[NOTE: My apologies to Bengals fans; I wrote this Thursday night, and didn't realize until I saw his name flash across the board while sitting in a bar 200 miles from my laptop that I hadn't uploaded it. -- Ed.]
Congratulations, professional football fans! Your favorite team has made the wonderful decision to draft Shaun Prater! Like any responsible selector, you're no doubt filled with questions about your potential new draft pick. We here at Black Heart Gold Pants will try our best to answer any questions you might have.
So, Is This Guy Any Good? The simple answer is yes, he's quite good. As for the more complicated answer, I suppose that depends on who you ask and what you want him to do. Prater spent four years at Iowa, started at cornerback for three of them, and was perfectly capable throughout. In particular, Prater was strong in run support and a sure tackler (if you're going to play cornerback at Iowa, those are the two major prerequisites). With that said, he played virtually no man coverage -- Iowa runs cover 2/quarters on practically every down -- and had NFL-level safety help over the top for two of those three years. When those safeties were replaced with newbies last year, Prater's play suffered noticeably. If your scheme is zone-heavy and you've got quality safeties available, Prater would be an excellent second corner or nickel.
But We Play Press Coverage. I'm not saying he can't play press or man coverage. I'm just saying we haven't seen it. Prater's not particularly big -- 5'10", 185 lbs. -- but has always played physical football and is not lacking in quickness. He might well be able to play press, but he has no immediate experience with it and will need tutoring from the very beginning.
Can We Use Him Anywhere Else? Glad you asked. Iowa has sent three corners to the NFL in the last four seasons: Charles Godfrey (Carolina), Bradley Fletcher (St. Louis), and Amari Spievey (Detroit). Two of those three are playing safety now, and for good reason: The traits that are so necessary to playing corner at Iowa aren't necessarily the same traits needed in a modern NFL corner, but they are ready-made for playing safety. Prater would be a smallish safety, but he's great in zone coverage, great in run support, and great at diagnosing routes. Gun to my head mandatory prediction: Prater's playing safety by this time next year. He was also a gunner on Iowa's punt coverage team for a couple of years, and was excellent at it. Punt and kickoff coverage is certainly in his near future.
Anything Else We Need to Know? He once claimed that he got drunk on accident. He also had an excellent game aga--
Wait Wait Wait, What Was That About Accidental Intoxication? Prater was picked up for DUI in the spring after his freshman season and told the cop that he had only been drinking Coca-Cola, but that the bartender must have slipped something into his soda. It sounds absurd, and it is, but no reasonable person is getting behind the wheel at .125 BAC in Iowa City, so either his Coke was spiked or he was monumentally stupid. In any case, he served a brief suspension and took over the starting spot as soon as it was done. No further incidents, no sign of any real problem, steady as she goes.
So What Should We Do? Draft him. You won't be sorry.