Know Your Draft Prospect: Ras-I Dowling

Position: Cornerback

College: Virginia

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 198

Bench: 19 Reps (225lbs)

Combine .40: 4.46

Vertical: <36" (NFL Website is a PITA)

 

With all honesty, at first I had completely forgotten about Ras-I Dowling. He had a good career at UVA, but was injured for the majority of this past season (severe ankle sprain, knee pain, hamstring strains). He had one of his best games of his 4-year career against Florida State, but didn't stand out when I was watching him. He's not the flashiest of players. I wouldn't put him in an Aqib Talib category. The player he reminds me the most of is a guy like Shawn Springs. Springs had a couple of good years, was able to play in a zone system well, could blitz and had a long steady career. Dowling's athleticism doesn't jump off the page and he's not a big play guy. Likely he is a 2nd - 3rd round caliber player.

I'm going to keep saying this, but I don't think you cant hurt your draft stock at the combine. UNLESS, you injure yourself. I did not watch today, but from what I gather during his second .40 attempt of the day he pulled up with a hamstring injury. Because of his lingering hamstring issues, this is a concern. Some guys just have that knack for not staying healthy. It also raises concerns about whether or not Dowling is taking care of his body.

Before I start pasting quotes from more knowledgeable sources on Dowling, what I know about him is that if he is to succeed in any system, it's a cover 2 base. He has the ability and strength to be productive against the run, and can match bigger and faster receivers for short distances. If he played for the Bucs, because of what they like to do, he will start out as a situational corner playing a similar role that you see Barber playing now. Morris doesn't use Barber like he uses Talib. He tries to keep Barber tight, or give him the freedom of using the sideline. Where Barber gets into trouble is longer routes in open spaces. The same can/will be said about Dowling.

On top of having a somewhat pirate sounding first name (RAS-eye) here is what more reputable sources of which I've studied have to say about Dowling:

Strengths:
Dowling has safety size and adequate speed. Very confident kid that reads quickly and shows the ability to jump routes in zone coverage. Presses effectively at the line and displays very good footwork. Big hitter that likes to mix it up in run support and consistently wraps the ball carrier.

Weaknesses:
Lacks elite recovery speed and will struggle against real burners in the NFL. A bit stiff in the hips and does not show the ability to stick with receivers in and out of their breaks. Rarely looks back at the ball in man coverage which limits his more than adequate balls skills. Missed most of his senior season with an ankle injury.




That injury issue is a big one. For a corner, who is expected to play in short zones ankles are a tough injury that can reoccur pretty easily.

CBSSports prior to 2011 season

Zone Coverage: Savvy zone coverage defender. High in his backpedal, but is surprisingly fluid. Keeps his eyes on the quarterback, but has a good sense of where his receiver is. Will bait the passer into making the throw. Reacts quickly because of his vision and acceleration.

Closing/Recovery: Lacks elite recovery speed, making him susceptible to double-moves by NFL route-runners. Shows good instincts, however, and his rare height and arm length make throwing over the top of him dangerous. Locates the football quickly and is an explosive leaper with good timing and good ball skills.

 

 

Run Support: Reads run quickly and fights through receiver blocks efficiently through lateral agility and good upper-body strength. Willing to take on bigger ballcarriers with no hesitation. Uses the sideline to help defend the run. Understands his role in keeping contain and pushes the action back inside when he can't make the play. Willing to take on blocks to free up teammates for the easy stop.

Pulling from multiple other sources I think these two are the most accurate. I don't think he has the athletic ability to cover in the open field without help. I think he has the ability to jump routes and can be coached to thrive in a Tampa 2. Dowling is one of those smaller name guys who was incredibly hurt by deciding to come back for his senior year (in which he only took half of it to graduate). He could have been a low first round pick last year, but may find himself at the bottom of the 2nd - middle of the 3rd this season WITH a rookie pay-scale. Injuries aren't serious, but will keep him off the field.

Analysis: If healthy, I think the Bucs would consider drafting Dowling in the 2nd or 3rd round. I love his size and abilities. However, because of the injuries to Talib, Lewis, etc I don't think the team is willing to take on another corner with injury issues. If they decide to go after a corner, I"m not sure there is a better option for the system the Bucs run than Ras-I. I don't think the Bucs decide to draft him, but I wouldn't be completely against it if they did.

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