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What PFF’s analytics say about the 2020 cornerback prospects

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Get to know the class before they test in Indy...

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With a big question mark at the position, the Philadelphia Eagles will be locked in when the cornerbacks take to the turf on Sunday. Will the 2020 NFL Draft provide the answer to their two holes at outside corner? Could they make a splash trade instead? Or will they target low-cost veterans?

The best course may ultimately prove to be a mixture of those possibilities. At the very least, we know their interest at the position during the NFL Combine will be high.

To get to know these prospects better, I dug into the Pro Football Focus 2020 Draft Guide in the search for context. The following is what I found, with any quotes below provided by PFF lead draft analyst Mike Renner.

CATCH-POINT CONFUSION: Kristian Fulton - LSU

A polarizing prospect, there are wildly different opinions on where Fulton’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Some will knock him for his work at the catch-point against some of the tallest wide receivers you’ll find (see vs. Texas, Clemson), but 20 forced incompletions, tied for 1st in the country, flies in the face of that. Some believe he’s best working top-down, but PFF suggests otherwise.

“He’s at his peak in press man coverage – his 323 coverage snaps played in press coverage were the third most in the country, and he was among the 15 best FBS corners in raw PFF grade per snap in press against stiff competition.”

Whatever your thoughts of Fulton, there’s no denying that he’s got some of the best feet and patience in the class. There’s not a stitch of panic in his game, which serves him well when defending against double moves. At least he breaks the mold of Eagles corners in that respect.

WHITE ON RICE: Jeff Gladney - TCU

One of my favorites to raise eyebrows with his athletic testing, Gladney’s speed and quickness are all over his film. It’s that profile, paired with a pesky, competitive play style that allowed Gladney to be one of the stickiest cover men in college football.

“…over the past two years, he has forced tight coverage on 79.5% of his targets 10-plus yards downfield, which was the sixth best rate and nearly 20 percentage points above the FBS average.”

The knock on Gladney is that size concerns cast doubt on his projection as an outside corner. While he did seem to add some weight to his frame at Combine weigh-ins (5’10 2/8”, 191 pounds), the feeling is he needs to add more at the potential sacrifice of the juice that makes him so intriguing.

MISSING PRODUCTION: Damon Arnette - Ohio State

Don’t let his lack of ball production fool you. Arnette suffered a broken wrist in preseason camp and was forced to wear cast throughout the 2019 campaign. This also made life difficult for him in press situations. Over the past three years he’s only had 3 interceptions and 17 break-ups, but last year he allowed just a 44.6% completion rate and 306 yards when targeted.

The Ohio State product comes from a pro-style coverage scheme that will help his transition and he’s seen significant time in the slot early in his Buckeye career.

BREAK IT UP: Cameron Dantzler - Mississippi State

The undersized Dantzler could desperately use an off-season in an NFL strength program, as he’s at least 10 pounds away from a more ideal height/weight combo. At 6’2”, 185 pounds, that lack of play strength hasn’t stopped Dantzler from being impactful.

Dantzler’s forced incompletion rate of 24.1% comes in well above average and he’s only allowed 1 touchdown in well over one-thousand snaps over his career. In 2019, Dantzler’s highest yardage allowed in a single game checked in at only 77 yards.

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UNCHECKED BOXES: Trevon Diggs - Alabama

There are questions about Diggs’ ability to stay in phase in the vertical third, but the analytics provide a different picture.

When targeted beyond 20 yards, Diggs allowed just 4 of a potential 18 targets to be completed for a passer rating of 37.5. There’s no question that Diggs is better working from press, so what he’ll have to show in his athletic testing is that he has the requisite speed to turn and match vertically without hands on. If he checks that box, stock up.

MENTALITY PROBLEMS: CJ Henderson - Florida

A first round talent trapped in a fourth round mentality, Henderson is one of the most frustrating players in the class. His effort is far too often called into question whether it be do to a lax effort in coverage or a complete disinterest in tackling. Highlighting the questions about his competitiveness, or lack thereof, Henderson missed 22.5% of tackle opportunities in 2019.

What makes Henderson enticing is that even when he’s a bit sluggish in his technique (see rep above), he still has all the ability to make up for it. Ultimately, I wish Henderson played like he can all the time.

CONTESTED CONCERNS: Troy Pride Jr. - Notre Dame

On the plus side, Pride has only allowed 6 completions on 38 targets traveling over 20 yards in the air. The downside is that he’s allowed over half of his contested catch situations to be hauled in. Pride has top-notch athleticism which paired with his tracking issues make PFF’s comparison to Ronald Darby an easy one.

Pride was a big winner at the Senior Bowl, proving to be the best cover man in Mobile, and his testing should raise eyebrows of those unaware of his track background. Still, questions remain about his ability to make plays on the ball.