Continuing with our 2011 Draft Prospects series, today we’ll take a look at Marcus Gilchrist – a very intriguing, projected mid/late-round pick out of Clemson.

Deon Grant could potentially leave as a free agent; the no longer appealing Michael Johnson spent much of last season on injured reserve; and the Giants would certainly want some protection if Kenny Phillips is injured again. With all of this considered, I definitely see the Giants grabbing a safety at some point in the Draft.

With that, let’s take a closer look at Marcus Gilchrist.

Marcus Gilchrist
Senior, FS/CB
5-11, 190

First, from Sideline Scouting:

Positives: Pretty good speed for his size… Average height and weight, but appears to have solid frame, big enough to make plays in run coverage… Exceptional tackling statistics in 2009 before his move from strong safety to cornerback for the 2010 season (96 total, 53 solo, one sack and three forced fumbles)… Durability is not an issue, has not missed a single game due to injury… Is a versatile player who has the potential to play multiple positions in an NFL secondary, has experience at cornerback and both safety positions… Above-average run defender, is very tough for his size, is not afraid to initiate contact with larger backs… Is a solid zone defender, appears to be at his best when he can use his instincts and awareness to key in on quarterbacks… Has above-average kick return skills, was a solid replacement for C.J. Spiller in 2010, averaged 23.3 yards per kick return… Is an intelligent football player, knows his assignments and puts in a lot of time in the film room.

Negatives: Is just not a big playmaker, did not intercept a pass in his first three years at Clemson, misses a lot of opportunities when the ball is in the air… Takes a lot of false steps, especially when playing off his receiver, loses a step in his backpedal as a result… Shows stiff hips at times, does not come out of breaks very quickly in man coverage… Appears to be best suited in zone coverage or covering slot receivers in man-to-man… Instincts in coverage are average at best, often takes too long to close in when the ball is in the air… Will probably be a better fit at safety than corner in the NFL, will be a project if he is to start at corner in the near future.

Now let’s look at Gilchrist’s scouting report from the National Football Post:

Possesses decent size, but isn’t real physical in any area of the game.Safety/corner hybrid who showcases the ability to take good angles toward the football vs. the run game and is a decent wrap-up guy. However, isn’t a real physical striker, more of a drag down player who does a nice job breaking down on contact, but tends to simply catch ball carriers in most areas of the game.

Exhibits good footwork and balance in his drop and has the type of flexibility in his lower half to sit into his back-pedal, keep his feet under him, cleanly change directions and close on the football. Exhibits good balance when asked to redirect laterally and is able to quickly get out of his breaks and up to speed quickly. Displays good range in the deep half, tracks the football well sideline-to-sideline and possesses impressive ball skills and body control in jump ball situations. Is a coordinated athlete who knows how to go up and come down with the tough grab. However, isn’t the most instinctive of defensive backs at this stage, finds the football well vs. the run game, but struggles to consistently read the quarterback’s eyes and get early jumps on the football from the deep half. Also, struggles in coverage when asked to open up his hips. Doesn’t stay low enough out of his transition, gets too high and leggy and can be slow to flip and get back up to speed quickly down the field. Exhibits above-average speed, but is not a burner and lacks the ability to quickly make up for a false step. Displayed some natural man-to-man cover skills but was too often slow to react to the throw. Lacked a great feel when asked to sit on routes, didn’t get early jumps on the football, would get caught with his base being too wide at times in zone and gave up too much initial separation on all areas of the field.

Impression: Looks more like an NFL safety than corner to me. Possesses some natural athleticism, but could serve at worst as a solid nickel guy and work his way into a potential starter with some time.

Like many scouting reports indicate, Gilchrist seems more like a safety than a corner to me at the next level, and I also agree it would require more time for development if he’s drafted to play cornerback. He reminds me of a centerfielder-type safety, who can cover a deep-third or a deep-half and read the quaterback in zone coverage. Add in the positional flexibility, and I think Gilchrist would be a good value pick for Big Blue around the fifth round.