's story from 2006, he quoted then-Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese as saying the "optimum height [for a cornerback] is about 5-11." Reese cited a 10-year study that suggested taller cornerbacks don't last as long because they tend to be more physical.
Reese, now a senior football adviser with the New England Patriots, has watched his new club grow at cornerback. This offseason, the Patriots traded 5-foot-9 starter Ellis Hobbs and picked up 6-foot Shawn Springs and 6-foot-1 Leigh Bodden.
Elsewhere in the AFC East, the New York Jets have 6-foot Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis and 5-foot-10 Lito Sheppard. The Buffalo Bills have the shortest projected starters. Terrence McGee is listed at 5 foot 9, and Leodis McKelvin at 5 foot 10. But free-agent acquisition Drayton Florence is 6 feet tall.
The Dolphins were concerned with their size at cornerback even before the Bills welcomed Owens to the AFC East.
Miami kept Marshall and Bowe in check, but surrendered 153 yards to Fitzgerald, 178 yards to Johnson and 125 yards and three touchdowns to Moss.
"You better have some big, strong people that can compete against these guys," Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano said, "because they're big, strong, physical receivers that can take over a game in those situations. I think that you need to be prepared when you're playing against them."
|Gene Lower/Getty Images|
|The Dolphins got bigger at CB this offseason through the draft and by signing 5-foot-11 Eric Green.|
Goodman departed via free agency. The Dolphins signed Eric Green, a 5-foot-11 former Arizona Cardinal, and selected two more corners early in the draft. They chose Vontae Davis (5 foot 11) of Illinois in the first round and Sean Smith (6 foot 4) of Utah in the second round.
"We like big corners," Sparano said. "In fact, we'll take smaller corners in some situations off the [draft] board, and they might just be good players for other people, just maybe not for us."
Smith is a sequoia corner at 6-4. He received first-team reps at right corner during organized team activities.
"It definitely makes it more difficult for receivers to catch the ball and ball placement for quarterbacks," Smith said. "With my reach and size, you definitely have to keep the ball away from me. With that in my mind, my size helps me out a lot."
Sparano's former team, the Dallas Cowboys, is among those not motivated to get taller at cornerback.
"Our top three corners right now are 5-10 or less, and we're pretty satisfied with that because they all can run," Cowboys assistant secondary coach Brett Maxie said. "They all can play the ball down the field, and they're physical."
"We face faster, smaller guys," said Maxie, who played safety for 13 years in the NFL. "You've got to be able to match up with those guys. You can't sit there and press all day. You've got to be able to play off, react quickly, change it up.
"Some teams would rather go after a tougher 5-foot-9 corner that can play Cover 2 and jam and tackle and be physical at the point of attack rather than go out and get a 6-foot corner who's a cover guy and not real physical."
Maxie also explained the taller a cornerback is, the more difficulty he will have recovering when beat at the line. Once the receiver gets a step, it's tougher for a defender with size to quickly change direction and cover him.
"If you go out and get that bigger corner, he better be able to press at the line of scrimmage," Maxie said. "Secondly, he's got to be able to run."
The Dolphins are confident bigger will be better for them.
"You probably lose a little bit of niftiness, but speed and physicalness makes up for that," Bowles said. "With the receivers as big as they are nowadays, you don't see the niftiness in them anymore anyways. That's why we thought it was important."