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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cason leads ‘Cats into NFL draft

    Former UA cornerback Antoine Cason corrals a punt during the Wildcats 34-27 Homecoming win over UCLA Nov. 3 at Arizona Stadium. Despite being recognized as the nations best defensive back as the 2007 Thorpe Award winner, it is not clear if Cason will be a late first-round pick or will fall to the second round of tomorrows NFL draft.
    Former UA cornerback Antoine Cason corrals a punt during the Wildcats’ 34-27 Homecoming win over UCLA Nov. 3 at Arizona Stadium. Despite being recognized as the nation’s best defensive back as the 2007 Thorpe Award winner, it is not clear if Cason will be a late first-round pick or will fall to the second round of tomorrow’s NFL draft.

    During Antoine Cason’s days in Tucson, he was the best player on the field.

    But when the NFL draft field kicks off at noon tomorrow, the former Arizona All-American cornerback will be just another name in the midst of the nation’s best players – especially in relation to those expected to be chosen in the first round, where many draft analysts place Cason.

    For every dozen mock drafts that have Cason going in the first round, however, there are another dozen that have him in the second. In fact, several mock drafts have as many as five different cornerbacks chosen before Cason, the winner of this year’s Jim Thorpe Award which is given to the nation’s best cornerback.

    “”It puts a chip on my shoulder,”” Cason said of having multiple cornerbacks rated higher than him heading into the draft. “”You don’t win the Jim Thorpe Award for nothing. Those people watch extensive amount of film and (analyze) each corner or DB’s game and they watch the games as well.

    “”They saw how I performed out there on that field and how I carried myself and I won the best DB award. They felt that I (deserved) that and I feel that I am the best,”” Cason added. “”But they put those guys ahead of me, so it just puts a chip on my shoulder to play that much better and show them once again that I am the top corner.””

    Among the cornerbacks rated higher than Cason are Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Troy’s Leodis McKelvin, Virginia Tech’s Brandon Flowers, South Florida’s Mike Jenkins and Kansas’ Aqib Talib.

    Much of the criticism toward Cason is more often than not incorporated with his speed, as his 40-yard dash average was 4.5 seconds at the NFL Combine.

    Both Rodgers-Cromartie and McKelvin clocked a 4.4 40-yard dash time, which impressed NFL scouts despite playing at smaller schools and not facing the same caliber receivers Cason did on a weekly basis.

    Cason’s agent, Ron Slavin of BTI Sports Advisors, was unhappy with the way the 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback was being perceived and felt he was the best cornerback prospect in this year’s draft.

    Slavin projects that Cason will go anywhere from the 20th overall pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the 40th overall pick in the second round. There are 31 first-round picks this year.

    “”These teams become enamored withguys in shorts and the problem is you don’t play on Sundays in shorts,”” Slavin said about how much stock pro teams take in the NFL

    Combine. “”These small school guys who go and have all of these great workouts, the teams fall in love with them and forget about guys like Antoine who started 46 games and made all the plays he made.

    “”These small school guys went to the Senior Bowl and everyone said they had a great week,”” Slavin added. “”Well, they were practicing against wide receivers who are going to get drafted in the third, fourth, or fifth round. It’s not like they went there and were shutting down Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens.

    Antoine proved himself every week in the (Pacific 10 Conference).””

    Slavin remains optimistic Cason will be chosen in the first round, stating the mock drafts aren’t always the most reliable sources in terms of judging where players will be chosen. If Cason is selected in the first round, he will be the first Arizona player to be drafted in the opening round since Trung Candidate was drafted as the 31st overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2000.

    “”These mock drafts are wrong 50 percent of the time,”” Slavin said. “”(ESPN NFL draft analysis) Mel Kiper is wrong more than he is right. He is the only guy I know that can keep his job being as wrong as much as he is besides maybe the weatherman.””

    The perception of Cason’s lack of speed has been made – whether correct or not – and the draft analysts have taken it into consideration when predicting where Cason will get drafted.

    “”I think, honestly, he is going to slip out of the first (round),”” said Rob Rang, of NFLDraftScout.com. “”He is a good football player but the lack of speed is a concern. The more I talk to teams, they feel he isn’t quite as physical as they were anticipating.””

    “”So I think that leaves him being an early second round pick than a first, although I would argue that,”” Rang added. “”I am higher on

    Cason than most people tend to be because I feel he should go in the first round, I just don’t believe he will.””

    Slavin remains convinced Cason will be successful regardless of his placement.

    “”Instead of an All-American,”” Slavin said, “”he is going to be a Pro Bowler.””

    Other Wildcats also hoping to make mark on draft

    The Arizona football program sent four players to the draft last year, a seven-year high, as running back Chris Henry, kicker Nick Folk, safety Michael Johnson and receiver Syndric Steptoe were taken.

    This year, Arizona is poised to match or possibly beat that mark, though the chances appear slim.

    Linebacker Spencer Larsen, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, defensive tackle Lionel Dotson and defensive end Louis Holmes have also prepared themselves for the seven-round draft.

    Surprisingly, Rang said he wouldn’t be surprised if Dotson was the second Wildcat selected tomorrow.

    “”I would say Cason then probably Dotson and then a toss up between Fontenot and Larsen,”” Rang said. “”I think those are the four guys who have a realistic shot of getting drafted. I am higher on Dotson than a lot of people tend to be. I think he has the size and he stepped up a little bit as a senior and I think he sneaks in around the fourth round area.

    “”And to be perfectly honest, you have to throw Louis Holmes in there because someone is going to gamble on his upside,”” Rang added.

    Larsen’s workout numbers didn’t stand out in the NFL Combine, and like Cason, Rang said the linebacker will most likely fall in the draft.

    “”Larsen is probably the best football player of the whole bunch but the workout numbers are huge,”” Rang said. “”When you watch him, he is an instinctive player, but he doesn’t have great speed. He gets by, but somebody is going to get a heck of a football player.””

    Fontenot, who may have been lost in Cason’s shadow, is also expected to be selected in the first five rounds, Rang said.

    “”I could see four (Arizona players getting drafted), but I think five is pushing it,”” Rang said.

    Nonetheless, if any players fall out of the draft they will most likely find opportunities by signing as an un-drafted free agent. Other UA players hoping to make NFL teams but are unlikely to get drafted include defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett, offensive lineman Peter Graniello, running back Chris Jennings, linebacker Dane Krogstad, defensive end Jason Parker, long-snapper Garon McHone, safety Dominic Patrick and receiver Anthony Johnson.

    “”They will all get a shot,”” Rang said. “”They will get phone calls and the opportunity to try and get invited to a camp and make a team.””

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