Cole World

Fourth-round pick? Why CB Kendall Sheffield believes he's a first-rounder

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Fourth-round pick? Why CB Kendall Sheffield believes he's a first-rounder

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Kendall Sheffield's voice doesn't exactly come across as thundering, but his words tell you he's booming with confidence.

When the Atlanta Falcons' fourth-round pick from Ohio State reflected on how this year's draft unfolded, he didn't bite his tongue. It irked the speedy cornerback to sit at home in Houston with family and hear 110 players selected ahead of him, including 12 other corners.

"I believe I was a first-round draft pick," Sheffield said to ESPN, "and I'm ready to prove to everyone else that I'm a first-round draft pick."

In polling a handful of talent evaluators about Sheffield, none came out and actually backed his first-round claim. (Only one cornerback, Georgia's Deandre Baker, was selected in the first round.) But all the evaluators agreed Sheffield has tremendous upside and could develop over time into an impact player in the Falcons' secondary.

One NFC scout referred to Sheffield as a "second-round talent who can really run" but noted he needs to prove he can be just as sharp mentally as he is physically. An AFC executive added, "Man, he's talented. He just needs time; more playing time and experience. Obviously, he can really run and is athletic, but he needs more time to develop just pure cover skills."

None of the evaluators mentioned Sheffield's injury -- a pectoral muscle he partially tore while bench-pressing during the NFL combine -- as a factor in his apparent slide in the draft. Sheffield, who also shook off the injury as a negative factor, frankly doesn't care about any skepticism regarding his ability.

"Biggest thing I've had to overcome in my life? I'd probably say the doubters," Sheffield said. "I really don't do that many interviews, so a lot of people don't really know me, and they already have this visual of what I am and who I am. A lot of times, that's not even me. So I just like to back it up with my play on the field or on the track and just continue to go about my business."

Anyone familiar with Sheffield knows there's no question about his speed. He once ran a 4.25 in the 40-yard dash in college, set the Ohio State 60-meter indoor record (6.663) while moonlighting on the track team, and finished second in that same event at the Big Ten Championships. He started running for the Track Houston youth club at the age of 7 while following in the footsteps of his father, Cecil Sheffield, who is still the Sam Houston State 55-meter hurdle record-holder.

"My dad trained me in the hurdles," Sheffield said. "You put speed with hurdles, and you've got an advantage."

Coupling speed with playing football isn't such a bad pairing, either, which is why Sheffield was such a highly touted player coming out of Thurgood Marshall High School in Missouri City, Texas. He was a consensus five-star prospect.

Maybe that confidence took a little bit of a hit after Sheffield signed with Alabama's top-ranked 2015 recruiting class as the No. 3 cornerback in the nation. He redshirted his first season then abruptly transferred in August 2016 while running as the second-team cornerback.

"He has all the physical measurables you are looking for in the position. I just don't know if early on in his career he was as far along in the schematic side of the game as he needed to be in that [Alabama] defense and kind of got lost in the shuffle," ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill.

Sheffield admitted hearing "a little bit" of the chatter about him not being tough enough to handle competition and bailing on the Crimson Tide.

So why did he leave?

"It was a business decision," he said. "Me and my family made that decision."

Did it have to do with playing time?

"Like I said, it was the best decision for me and my family," Sheffield said.

Maybe his path to the NFL took an unanticipated turn, but Sheffield expressed no regrets about how it played out. He first stopped at Blinn College, the same junior college that produced Cam Newton. ESPN ranked Sheffield the No. 1 junior college cornerback after his one season at the Texas school.

"When he got here from Alabama, he was all business," Blinn coach Ryan Mahon said. "He had a plan of what we going to do to get back to the four-year level and stuck to it. Very serious-minded.

"The talent level was evident from the beginning; that he was an elite athlete and was going to make a huge impact for us. His best quality is his speed. That is something that if you don't have it, then you're chasing it."

From Blinn, Sheffield landed at Ohio State, where he played two seasons before declaring. The first year, he started just three games when Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette were the starters.

"I would say I learned a lot from coach Kerry [Coombs]," Sheffield said of his former DBs coach, who is now with the Tennessee Titans. "When I came in, he welcomed me. He taught me a lot of things about being a corner and about being a first-round corner, as he did with everyone else.

"I also learned a lot from Damon Arnette and Denzel Ward when I got there, just their work ethic and how they were so attention to detail."

Sheffield started all 14 games for the Buckeyes last season and led the team with eight pass breakups and 10 passes defensed, to go with two interceptions. He then declared a year early and leaned on pre-draft advice from Ward, the fourth overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL draft.

"I think Kendall is going to do really well in the NFL," Ward said. "He has all of the attributes: speed, size, everything. He just has to go in and prove himself, learn the playbook, and get to work. It doesn’t really matter where you get drafted. You have to prove yourself day in and day out; show that you belong in this league."

The 5-foot-11, 193-pound Sheffield has a chance to prove himself early while battling the likes of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and former Alabama teammate Calvin Ridley in practice. He already has displayed a willingness to do whatever is necessary to help the team. He wants an opportunity to win both the kickoff- and punt-returns jobs to utilize his speed. If he doesn't stay outside at corner as in college, Sheffield is ready to kick inside in a nickelback role. The Falcons cut starting cornerback Robert Alford and saw nickelback Brian Poole sign with the New York Jets after they did not extend a restricted free-agent tender.

 

The Falcons, with coach Dan Quinn now calling the defense, hope for a resurgence from one-time Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant and view second-year player Isaiah Oliver as a possible starter outside opposite Trufant. Damontae Kazee, who tied for the league lead with seven interceptions last season while playing free safety, is likely to get the first look at nickel with Ricardo Allen back at free safety.

