The Pittsburgh Steelers may search for a cornerback with their 20th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, especially considering Joe Haden’s age and injury concerns, whilst Mike Hilton is also holding out for a new lucrative deal. Thus, the time could be now to solidify our depth at the position we have struggled to develop most in recent years. Could the Steelers select DeAndre Baker, who has come in recently for a pre-draft visit?
DeAndre Baker #18
– Jim Thorpe Award Winner (2018)
– Consensus All-American (2018)
– First Team All-SEC (2018)
– Rose Bowl Champion (2018)
– SEC Champion (2017)
– Has met with the Steelers
40 tackles (31 solo, 9 combined), 2 sacks, 2 INT’s, 9 PD, 1 FF.
2019 Combine Performance
Height & Weight: 5’11”, 193lbs.
Bench Press: 14 reps.
Broad Jump: 118”.
40-Yard Dash: 4.52s.
What’s To Like
Baker hasn’t surrendered a TD in his coverage since 2016, which is wildly impressive to say the least. His speed was an issue entering the assessment of his playing ability, however, he improved his 40-yard dash time below 4.5s at his Pro Day, which is solid but could be improved. He also possesses exquisite ball skills, having showed an ability to intercept tough balls and get his feet in-bounds. Has 8 total interceptions through 36 games. These interceptions speak volumes to his football IQ, but more than anything else he evidenced the fact that he has solid understanding of routes, whilst he has already diagnosed his strengths and weaknesses to gain leverage. His footwork is generally fairly solid, however, he could stand to improve his agility/shiftiness, as he could be turned inside out by pacey receivers on certain routes.
Baker does his job as a defender against the run well, with good effort displayed. Has experience of being utilized as a blitzer from the outside but speed has limited success on this play-call. It’s evident that his teammates value him and he appears to have been a leader on the Dawgs’ defense.
Top speed is most certainly his largest concern. As aforementioned, he could do with improving his acceleration also. Another fairly large concern I have of Baker’s game is his versatility – Whilst he excels as a press-man corner, he could easily be taken advantage of in other setups, most notably off-man coverage. Minor concerns regarding his usage of hands, lots of PI calls would’ve been given by NFL officiating.
The gulf in class between the top 2 cornerbacks (Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams) in the 2019 NFL Draft and the rest of the class is scarily large, unfortunately.
That said, I am actually a big fan of DeAndre Baker and his ability. He’s got great instincts, fantastic football IQ and is perhaps better in touch with his own capabilities than any corner in this year’s class. I believe that if implemented in the correct system fit, Baker could truly explode within the next few NFL campaigns once he has obtained some experience at the next level, of course. I will say however, that his top speed remains a considerable fear, given the step-up in speed and athleticism in the professional game he could really be at a loss should he not be able to improve that area of his game.
It’s for these reasons that I think Baker will fall to the second, which, for me, reflects exactly where he deserves to be selected given his quality. As a Steelers fan I would welcome Baker’s addition, should he be selected in the second, as he could be molded into a perennial Pro Bowler with the right help and opportunity on an NFL franchise. Obviously however, the coaching of corner’s at the Steelers hasn’t been great as of late, but it’s never too late to turn things around.
Grade: Second Round.
Projection: Late First/Early Second Round.
Games Watched: Alabama (2018), LSU (2018), Oklahoma (2018), Tennessee (2018) & Kentucky (2018).
Credits: Georgiadogs.com, sports-reference.com, YouTube & TCW (img)