- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Three cornerbacks — Adam Jones, Antrel Rolle and Carlos Rogers — were drafted with the top nine picks of last year’s NFL Draft, primarily because all three had spent their entire college careers at the same position and were established cover corners.

In this year’s draft, Texas’ Michael Huff and Virginia Tech’s Jimmy Williams are the consensus top two defensive backs. But both were moved around in college, spending time at free safety and corner.

The issue of where to play them is presenting teams with quite the dilemma. Most teams agree that Williams will get a shot at cornerback first, but some draft publications list Huff as a corner, others as a safety.

Regardless of his position, Williams — famous in Blacksburg for his candid nature — knows where he stands.

“I feel like I’m the best defensive back in the country,” he said at the NFL Combine in February. “No matter where they play me, I know I’m going to do a great job for them. I know I can come in and play right away.”

Huff and Williams worked out together in Arizona to prepare for the combine and individual team visits.

“Jimmy’s different,” Huff said. “He kind of talks all the time. But it’s all in fun.”

Both players have had 100-plus tackle seasons as safeties.

“Huff’s a really good safety and he’s played corner,” Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray said. “So do you draft him because of that combination? He’s not a DeAngelo Hall, who played four years at corner and put his stamp there.

“Jimmy, to me, looks like Shaun Williams did when he went to the Giants. He’s a big safety who did a great job there and then moved to corner. He’s played corner for a while and if he can’t do it there, he’s still physical enough to play safety.”

Williams (6-foot-2, 213) was All-ACC as a junior when he had 60 tackles and five interceptions, and would have been a first-round pick last year. As a senior, he had only 44 tackles and one interception, somewhat a product of teams throwing away from Williams.

At safety in 2003, he started 13 games and made 114 tackles for the Hokies.

“Corner instead of safety,” Williams said of his preference. “I like to hit, but I want to set the precedent, change it up and try something new — be a tall corner.

“I feel like I can match up with any receiver. I played two years at safety and two years at corner. Either way, I’ll be prepared. But I like the challenge of playing corner.”

Huff was less committal when asked where he wanted to play.

“I just love being on the field,” he said. “I’ll play corner, safety, linebacker, whatever, as long as I’m on the field. … I love making plays, whether it’s hitting somebody across the middle, getting a pick and bringing it back for a score or blocking a kick.”

Huff (6-0, 198) started all 51 games in his college career, intercepting seven passes and breaking up 44. As a safety last season, he made 109 tackles.

“I played all over the place,” he said. “It depended on the play. I was deep free safety or strong safety in the box covering the slot receiver or outside covering a receiver.”

Most projections have Huff going before Williams. San Francisco drafts fifth and needs secondary help, but the 49ers are unlikely to pass on Maryland tight end Vernon Davis. Detroit could be a landing spot for Huff at No. 9, and St. Louis has shown an interest in Williams with the 11th pick.

“Huff is at the top of most people’s boards and he’ll be the guy to get on the field immediately,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “Williams is an enigma. He’s a guy that is a boom or bust candidate, either an All-Pro or a washout.”

Among the other cornerbacks, there is great debate as to whether a player is a first- or second-round choice.

Clemson cornerback Tye Hill improved his positioning by running a 4.30-second 40-yard dash time at the combine. But his size (5-9) and lack of ball skills could hurt him. South Carolina’s Johnathan Joseph ran a 4.31 and has the physical attributes, but lacks the experience of Huff and Williams.

Experience could also hurt Florida State’s Antonio Cromartie and Ohio State’s Ashton Youboty. Cromartie started one game in three years and missed all of 2005 with a knee injury yet rebounded to run 4.37. Youboty has size (almost 6 feet) but came out early despite only five college interceptions.

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