Early in the week in a radio conversation with Mike Detillier, who I find to be a very good draft analyst, I asked him to compare and contrast the Jaguars' Dwayne Gratz and the Titans' Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
The two UConn cornerbacks were drafted six picks apart early in the third round.
Detillier much prefers the guy the Titans got in Wreh-Wilson.
“I like Blidi a lot better,” he said. “... He looks the part, he’s got great size and length. He’s not a very good open field tackler. But he’s got the skills downfield that you want in a football player.
“... Gratz, he’s the NFL Network player. He’s not the player on the field. He’s a guy who looks at though his agent talked to the right people and they pumped him up pretty good. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is the better player.”
That seemed pretty strong, so I sought out more opinion.
(Shortly after he was drafted, Wreh-Wilson spoke well of Gratz: “He is a big corner. He is a strong kid. He had more reps than anyone at the combine for a corner. He is a good corner too.”)
One NFL coach told me he preferred Wreh-Wilson.
ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. has Wreh-Wilson graded as a second-rounder and Gratz as a third-rounder.
While Gus Bradley’s defense in Seattle was predicated on big corners pressing receivers at the line and disrupting routes and timing, they played both man and Cover 3 zone behind it.
Gratz is 5-foot-11 and 201 pounds; Wreh-Wilson is 6-1, 195. I asked Kevin Weidl and Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. to compare and contrast them and tell me a bit about why Gratz may have come off the board first.
Indications to me at this point are that Jacksonville will look to play mostly man after banging receivers at the line. But it can’t be set in stone either way yet considering the team drafted three corners and two safeties and didn’t bring back much experience from the old regime in the secondary.
Weidl expects they’ll play primarily zone behind that press, and that would be the primary rationale for choosing Gratz with both prospects on the board.
“Jacksonville plays a lot of press-zone coverage which is why they probably preferred Gratz over Wreh-Wilson,” Weidl said. “Gratz isn't as fluid as Wreh-Wilson but has better eyes in coverage which is a big quality in a heavy zone scheme.”
Here’s Muench on the two former UConn corners:
“There are plenty of similarities between the two,” he said. “Neither one of them shows elite foot speed in space so they have some limitations in off man coverage. Both are three-year starters with great size-speed combinations and obviously they played in the same scheme. Wreh-Wilson was a two-time team captain so he has a slight edge in terms of the intangibles but both are reportedly good kids and hard workers.
"Both are more than capable of contributing in the NFL but Wreh-Wilson is a little more fluid, he has slightly better instincts and he's better against the run. He also performed better the week of the Senior Bowl. He showed better body control and was more consistent in Mobile.
"There are a few reasons Gratz may have come off the board first.
“The first is durability. Gratz started 41 consecutive games to end his college career. Wreh-Wilson has missed time with hand, hamstring and knee injuries. The second is big play ability. Gratz has much bigger hands [10.4 inches compared to Wreh-Wilson's 8.6] and he plays the ball better. The third is Wreh-Wilson's two 40-times at the combine were significantly different and it may have concerned some teams. I doubt this had a major impact because his speed isn't an issue on tape. He ran in the 4.4s on one of his 40 attempts in Indianapolis and he ran well at Connecticut's pro day. Just thought it worth mentioning.”
I think it’s going to be fun to get to know these two and to compare and contrast them more as they develop.