A very explosive athlete, Claiborne should easily pressure for a starting role early on in training camp. He covered top talent in the SEC and is as polished as corners come in this year's draft. He has first-round value and shouldn't last long.
He can run with his back to the ball at the receiver's hip using a press/bail technique and looks natural running with his man in-phase while still keeping an eye towards the ball.
Claiborne is such a gifted athlete with uncommon body control that he runs with his man fluidly up and down the field while still keeping the wherewithal to break off at any time and get involved in plays coming across him. As a zone defender, he is simply an explosive athlete with length and can keep plays in front of him and react quick enough to meet the man at the ball. He is physical in run support and will have no problem coming up to tackle from the edge.
"Mo" actually came to Baton Rouge as a successful high school wide receiver, but LSU coaches moved him to cornerback a week into fall practices. He played in seven games as a true freshman, making seven tackles, before becoming the full-time starter in 2010. He earned second-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore, ranking third in the conference with five interceptions and deflecting six other passes.
Though scouts would like to see Claiborne get his weight to 185 by the Combine, his height and length are exactly what they like to see in a top 40 corner prospect. And he does not play like a former receiver, looking more than willing to mix it up with NFL-caliber receivers. Improvement in his strength and coverage techniques during his junior year could push him into the top 32 picks of the 2012 draft, if he decides to leave school early.
Man Coverage: Size, quick feet, and reach makes him effective in press, press-bail, and off-coverage. Few receivers can beat him down the sideline due to his length and ability to keep contact through the play. Packs a solid punch when extending on or near the line to knock his man off a route. Lazy and high in his backpedal on occasion, receivers lull him to sleep and get a step on him with a quick move. Veteran wideouts may push him around a bit downfield until he gets stronger.
Zone Coverage: Used primarily in man, but has physical tools to handle zone and is not contact-shy. Doesn't give up many yards after the catch due to his length and tenacity. Inexperience shows when giving too much cushion when off, giving up first down receptions. Loses his feet during click-and-close too often, though he recovers well.
Ball Skills: Takes advantage of tip drills and poor throws for most of his interceptions, but former receiver has the hands to make turnovers at the next level. Comfortable with the ball, elusive and has good vision after the catch. Does not always find the ball when locked up with receivers, must improve there.
Run Support: Willing in run support. Used on run blitzes on occasion due to his size and length as a tackler. Holds up his man, maintains outside leverage, and sheds to make the tackle if needed on most plays. Bigger receivers can get him off-balance, especially when he stay high in his pedal off the snap. Must maintain outside leverage instead of chasing back inside the receiver, giving them the sideline.
Tackling: Wiry strong corner who should get only bigger in time. Long arms and tenacious attitude make him a solid, if not fearsome, tackler outside. Height and flexibility allow him to attack the thigh of opponents instead of needing to cut or grab an ankle like shorter corners. Will leave his feet, though, so thicker receivers can slip past him. Works on special teams against opponents' gunners, gets beat by a step or two downfield but hustles to get in the way. Not afraid to lay the wood, though he'll throw a shoulder trying to force turnover downfield instead of wrapping up.
Intangibles: Stood up well to being targeted by teams in 2010 while playing across from Patrick Peterson. Still learning the cornerback position, but coaches and teammates state that he's been a great student since moving over from receiver. No known character or on-field hustle and effort issues."
Has a tendency to get a bit overextended into contact though and will shoot with the improper hand at times off the line. However, he really can be physical off the line and can consistently disrupt the timing of opposing receivers.
Showcases natural foot quickness and fluidity to his game. Is quick-footed when force to mirror laterally and despite getting a bit upright at times laterally, is quick enough to collect himself, settle his feet and close on the football. Exhibits impressive fluidity and balance for his size when asked to flip his hips and turn to run.
Demonstrates a “plus” first step, can keep his pad level down out of his breaks and really track the football. Uses his length well to be physical with receivers down the field and exhibits the coordination to quickly settle his feet and attack throws at the highest point.
Does a nice job when asked to get out of his breaks on inward breaking routes. Is patient in his drop and again, can keep his pad level down, creating a good closing burst.
Stays low and routinely manages to maintain balance and undercut routes underneath. Now, when he isn’t asked to press off the line he does have a tendency at times to get a bit lazy in his drop and allow his pad level to rise, taking away from his initial burst out of his breaks and giving receivers the chance to gain inside leverage.
Nevertheless he does have the ability to sit into his drop and stay balanced/compact with his footwork in off/zone concepts. Showcases a good feel reading routes off the line in off man.
And because of his ability to cleanly flip his hips and reach top end speed quickly, he can be patient in his drop and isn’t’ forced to bail out of his back-pedal prematurely.
Showcases some toughness vs. the run game. Extends his long arms well into contact, can gain leverage and disengage from defenders trying to seal him on the edge. Isn’t the most physical of tacklers, but is willing to throw his body around and use his length to wrap on the play.
