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2011 NFL Draft Projections: Richard Sherman

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All week I'll be previewing Stanford's prospects in the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday.

As Dave Fowkes mentions in his own preview of Richard Sherman's NFL draft hopes, many Cardinal fans will remember the wide receiver-turned-cornerback for his interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter of Stanford's 55-21 win at USC in 2009. The pick six of Matt Barkley erased any doubt that Jim Harbaugh and the Cardinal would leave the Coliseum victorious for the second time in as many trips, a remarkable achievement. An almost as memorable moment from the same game occurred in the final minutes, when the sideline camera focused in on Sherman and Ekom Udofia flashing the "V" sign, smiling, and saying, "Fight on, USC, fight on."

My favorite Sherman moment, though, came two years earlier in the Biggest Upset Ever. Trailing 23-17 with less than 2 minutes to play, the Cardinal faced a 4th and 20 at the USC 29-yard line. Tavita Pritchard fired a pass over the middle to Sherman, who was drilled after catching the ball at the first down marker and managed to hang on. (The play begins at the :33 mark in the video below.)

"I saw the coverage I wanted and Sherm came through," Pritchard said of the play that set up his game-winning touchdown pass to Mark Bradford.

Sherman's transition to the defensive side of the ball before the 2009 season wasn't exactly smooth at the start, but he's developed into a good cornerback. More often than not last season, he came through, and he's always had a knack for making big plays. So what do the experts think?

The Sporting News rates Sherman as the fourth-best cornerback available and predicts he'll be reunited with Harbaugh and Vic Fangio in San Francisco after the 49ers take him in the second round. That's a lot earlier than most pundits predict he'll be taken. NFLDraftScout.com projects Sherman as a sixth-round pick. Sports Illustrated projects Sherman will go in the fourth round and offers this scouting report: "Athletic defensive back with terrific size who is still learning the position. Shows an aggressive streak , works hard to get involved in the action and voluntarily defends the run." Sherman is the first Stanford player off the board in FoxSports.com writer Peter Schrager's thorough seven-round mock draft. Schrager projects Sherman will go to Philadelphia in the fifth round.

My projection: The 5th round sounds about right.