I mentioned in the Checking the “Bears Box” Draft Profile: G/C that defensive backs were universally thought of as the most difficult position to scout. While safety is more difficult because the players are generally off the screen for most of the play, cornerback is worse for me.
In the most general sense, safeties can usually tackle better than cornerbacks. This makes stomaching their play a little easier. College cornerbacks on the other hand generally do not possess the requisite toughness to play football at the NFL in my opinion. Granted, tackling isn’t what gets cornerbacks paid in the NFL but diving on the ground at a running back’s feet does elicit my gag reflex.
The one thing that combine numbers won’t tell you about the cornerbacks that Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell have coached—and drafted—in the past is that they are physical. Not simply physical specimens mind you, but they play a physical brand of football. If I was a betting man, I would wager that Kyle Fuller is going to be here longer than Prince Amukamara. I am really going out on limb there, I know.
If you paid attention to the Bears cornerbacks last year then you may have noticed that Fuller played mainly off-man coverage, while Amukamara played mostly press-man coverage. It would be reasonable to assume then that the Bears are seeking an eventual replacement for Amukamara, the more physical of the two. Don’t get me wrong, Fuller is probably the better tackler of the two, but Amukamara is able to jam the receivers at the line of scrimmage. That is a skill that Fuller has yet to master.
While I did use similar methodology* to first 3 articles in this series, when I set out to watch film, it was with this physicality in mind. You will see that I am specifically looking at cornerbacks that can give some jam at the line of scrimmage and, perhaps more importantly, can actually tackle.
*Methodology: Height, arm length, 40-time, vertical, broad jump, and 3-cone drill were all used to find the Bears “type.” This was another difficult and perhaps slightly subjective group, I will admit. Because I used Fangio and Donatell’s past drafts, there is some variation there.
Here are the Fangio/DonatellPace-picked cornerback’s combine numbers from the past 10 years:
Perrish Cox throws the whole profile out-of-whack. So I had to make some tough calls on what I was going to set as parameters. Since there wasn’t hard and fast data to go by, I was able to bend a little bit, especially on heights and 40-time. However, I tried to stay away from players that were both shorter and slower than the parameters. Here are the potential draft picks:
In addition to the raw numbers and film study, there is one more aspect that goes into an article like this for me: value. Thanks to Josh Sunderbruch, we have this lovely confidence board to work off of. So while I might really like a player, I might feel that his value doesn’t match his confidence board position.
Now that you understand my methodology, let’s look at some prospects!
Joshua Jackson - Iowa
While I don’t personally think that the Bears are going to draft a cornerback with the 8th overall pick, Jackson could be a target should they be able to trade back. There has been a lot of hype surrounding Jackson because of his penchant for intercepting passes, but the truth is, he really has only done that for one season. While that is an important skill to have, I don’t view Jackson as particularly good in coverage. He just isn’t a “sudden” athlete which is necessary at the cornerback position.
Lets start with some bad plays. Playing zone coverage is difficult for most young players but this play is especially egregious to me. You simply cannot let a player just run past you. It’s probably a good thing that the Bears don’t play a ton of zone coverage though.
Here are a couple more poor efforts by Jackson. In the first play, he bails immediately and gets himself out of position. His lack of speed, quickness, and overall athleticism is going to lend him to cheating in coverage. He is going to get burned a lot doing this at the next level. The second is simply a brutal attempt at making an open field tackle.
That is not to say that he isn’t a good play, he is, but he isn’t a great player. This should be press-man coverage but Jackson doesn’t actually get his hands on the receiver until they jockey for position with the ball in the air. He has ideal length for Fangio and it’s plays like this that will get him drafted high.
Pass breakups aren’t what gets you paid though, interceptions are. This is a really outstanding play. This is where the cheating pays off for a guy like Jackson. Some players can get away with it, others can’t.
Jackson is the ultimate boom-or-bust type of cornerback prospect. He is not likely going to be a shutdown corner but he has the potential to lead the league in interceptions. What do you value more? If Lovie Smith was still the coach, I think this is the type of prospect that he would have loved. It is my contention that Fangio prefers to avoid receptions by coverage and getting his defense off the field, and is willing to sacrifice some turnovers to do so.
