There were some misgivings about rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant during training camp. I remember being concerned because Trufant seemed a step slow. Trufant missed Atlanta's rookie minicamp as he returned to the University of Washington to finish his degree, and adjusting to the speed of the game appeared to be an issue for Trufant in practices early in his career.
Of course, Trufant was going up against Julio Jones and Roddy White in training camp, which would be a tremendous adjustment for anyone. Two things that stood out to me about Trufant during camp were his competitive nature and work ethic. He would trade places in line with another defensive back during drills so that he could go up against Jones or White instead of Drew Davis or Harry Douglas. If he got burned by White or Jones in a coverage drill, all he wanted to do was try again. Trufant wanted to hone his coverage skills against the best receivers the Falcons had to offer, who just happen to be two of the better receivers in the league. Needless to say, it worked.
Mel Kiper released his annual ranking of the top 30 rookies in the National Football League today. It's available in its entirety on ESPN.com with Insider access. Kiper has Trufant listed as the 19th-best rookie in the National Football League for the 2013 season.
Your immediate reaction may be that 19 is too low a ranking for Trufant, who truly impressed in coverage this season. Trufant finished the year tied with Cleveland's Buster Skrine for the most passes defensed in the entire league with 15. Trufant was thrown at 88 times, and allowed 47 completions. Trufant allowed just three touchdown receptions all season, and had two interceptions.
Pro Football Focus gave Trufant a +12.2 grade on the season, which places him sixth among all active cornerbacks in 2013. Only Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes, Tyrann Mathieu (Mathieu is technically a safety so Trufant is really fifth among cornerbacks), Vontae Davis and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie scored higher than Trufant. Of those cornerbacks (and free safety), only Grimes played more snaps than Trufant, who was on the field for 1,022 snaps.
Trufant is the highest-rated cornerback on Kiper's list. The only other rookie cornerbacks who made the list are tied for 30th, Buffalo's Nickell Robey and New England's Logan Ryan. Trufant was also named to Kiper's All-Rookie team.
One of the most positive things to come out of the 2013 season for the Falcons is seeing the development of young players and getting a sense of the impact they can have in the future. Desmond Trufant's development during his rookie season was incredibly impressive, and the Falcons are fortunate to have him.