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Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste might just be in the right draft

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at 8:25 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, at 2:16 p.m.

— Back when he was a receiver a few years ago, Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste wanted to emulate Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss.

Now Jean-Baptiste, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, is trying to prove to NFL teams at the Senior Bowl this week that he can be the next Richard Sherman.

“I like him,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I got a chance to watch him (Sunday) against (San Francisco receiver Michael) Crabtree. He showed people why he’s the best right now.”

Sherman’s duel with Crabtree helped push Sherman’s hype to an all-time high this week, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a big corner like Jean-Baptiste. And neither is the pass-friendly nature of today’s NFL, in which teams have largely decided that the best way to slow down these wide-open offenses is to rush the passer and play physical, man-to-man coverage.

In other words, many teams — including the Chiefs — want to emulate Seattle, which will play in this year’s Super Bowl and boasts only one first-round pick in arguably the league’s most physical secondary, aptly nicknamed the Legion of Boom.

Aside from free safety Earl Thomas, a first-round pick in 2010, the Seahawks’ secondary, including its starting strong safety (Kam Chancellor) and top five cornerbacks (Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane and Perrish Cox) all stand at least 6 feet or taller, weigh at least 190 pounds and were drafted in the fifth round or later.

“Ever since I’ve been in the league, size matters at the cornerback position,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said this week. “I go back to the days of guys like Mike Haynes. … To me, those were real corners, (guys like) Emmitt Thomas. To me, size makes a difference. ... The receivers have gotten bigger in today’s football, too.”

That’s why Sherman, of course, is the one who makes Seattle’s defense go. The 2011 fifth-round pick has the speed, smarts and size at 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds to stick to the league’s best receivers like glue. And while NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks conceded that players like Sherman don’t grow on trees, he knows that won’t stop teams from trying to find such players.

“Yeah, it’s the trend,” Brooks said. “You always wanted to find those guys, but what Seattle has been able to do is not only have those big corners, but they’ve drafted them late and develop them. So now people wanna take that model and find a way to copycat that.”

That said, it’s no coincidence that big, rangy corners such as Jean-Baptiste — who racked up 41 tackles, four interceptions and 12 pass breakups as a senior — drew plenty of interest from teams across the league during Senior Bowl practices this week, even though he’s only been playing the position for two full seasons.

“Jean-Baptiste is a guy who is still very raw, but he’s flashed a lot this year at times and during his junior year, too,” said OptimumScouting.com draft analyst Eric Galko. “He doesn’t have it together yet … but guys like that are kind of what teams want, (another) Richard Sherman. I don’t think they’re gonna find one ... but they’re gonna want a guy like that they can develop.”

Jean-Baptiste isn’t the only converted receiver who might have a chance to stick as a big corner in the league. Utah’s Keith McGill, who checked in at 6 feet 3 and 214 pounds, has also flashed some press-man capabilities in college and, like Jean-Baptiste, was interviewed by the Chiefs this week.

Another big cornerback who met with the Chiefs this week is Pierre Desir, who is listed at 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds and played at Lindenwood in St. Charles, Mo.

“Teams wouldn’t throw at him,” Galko said. “I’ll think he’ll test very well and could go as high as the second round. If he struggles (in the predraft process), maybe more of the fifth or sixth round.”

It should also be mentioned that there are plenty of intriguing press-man corners — including Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert — who did not attend the Senior Bowl this week but could be a fit for the Chiefs.

But if the interest surrounding several big corners who were there is any indication, the Chiefs won’t be the only ones striving to be more like Seattle this offseason.

“Man, this is the year,” Brooks said. “At (the Senior Bowl), there are a ton of guys that are long, lengthy and rangy that can go and get the ball, so the league is kind of transitioning.

“People want those 6-foot corners with long arms. … There are a ton of guys like that, and (they) don’t even have to draft them high.”

Culley stays with Chiefs

Chiefs receivers coach David Culley was reportedly one of the candidates for the Detroit Lions’ open position at offensive coordinator, but Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said he never received a request from the Lions to interview Culley.

“I haven't seen one yet,” Dorsey said.

The Lions hired New Orleans quarterback coach Joe Lombardi on Tuesday. When asked how big it was to keep Culley on staff, Dorsey said he preferred to let coach Andy Reid comment on the staff.

“That's more of a head-coaching thing,” Dorsey said. “I admire David Culley as a man and as a professional. I have great respect for him.”

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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