Draft Profile: CB – Desmond Trufant
The 49ers have Chris Culliver, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown as their starting crop of DB’s. The 49ers could use a shutdown corner as Carlos Rogers is getting older and his 2012 season was nowhere good as 2011. The 49ers need more depth at the DB position and if available at 31, Trufant would be to hard to pass up.
Many prospects have NFL role models and Trufant isn’t any different. But most prospects don’t have the luxury of two older brothers already playing in the league to help guide them through the process. Marcus Trufant was a first round pick in 2003 and is still a contributing member of the Seattle Seahawks and Isaiah Trufant cut his teeth in the AFL and UFL before catching on with the Jets the last two years. Desmond is the little brother, but he also might be the best Trufant in the NFL next season.
A four-year starter, Trufant earned his way onto the field as a true freshman in 2009 and showed steady progression over his career. He set career-bests in 2011 as a junior with a pair of interceptions and 16 passes defended, but decided to return for his senior year. Although his senior stats weren’t as impressive (1 interception, 9 passes defended), teams mostly stayed away from Trufant’s side of the field as he was easily the top defender on the Huskies’ roster. While he needs to refine his technique and is far from a polished product, there is no question he has the fluidity and competitiveness to fight for a spot in the first round.
Strengths: Athletic with fluid footwork, flashing the foot agility to drive quickly on the play. Looks natural in space, staying balanced with the hips and transition skills to redirect in any direction. Physical and fights for the ball when it’s in the air, showing an excellent competitive nature. Doesn’t shy from contact and will get his nose dirty in run support. Very good job tracking and highpointing with a top vertical to get his hands on the ball. Good bloodlines and understands the NFL process. Good experience as a four-year starter (47 career starts), spending time both inside and outside and in both man and zone coverage.
Weaknesses: Narrow torso, lean muscle tone and only average length. Opens his hips too early to protect against speed and needs to stay under control in his movements. Streaky technique once the ball in snapped and reverts to bad habits, relying on his natural athleticism over fundamentals. Lacks elite top-end speed and can be beat vertically. Inconsistent tackling technique, hitting too high and lacking the strength to consistently finish. Plays close to the line of scrimmage but doesn’t make much contact and needs to improve his body position downfield. Too much of a grabber. Nagging hamstring injury late in 2012.
Desmond is looking to become the third Trufant brother to play professional football. Marcus has been a regular starter for the Seattle Seahawks since they picked him in the first round out of Washington State in 2003. Isaiah starred at Eastern Washington before playing in the Arena Football League and becoming the UFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 before finally getting his shot to play with the Jets the past two seasons.
Trufant seems to be on the right path to join his brothers in the NFL. Starting 45 straight games before missing a game against Colorado this year. Trufant was named honorable mention All-Pac 12 by league coaches in 2009, intercepting two passes (one that sealed the team’s win against Arizona) and breaking up six others. His numbers dropped in 2010 (one interception, four pass breakups) before picking up again in another honorable mention all-conference season as a junior (two interceptions, 14 pass breakups). His pick in the end zone in the season opener against Isaiah’s FCS alma mater prevented a disastrous home loss for the Huskies. As a senior, Trufant grabbed one pick, broke up 8 passes, forced a fumble, and blocked a kick. His play earned him 2012 All-Pac-12 first team honors.
Strengths: Legacy pick with NFL size and athleticism. Very good short-area foot quickness, mirrors receivers on the outside on double moves up the sideline or quick out routes. Capable of playing either outside or in the slot. Has speed to run with better receivers. Plays a lot of press-bail but has length and tenacity in coverage. Regularly rips off and out-quicks receiver blocks to get into position to make plays. Competes for the ball in the air and won’t back down from physical challenges from receivers.
Weaknesses: Only adequate in his overall strength and physicality, often whiffs at tackle attempts, jumping at feet or throwing a weak shoulder. Has mental lapses in coverage that lead to big plays. Poor technique in press makes him susceptible to giving up plays. Gives up the sideline in the run game when failing to get outside leverage against receiver blocks. Will open up his hips far too quickly and immediately give up inside leverage.
NFL Comparison: Antoine Cason
Bottom Line: The brother of NFL cornerbacks Marcus and Isaiah flashes playmaking ability and very good foot quickness, but must play stronger, smarter, and avoid technique breakdowns to be considered a sure-fire NFL starter. His skillset will still likely see him as a Day 2 selection.