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2011 NFL Draft Sleepers: CB Cortez Allen, The Citadel

The San Francisco 49ers are likely in the market for some help at the cornerback position, that much is obvious. Much of our discussion to date has focused on Patrick Peterson/Prince Amukamara at the seventh overall pick, and then the second tier of corners in the late first and early second round. However, there are some later round options that could be rather interesting to consider.

One such player is Citadel cornerback Cortez Allen, a guy who would could end up being a late round steal. Mocking the Draft currently ranks him 29th among cornerbacks, while Scouts Inc has him ranked 25th among cornerbacks. It's easy to overlook some of these late options, particularly when dealing with such a position of concern, but if the 49ers grab a pair of cornerbacks, they might be wise to consider Allen. In speaking with Dave-Te Thomas (previously mentioned in discussing Colin Kaepernick), he and his associates all think Allen could be coveted by some teams on the third day, possibly including our 49ers.

Dave-Te and one of his associates, Michael Di Julio were kind enough to pass along their scouting report on Cortez Allen, and it's safe to say they're high on the Bulldogs cornerback. In comparing him to current and former players, they actually make the comparison to former All-Pro defensive back Aeneas Williams. In their summary they view Allen as incredibly underrated heading into this week's 2011 NFL Draft:

Allen is a vastly underrated boundary cornerback who has the length and stride in his backpedal to easily stay on the receiver coming out of transition. He does not let his assignments break his cushion and gets on top of those receivers in an instant, evident by rerouting 54 opponents away from catchable throws last year. He opens up laterally or vertically with ease and shows an outstanding burst to recover.

He can plant and drive with no gather and displays the mirror ability to stay with any receiver he's matched up against. He consistently makes plays on the ball and is determined to finish when executing the tackle. He might not get a lot of opportunities vs. the running game, but when he does, no other FCS cornerback can do the job of keeping outside containment like Allen. He just might be the most underrated man coverage defender in the collegiate ranks.

The Citadel doesn't play Division 1-A so it's easy to overlook a guy like Allen, and also easy to dismiss quality performances as being against lesser opponents. Has anybody here had a chance to see what Allen can do on the field?

In breaking down Allen, Dave-Te and his crew view his biggest weaknesses as his hands, stating that he has the hands to reroute passes and jam up receivers, but he struggles a bit when it comes to actually snatching interceptions out of the air. They view his biggest strength as his backpedaling skills in that initial movement off the line:

Allen must have taken ballet lessons, as he is very smooth and effortless in his retreat, taking no wasted steps in the process. He has possibly the best plant-&-drive ability of any defensive back at his level of competition. With his long limbs, he gets good length in his stride, crucial when trying to recover when the receiver gets behind him. He is not the type that you will see revert to taking choppy steps.

He opens his hips easily, coming out of the pedal with the burst needed to maintain position out of transition. He looks very smooth with that transition when going deep or coming back up on the ball on short routes. You can see on film that he has the feet and balance to turn and stay on his man's hip. He is sudden in his movements when changing direction and looks natural and continuous flipping his hips and coming out of his breaks cleanly.

For our purposes, there have been discussions about whether some of the upper echelon corners can handle the necessary man coverage. It sounds like Allen can provide that kind of ability.

For a boundary cornerback, Allen does a very nice job of disrupting the receivers before they can get into their patterns. He has that strong hand placement to tie up his man for a long time at the line of scrimmage, evident by his performances in frustrating those that dared to beat him out of the blocks in the 2009 Elon, Furman and Chattanooga clashes (on 23 passes thrown in his are vs. Chattanooga, only one was caught for more than 20 yards). He uses his length well to reach around and compete for the ball in flight.

He has the speed and burst to run on the receiver's hip and recover when his man gets behind him. With his fluid hips and quick change of direction agility, along with excellent anticipation skills, he has allowed just one touchdown catch (2008 Elon) in his last 23 games. What Allen does better than most corners is to be very active and physical with his hands. He shows sharp plant and drive agility, but will sometimes get sloppy on deep routes and round his angles to the ball. Still, he has outstanding feet and balance when adjusting to the receiver's moves and can flip his hips, redirect and plant sharply coming out of his breaks without needing to gather.

The 49ers likely have numerous sleepers they like in this year's draft. And it's possible they find the corners they want at the upper end of the draft. However, it seems worthwhile to give Cortez Allen at least the once-over in their rundown of the various draft eligible cornerbacks available this week.