Low (14 which is the middle of the 1st round. I think that Jackson is being overvalued because of the interceptions. If he goes later in the first or early second, that would be better value)
Tarvarus McFadden - Florida State
This is a player that I thought long and hard about not putting on here. The epitome of what I love and hate most about evaluating players all rolled into one. Sometimes McFadden is one of the best players on the field, exhibiting athleticism and physicality. Other times...not so much. Given that he is a mid round prospect though, he seems worth taking that risk.
First off, let’s get the bad out of the way. This is, well, just watch it. There is nothing more to say than this is just terrible coverage.
I am not sure if this is a sight adjustment that is built into the FSU defensive scheme or if this was a called play. Either way, McFadden shows pretty good bend off the edge here. Since Fangio has been known to blitz his cornerbacks off the edge, this seems like a skill that he might value in a prospect.
This play shows the type of versatility that McFadden has. He has already shown a penchant for blitzing earlier in the game. This time it’s all a ruse as he baits Deshaun Watson into an interception. I love seeing players play these types of games with their opponent.
While the occasional missed tackle occurs in run defense, McFadden is generally a pretty sure tackler in the open field. There is some room for improvement but overall, I would say his strengths play right into what the Bears might be looking to develop at the ever-important position.
Moderate (122 which is towards the end of the 4th round. This is a fair value for him. There is definitely talent there but it all needs to be coaxed out of him. Perhaps the coaching of 2 of the leagues more respected defensive coaches—Fangio and Donatell—is just what the doctor ordered)
Isaac Yiadom - Boston College
I first caught a glimpse of Yiadom while watching tape of Harold Landry. I kept wondering who #20 was, checked the BC roster, recognized then name, and had to watch him. I wasn’t disappointed. While the next name on this list is a really good player and likely going to be drafted that way, Yiadom is a guy that is a tick below, but will likely be a value pick.
First off this, this is excellent play recognition. Yiadom comes off of his man and makes a big hit on a receiver to jar the ball free before he can catch it.
With wide receiver screens becoming more and more prevalent at the NFL level, plays like this are going to be huge. What this shows is Yiadom’s ability to get off of a block and make a tackle. He shows this ability—plus the ability to “sort through the trash” over the middle—with regularity.
Since I was able to find some all-22 tape of Yiadom, I just made a little montage of him in coverage. He shows a little of everything here. Another thing that I like is that he mainly tries to keep his eyes towards the quarterback and uses the sidelines to his advantage.
This is another heads-up play that wouldn’t be possible without keeping your eyes on the quarterback. After the initial jam, Yiadom roughs up the receiver after seeing the ball tipped—negating pass interference—and securing the interception. This is a very heady player.
High (150+ which is towards the end of the 5th round or later. I would be comfortable spending a 4th rounder on Yiadom, but if he somehow is still there in the 5th, you take him and feel great about it)
Carlton Davis - Auburn
Besides the obvious fun that we could have because of his name, Davis is a really good football player. Of the players in this article, he is the best of the bunch. Personally, I have Jaire Alexander number 1 but Davis isn’t too far off the pace.
Ah you know how I love a cornerback that doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty! Like any player, Davis misses tackles, but he is assignment sound and doesn’t miss much. He will lay the lumber from time to time too. Has a little of the nasty that Fuller showed last year.
Even when he doesn’t get a good punch at the line of scrimmage, Davis usually finds a way to get his hands on the receiver. It’s a simple thing but by getting his hands on his man before the break, Davis doesn’t allow the receiver to stem his route further towards the sidelines before cutting inside to gain separation.
One of the things that I really like about Davis is that he knows how to use the sideline as a 12th defender. You cannot really see it without having all-22 of this play, but he naturally turns his back to the sideline, not the quarterback. This makes it easier for him to track the ball in the air instead of tracking the receiver. He will avoid pass interference penalties that way.
While this turnover wasn’t created because Davis made a special play, the fact that he caught a ball that was tipped twice is impressive. This also highlights his innate ability to keep his eyes on the quarterback, seemingly at all times.
High (58 which is towards the end of the 2nd round. If some how, some way, Davis was sitting there towards the back end of the 2nd round, and the Bears had traded back from 49, I would be all over this. Great value there)
Cornerback is certainly a need for this team, at least getting a young player into the pipeline. The Bears look set at starter and primary backup for 2018, but beyond that, the future is a little murky across from Fuller. Will Fangio and Donatell be dancing the Carlton on April 26th? We shall see...
Oh what the heck...