For the first time in a while, the two football teams that I follow the closest might actually coincide. With the Colts having so many holes, and Notre Dame having a good number of seniors this year, four players matched up. The first we'll look at is CB Robert, or R.J. Blanton.
Blanton was a four-year player, only missing the first game of his freshman season. For his career he recorded 193 tackles, 8 interceptions (two in each season actually), and 23 pass deflections. Last season after the first couple games teams decided to just avoid his side of the field, a combination of both his skill, and the struggles Gary Gray was having on the opposite side.
During his Combine interview, Blanton talked about having three Defensive Coordinators in four years, and playing in two different schemes. His first two years were spent in a blitz-happy, almost exclusive man-to-man coverage, which is where I think Blanton excelled. He's has good size (6'0", 208), but struggled tackling in those first two seasons. Enter the new coaching staff, which taught the defense how to tackle, and Blanton became more of a complete player. Problem was they played mostly a Cover-2 scheme, which isn't really a good fit for him. Blanton is good staying with receivers, so the presumed new scheme for the Colts should be a better fit than his final two years at ND.
The biggest play of Blanton's career came in his Junior season when he blocked a punt against Utah and returned it for a Touchdown, really turning the season around after a disastrous loss to Tulsa, and jump-started a four game winning streak to end the season. If you watch the video, he almost had to wait for the punter to kick the ball he was in there so quick from the outside. He was a mainstay on special teams, which will be key in making an NFL roster as a rookie as a later round pick.
After the jump we have what some draft sites have to say about Blanton, as well as all his measurements from the Combine and the audio from his media time.
A tall, long armed defender with a big frame and an imposing presence off the line. Does a nice job using his length to disrupt off the line in press coverage...Is a nice sized kid with some press man skills and upside. Is a bit scheme limited, but he's a good size/speed athlete who can re-route off the ball.
Big, smooth-muscled, physical cornerback who was a part-time starter and special-teams contributor prior to senior season in which he started and performed consistently. Smart, well-respected, coachable player whose versatility adds to his value. Possible safety.
Blanton has been a reliable, if not flashy, corner for Notre Dame throughout his career. He is the type of athlete who could get an NFL team through a game at the position but has work to do to qualify as a starter at this point. He is a heady prospect who plays to his strengths and understands footwork and technique while working in man, although he is not the natural type of athlete who can run freely with any receiver.
Combine Media Session (15:46)
Blanton did a Combine diary for the Charlotte Observer, where he wrote something for each day he was there. Here's day four after his workouts, which has links to the other days.
Blanton isn't going to blow anyone away, but he'll be a solid pro, and like one of the scouting reports suggested, could play some at Safety. He'll immediately be a contributor on special teams, and could play in Nickel situations right away. When you get to the 5th and 6th rounds, it's all about finding quality depth, and the Colts could do much worse than Blanton.
For a complete list of prospects and profiles, check out our 2012 Draft Profiles Page.