Takes good angles when asked to drive on the football and for the most part gets his man to the ground. However, I would like to see him get a bit stronger as at times he will slip off his target.
I love his mental make-up though. Will play on special teams, not only as a talented kick return man, but also on kick coverage units as well. Is explosive down the field, takes good angles and is a tough man to outrun.
Impression: The top corner in this year’s draft. He’s tall and long which allows him to play big off the line. However, he showcases the footwork, balance and quick-twitch ability of a much smaller corner out of his breaks. With improved technique he should mature into one of the leagues best."
Could stand to get stronger, play more physically and shore up his tackling, but he shines in college football’s top conference.
A truly elite talent, he is a better pure coverman than Arizona Cardinals No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson, Claiborne’s running mate last year."
Claiborne has always been an incredibly fluid player with rare agility to move around and change direction. What has helped Claiborne's game this season – and propelled him up draft boards – is his technique. Claiborne is playing smarter and more controlled, which makes him arguably the best cornerback in the nation.
After the jump, some quick notes breaking down Claiborne's game.
- Claiborne is naturally fluid and loose-hipped, allowing him to stay with receivers who rely on their suddenness to get open.
- Clearly has good natural size and long limbs to match up with taller receivers. Won't be taken advantage of in jump ball situations because in addition to his size, Claiborne times his jumps well.
- Displays better hands than most cornerbacks. That, added with his good body control, allows Claiborne to make plays on a lot of passes.
- Is at his best when he's playing off the line and can rely on his closing speed. Playing off also allows Claiborne to turn and run with the receiver, sticking on his hip.
- Although Claiborne has improved his technique this season, he's a work in progress in jam. Claiborne is inconsistent in his jam.
- Seems to rarely take a bad, wasted step, so Claiborne isn't prone to mistakes. He could get better on short passes, though. Claiborne likes to open his hips early so he can turn and run with the receiver. This can get him in trouble in a quick passing game.
- Claiborne makes up for that with a good burst to close on underneath throws.
- Needs to develop more strength to be a better tackler. While Claiborne doesn't shy away from contact, he's not a great form tackler. Has trouble getting off blockers."
Very quick with excellent recovery speed; also can flip his hips and is very smooth in transition; tracks the ball well and has good hands, but isn’t necessarily a great leaper;
Also somewhat spindly and isn’t all that physical or aggressive in run support; had 37 tackles last fall while making 5 interceptions and breaking up 6 other pass attempts; can also return KOs."
Takes good angles on most hits, especially when coming up on shorter throws... Put up impressive numbers for a defensive back, notching 11 career picks and 23 passes defended across the past two seasons... Fluid player with loose hips that allow him to turn and run with anyone...
Legitimate 4.4 speed and upper-echelon athleticism make him comparable to former teammate and 2011 first round pick Patrick Peterson... Impressive man-to-man instincts and skills...Plays ball extremely well in the air and can jump with the best of them... When he uses his hands, he can be dangerous in press coverage...
Athleticism and good awareness make him better off the line, allowing him to attack shorter routes... Isn't the returner that the "Honey Badger" is but offers some flexibility in the return game, proved by his return TD versus West Virginia...
Great hands and athleticism make him a threat with the ball, returning his six picks for 173 yards and one TD... Good field awareness with and without the ball... Whether on defense or special teams, plays with a swagger that makes you notice... Made a big jump in technique from his sophomore to junior seasons.
Negatives -- Not an elite zone cover man... Bad technique on the press, fails to get his hands up and has trouble re-routing his receiver... Goes for the big hit too often... Too many arm tackles, poor tackling technique...
Average size puts him at somewhat of a disadvantage to big, physical receivers... Inconsistent motor and drive, can take plays off at times... Plays too many snaps locked on to the quarterback's eyes... Relies on his pure athleticism and speed too much... Take too many chances in both running and passing game."
After playing sparingly as a freshman, the star cornerback broke out in 2010 and earned Second-Team All-SEC honors from both the Associated Press and the conference's coaches.
He led LSU with five interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Through nine games as a junior (all wins for the top-ranked Tigers), Claiborne again leads the team with four interceptions and nine passes defensed. He had one interception in a 9-6 win over Alabama and returned it for 33 yards.
Claiborne has good size at 6'0'' and 185 pounds. He runs consistently in the 4.4s of the 40-yard dash and has been clocked as fast as 4.36 from that distance. Les Miles and company also line Claiborne up at kick returner due to his speed and elusiveness.
He has returned 13 kicks for 383 yards, good for a 29.5 average, including one for a 99-yard touchdown. Claiborne is an outstanding cover corner and can go up against the best receivers in any league. He could add some bulk to his frame as heads into the next level and needs to improve against the run."