2014 Sleeper CB: Walt Aikens
Every week leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, we will focus on one specific position. This week, the spotlight is on CBs.
A three-time All-Big South selection, Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens began his draft campaign at the Senior Bowl with a bang. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound corner impressed scouts all week during Senior Bowl practice after participating in the Medal of Honor Bowl earlier this month. Aikens has long arms and looks to be every inch as tall as he's listed when lining up against receivers. During Senior Bowl week, Aikens won physical battles at the line of scrimmage consistently, and he showed decent speed when chasing down deep passes.
Aikens is a transfer from Illinois where he played in 2009 and earned Freshman All-Big Ten honors from The Sporting News. In three seasons at Liberty, Aikens picked off seven passes and led all defensive backs on the team in tackles with 51 in 2012. Aikens is superbly athletic and is capable of becoming a playmaker at the next level. Not only is he physical at the line of scrimmage, he has great footwork and hip movement in one-on-one coverage.
There are some concerns about Aikens' speed, especially when he'll be asked to cover a top NFL receiver on a fly pattern. It's not that Aikens lacks speed; it's just that there are still questions as to whether he possesses the essential second gear. Before the Senior Bowl, Aikens was thought of as a top-20 cornerback prospect who would probably go undrafted. All of that has changed after Aikens was given the ability to showcase his talent.
The Combine will be crucial to where he gets drafted, but there's no doubt that had he stayed at Illinois, he would have been considered a top-10 corner prospect in this draft. If he continues on the path he's on, Aikens is a legitimate 3rd round talent; I think he drops to late 4th-early 5th round.