6.26 (#196): Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico St.
Florida is one of the most prominent football states in the nation. Some of the best high school football is played there, some of the best college football is played there, and every other college swings through the peninsula to harvest some of the annual bumper crop of talent.
When a 6’-0”, 184-pound kid from football factory Lakewood (Green is the ninth alumnus to be drafted) with all-district honors at tailback and cornerback qualifies for the Florida state track championships in the 100-meter, 4x100 and 4x400 relays, the football world stands up and takes notice . . .
. . . unless his name is Jonte Green.
Rivals.com rated Green a two-star recruit. I didn’t find a recruit profile for him on Scout.com at all. He didn’t even make the Tampa Bay Times’ annual Top 25 of the Bay [Area] list.
Green ended up signing with South Carolina’s Benedict College, a member of the D-II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. I don’t know if he had eligibility problems, or if he just wasn’t rated as a prospect. Either way, at Benedict Green’s size, speed and ability stood out. He racked up 41 tackles (16 solo), 4 INTs, 2 passes defensed and a sack.
Yes, for those with sharp eyes and keen minds, Atlanta's Stillman College plays in the same conference. Future Detroit Lions Sammie Hill and Jonte Green faced one another on November 10th, 2007. Hill had 3 solo tackles, 5 assists and a sack, while Green had three solos. For the record: Stillman beat Benedict 35-13.
After Green's excellent true freshman performance he received a D-I offer, from New Mexico State, and committed on February 4th, 2009. After transferring, he redshirted a season.
As a redshirt sophomore, Green took over. In his first career D-I start, vs. Idaho, he racked up 7 tackles and a pass defensed. Ultimately, Green had the fourth-most tackles on the team, racking up 74, and 8 passes defensed, in New Mexico’s 13 games. Green’s junior season: started 12 games, notched 76 tackles (ranked fourth on the team) and 8 passes defensed.
You might be noticing a pattern here: a lot of tackles, some passes defensed, and no interceptions. I’d be tempted to say it’s because the other cornerback, Packers 2011 4th-rounder Davon House, was hogging them all. But Aggie opponents, you’d think, would want throw away from House, who was first-team All-WAC both seasons he started alongside Green, and pick on Green.
But sure enough, when House left, Green’s senior season as the #1 corner saw his statistics skyrocket. He got his only D-I interception, and 15 passes defensed, to go with his usual fourth-best-on-the-team 64 tackles. For his standout campaign, he was named Second Team All-WAC.
Unfortunately, Green once again went unnoticed. Apparently a 5'-11 1/4", 191-pound corner who started three years in the WAC and starred in Florida high school track (and competed in track at Benedict) doesn’t merit a combine invite. But Green’s Pro Day made up for it: he cut an average 4.41 40-yard dash, which would have tied him for second-best at the Combine. According to Justin Rogers at Mlive.com, though, Green thinks he can run faster.
Actually, his Pro Day results concern as much as they intrigue. His 3-cone drill (7.26) and 20-yard shuttle (4.31) times are definitely on the high end; Green may have straight-line speed but lack the agility and change-of-direction needed to cover downfield at the NFL level.
Let's see what the experts think:
ESPN's Scouts, Inc. graded Green as a 30 overall:
What he brings: Green has excellent range in coverage and he flashed above-average coverage skills, but he's too inconsistent at this point and he needs to get stronger to matchup with bigger receivers.
Positives: Athletic cornerback who's displayed a variety of skill in his game. Plays with an aggressive nature, works hard to defend the run and makes a lot of tackles up the field. Keeps the action in front of him, gets a nice jump on the throw and displays a good move to the pass. Can burst to the ball out of his plant and works to make plays. Solid return specialist who sets up blocks, finds the running lanes and quickly gets through them.
Negatives: Does not consistently play to his 40 time or show a burst. Loses opponents, blows assignments and does a lot of trailing down the field. Struggles staying with receivers out of breaks.
Analysis: Green is a size/speed prospect who flashed ability the past three years yet has shown little consistency in his ball skills. Best in zone coverage, he's a prospect who must earn his wage on special teams.
Pro Football Weekly's take on Green contains an interesting wrinkle: apparently Green participated in New Mexico's Pro Day as a junior, and he was both smaller (5'-10 3/4", 182 pounds) and slower (4.45) just a year before.
Summary: Three-year starter with outstanding timed speed and range, though his inconsistent play, poor instincts and suspect football character suppress his draft value. Could require simple assignments and needs to get stronger and adopt a more professional approach to the game in order to stick.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler didn't give Green a grade, but did have useful notes:
Strengths: Good starting experience as a three-year starter and good career production (30 pass break-ups). Good size/speed blend with good height and length to match up and the speed to stay with receivers. Aggressive in run support and attacks the action, not waiting for it. Quick read/react skills to plant-and-go when the play is in front of him. Toughness isn't a question. Full-go type of player and doesn't play half-speed or take plays off.
Weaknesses: Has room to get stronger and needs to add some more bulk. Plays flat-footed in his backpedal and is often a step too late, relying on his speed to catch up. Smaller hands and has only 2 career interceptions. Needs to do a better job wrapping and not just hitting. Streaky instincts and doesn't always play smart, needs to do a better job trusting his eyes. Didn't face elite competition week-in and week-out. Tight-hipped and doesn't look as natural flipping his body to turn and run downfield.
New Era Scouting didn’t have a profile for Green, nor did he crack their cornerback rankings.
Here I sit, broken hearted. I looked for YouTube Highlight Reels of Jonte Green and all I found were interviews and press conferences.
In some ways, Jonte Green is the archetypal Lions draft pick: starting caliber tools, potential to be a major contributor, big question marks about him ever hitting that upside. But rather than those question marks coming from injuries or character or college system or college competition, the questions are about his football instincts.
Generally, The Grandmaster & Co. prefer players with high football IQ, but generally such players aren’t hanging around in the sixth round when they’re nigh-on six feet cornerbacks with legit 4.40 speed.
As a prospect, he reminds me quite a bit of Stanley Wilson, the Lions’ 2005 third-rounder. Wilson was also 5’-11”, also about 190 pounds, also a track star. Wilson set Stanford records in the 100- and 200-meter dash, and he cut a blazing 4.36 40-yard time at the Combine. The biggest difference between Wilson and Green is Wilson’s Stanford-quality academic background and Pac-10 pedigree.
At the time, I wondered if Wilson wasn’t better suited to playing safety; just like Green his reaction skills were much better with the play in front of him than flipping his hips and running downfield. I thought Wilson would be a great zone/Tampa 2 corner, but he never caught on.
Green, like all Lions cornerbacks, will have every opportunity to earn playing time this season. All he has to is go out on the Allen Park field, and take the opportunity to finally catch everyone’s attention.