Two years in a row, the Clemson Tigers saw themselves in a National Championship due in part to their playmaking defense. While their front seven players over the last two years like Shaq Lawson, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins and Clelin Ferrell were impact players during each run, the Clemson secondary played a huge part in their success as well. In Clemson's back four, it was Cordrea Tankersley who held it down for the Tigers.
Cordrea Tankersley struggled to see the field his first two years at Clemson but when he finally did in 2015, he ended up being a massive playmaker for the Tigers, picking off five passes, breaking up nine more and had four tackles for a loss. He followed up an impressive, but inconsistent (allowed three touchdowns), debut season as a starter with a brilliant final season where he picked up four passes, only allowed a single touchdown, broke up nine more passes and had seven tackles for a loss. His improved play help carry the Tigers to a consecutive National Title appearance where they finally sealed the deal.
Tankersley's production during his time as a starter is impressive and a testament to the playmaker he is. Factor in 32.5 inch arms, 6'1" frame and 4.4 speed and it is easy to see why Cordrea Tankersley would be an intriguing option in a deep cornerback class.
Cordrea Tankersley's best asset besides his physical tools is his ability to find the ball in coverage and position himself to make a play, as evident by his production at Clemson.
Not only does his speed not allow for any separation, but he uses his long arms perfectly to find the ball at its highest point and disrupt it to prevent a completion.
In man coverage, it is incredibly unwise to test Tankersley vertically down the field. He is just too good at staying in the receivers hip pocket and using his length to defend passes.
His awareness as a cornerback also allows him to make plays on the ball before the receiver can.
Tankersley does a very good job winning at the catch point again and his ability to get a jump on the receiver allows him to make a house call.
Cordrea Tankersley did such an excellent job in the Virginia Tech game against two very good receiver prospects in Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges. Here, despite giving up several inches to Hodges, Tankersley ends up looking like the receiver in the way he is able to play the ball and make a sideline interception. Tankersley's tools always give him an upper hand in contested situations and due to his size and speed, most of his targets will end up being contested.
Tankersley also has good burst as a cornerback. This is important because in coverage a cornerback will often need to close quickly be it in man coverage to make a play or possibly coming downhill in zone.
What initially looks open in the middle of the field Tankersley closes down quickly, using his burst and length to secure the interception. This trait will be important in the NFL because it also allows a cornerback opportunities to bait quarterbacks into throwing bad passes.
This is one of my favorite plays of Tankersley's. He does a good job reading and reacting to the play and his athleticism allows him to burst on the ball and force the game ending turnover. Smart, athletic, clutch football play.
With the size, speed and ball skills, there is a lot to like about Tankersley but there are aspects to his game that are frustrating as well.
This perfectly sums up general frustrations with Tankersley's game. As good as he is as a perimeter man cover cornerback, he is a very raw zone player. He gives up too much space on what looks like a short zone because he is frozen by the run fake and then he gives an absolute terrible effort as a tackler despite having a good shot.
In general, Tankersly's issues come with tackling effort and not playing press man coverage. In zone and off coverage, he has trouble flowing to the ball and playing the quarterback's eyes and he allows too much cushion. It is a stark contrast to the mirroring he is able to do when he is playing in man coverage. As a tackler, while he certainly shows occasionally that he can wrap up and drive through ball carriers, he gets sloppy and uninterested too often and gives up unnecessary yardage.
This seems to be a common theme with cornerbacks and, in the end, something coaches will have to live with more often than not in exchange for high level coverage ability
NFL Comparison: Cordrea Tankersley is very reminiscent of AJ Bouye, a late blooming former UDFA who parlayed two strong years in Houston into a massive contract from the Jaguars. Both are strong, man cover corners first and while Bouye rounded his game a lot better during his young career, both players' best assets are very similar.
Tankersley is far from a complete prospect, and as an older one (will turn 24 halfway through rookie year), it is fair to question how valuable he is in such a deep class. Personally, I find what he can do right now to be incredibly valuable in the league. He is a pure man cover corner who plays on the perimeter and has the ball skills to immediately make plays for an NFL team. In a deep cornerback class, the Eagles could end up looking elsewhere due to Tankersley not being an immediate fit, but he will make a team in need of sticky perimeter player very happy.