Colorado Football isn’t exactly known as “Cornerback U.”
It’s rare to see a Buffs cornerback taken in the first round of the NFL Draft; it’s only happened twice since 1993. Former Jim Thorpe award winner Deon Figures was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 23rd pick that year. 18-years later, Jimmy Smith was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the 27th selection. On April 27th, Chidobe Awuzie could be the next former Colorado corner chosen in the first round.
This month’s NFL Draft is loaded on the defensive side of the ball, specifically at cornerback. Even with the abundance of defensive backfield talent, the leader of Colorado’s “Money Gang” (a nickname for Colorado’s secondary in 2016) turned heads at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine, enough to warrant a first-round selection.
Following the 2011 scouting combine, NFL.com gave Jimmy Smith an 8.08 grade, which equated to a “Perennial All-Pro” status. By comparison, Awuzie was given a 5.82 or a “Chance to become NFL Starter” rating. Despite the discrepancy in grades, Awuzie’s combine numbers compared favorably to those of Smith’s in 2011.
JIMMY SMITH (2011) CHIDOBE AWUZIE (2017)
HEIGHT 6’2” 6’0”
WEIGHT 211 LBS 202 LBS
40-YARD DASH 4.46 SEC 4.43 SEC
BENCH PRESS 24 REPS 16 REPS
VERTICAL JUMP 36.0 INCH 34.5 INCH
BROAD JUMP 123.0 INCH 132.0 INCH
Awuzie’s 4.43 40-yard dash was tied for eighth fastest among cornerbacks in 2017. His 16 reps at 225-lbs in the bench press, while well below Smith’s 24 reps in 2011, were good enough to tie him for seventh. His 11-foot broad jump was tied for second best only behind UCLA’s Fabian Moreau. And while his 34.5 inch vertical did not measure up to his expectations in Indianapolis, Awuzie bested that by 5 inches two days later in Boulder at Colorado’s Pro Timing Day.
While his combine numbers are certainly impressive, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre knows it’s Awuzie’s versatility (shown in the above highlight reel) that is perhaps his most jaw-dropping attribute. “A phenomenal player,” MacIntyre told the Denver Post. “He can play all three spots back there —safety, nickel and corner — not many guys can. He’s very aggressive. He can play on all your special teams. To me, he doesn’t go past the second round.”
Depending on where you look, most NFL draft prognosticators are pegging the San Jose product to go in the first or second round. Five-year NFL veteran and current NFL.com media analyst Bucky Brooks has Awuzie going as high as 15th to the Indianapolis Colts in his latest mock draft. Former teammates and fellow members of the “Money Gang” Ahkello Witherspoon and Tedric Thompson are all expected to be selected in this month’s NFL Draft; Witherspoon likely a second or third round selection with Thompson going shortly after. But’s it’s Awuzie, like Jimmy Smith and Deon Figures before him, who
could should be taking that first-round signing bonus all the way to the bank.