That doesn't exclude Sheffield from coming in and showing he's worthy of playing time on a defense that ranked 27th in passing yards allowed per game (259.6) and ranked second-to-last in third-down defense. The Falcons will face plenty of high-powered offenses, including the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts.

"Denzel [Ward], he just told me to go in and be hungry and just work," Sheffield said. "That's really just about it. I'm very confident in what I can do. I do have some little nerves. Probably like the first game out there I'll be a little nervous. But I'm very confident in what I can do."

 

 

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I like this pick. You can't teach his speed but his coverage skills can be taught and worked on.  I love his confidence and the fact that he's willing to work at anything (PR/KR, special teams) to earn a spot on the team.  I'll be pulling for this young man to get out there and prove it to the rest of the league, not just his new team, to become a top notch starter.

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Some of these rookies are all talk right now. And haven't played a down against good competition in the nfl yet. Mcgary being one of them. Just prove it on the field.

Then talk.

Flying Falcon likes this

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He is going to make it because he is physical. You think of track star as someone that is frail and gets knocked over in a strong wing. That is not this guy. 

If he learns NFL Offenses, 31-NFL Teams will be asking their scouting departments why this one slipped through.

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3 hours ago, Cole World said:

So why did he leave?

"It was a business decision," he said. "Me and my family made that decision."

Did it have to do with playing time?

"Like I said, it was the best decision for me and my family," Sheffield said.

Maybe his path to the NFL took an unanticipated turn, but Sheffield expressed no regrets about how it played out. He first stopped at Blinn College, the same junior college that produced Cam Newton. ESPN ranked Sheffield the No. 1 junior college cornerback after his one season at the Texas school.

Sounds like academics and grades at UA and playing a NFL defense for Nick Saban was  one of those hurdles he had to negotiate.........Maybe why he was picked in the fourth. Can he read beyond a fifth grade level? I hope he gets the playbook.

He couldn't cut it there. So took a breather and started anew. I like his determination.

Big 10......whatever. Not quite like JC, but Urban Meyer is no Saban, or Kirby Smart..

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I don't understand why some people think him saying this is a problem. It means that he is motivated to prove people wrong about his talent coming out of the draft.

 

If he fails to do so, it won't be because he wasn't up to the task. I can respect that.

 

It's not like he's saying something rediculously dumb like the Odell Beckham's "I'm going to turn the Browns into the Patriots" type of statement.

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2 hours ago, Tim Mazetti said:

Sounds like academics and grades at UA and playing a NFL defense for Nick Saban was  one of those hurdles he had to negotiate.........Maybe why he was picked in the fourth. Can he read beyond a fifth grade level? I hope he gets the playbook.

He couldn't cut it there. So took a breather and started anew. I like his determination.

Big 10......whatever. Not quite like JC, but Urban Meyer is no Saban, or Kirby Smart..

Are you saying Urban is not as good as Kirby Smart? Or are you saying neither Kirby nor Urban Meyer are on Saban's level?

Because one of these is true, and the other false....like,overwhelmingly.

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57 minutes ago, DawnOfThemBirds said:

 

I don't understand why some people think him saying this is a problem. It means that he is motivated to prove people wrong about his talent coming out of the draft.

 

If he fails to do so, it won't be because he wasn't up to the task. I can respect that.

 

It's not like he's saying something rediculously dumb like the Odell Beckham's "I'm going to turn the Browns into the Patriots" type of statement.

To act like you are a first round talent when you weren't a playmaker in college is the exact sort of thing that you think, but don't say out loud.

We drafted the dude on physical traits and special teams potential. He has to know nobody snubbed him because he did jack **** to deserve to be a team's first pick.

If his problems at Bama were academic, then maybe this is a sign he isn't so bright.

Odell can at least point to his own past production and the absurd level of talent around him. He's gassing up his team to project their potential. Its hype that can pump up the players and the city.

This ain't that....

He's a Falcon, and I am rooting for him, but guys with chips on their shoulders when they haven't produced are ridiculous.

Flying Falcon likes this

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22 minutes ago, FalconAge said:

Because one of these is true, and the other false....like,overwhelmingly.

Urban is not as good as Saban or Smart.

What about

2 hours ago, Tim Mazetti said:

Sheffield

 

GeorgiaBoyz likes this

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Just now, Tim Mazetti said:

Urban is not as good as Saban or Smart.

What about

 

Urban Meyer has won three national championships with two teams and you disrespect him by comparing him to a head coach who made it to the big game one time and **** the bed???

Blasphemy

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10 minutes ago, FalconAge said:

Urban Meyer has won three national championships with two teams and you disrespect him by comparing him to a head coach who made it to the big game one time and **** the bed???

Blasphemy

I accept my punishment. Please no Rack and disembowelment.

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2 hours ago, FalconAge said:

To act like you are a first round talent when you weren't a playmaker in college is the exact sort of thing that you think, but don't say out loud.

We drafted the dude on physical traits and special teams potential. He has to know nobody snubbed him because he did jack **** to deserve to be a team's first pick.

If his problems at Bama were academic, then maybe this is a sign he isn't so bright.

Odell can at least point to his own past production and the absurd level of talent around him. He's gassing up his team to project their potential. Its hype that can pump up the players and the city.

This ain't that....

He's a Falcon, and I am rooting for him, but guys with chips on their shoulders when they haven't produced are ridiculous.

 

Betting on yourself isn't as naive as some make it out to be. Some may not like it, but I don't seem to be bothered by it. He has to go out and prove it, which will be interesting to watch to see how it goes.

 

What Odell Becham said was way more stupid because he just came from a burning hellfire in the Giants, which wasn't close to winning anything during his time there and Beckham was one of their biggest headaches.

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