CFF Overview: CB – Buyer Beware

With an eye toward spotting possible over-draft situations, Gordon McGuinness identifies a set of cornerbacks who carry concerns.

| 1 year ago

CFF Overview: CB – Buyer Beware

CFF-overview-CB-bewareAs we continue to look through the mass of CFF data we have collected, we’re turning our attention to cornerbacks. After bringing you the top of the crop and sleepers earlier in the week we now turn our attention to the Buyer Beware section.

The top of this cornerback class is filled with question marks and you can still find players 10-15 spots deep that aren’t too far away from the guys at the top. That means the guys at the top come with the added question mark of how much of a gamble you are taking by spending a high draft pick on them. So here are five players who we think teams should be wary of in the NFL draft.

Trae Waynes, Michigan St.

Waynes is regarded by many as the top cornerback in this class and at times it’s easy to see why. He has speed to burn and shows confidence, never looking worried about being beaten deep. He also holds the point well against a block and performs well against the run. Despite all that, though, there are some question marks that make him a risk to be selected as high as many are predicting.

His awareness at times is questionable, and there are times when he lost the ball in the air by focusing too much on the wide receiver in front of him. Those lapses leave him flapping after noticing the ball in the air, leading to contact which could lead to more flags in the NFL. His tackling can also be a bit suspect as he has a tendency to throw himself at tackles in space, a little bit like Asante Samuel, rather than wrapping up. That’s something that will cost him a few big plays when he misses, and something he must clean up in the NFL.

Signature stat:  Missed a tackle once every 8.3 attempts.

Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest

CFF-inset-kevin-johnsonJohnson is also regarded as a first-round draft pick by many, but in a similar way to Justin Hardy at wide receiver he’s someone that neither myself nor Sam see the hype with. He does have great balance which stops him from being beaten immediately off the line where so much damage can be done, but there are too many question marks in the rest of his game.

He doesn’t possess great top-level speed on the field. This will lead to him losing plenty of one-on-one battles with NFL receivers and at times it looked like he was deliberately playing off to protect his speed. The need to jump up from there and attack under routes led to him being beaten on double moves on more than one occasion. Like Waynes, he too can be a bit of a sloppy tackler at times, tilting his head down and trying to tackle blind far too often which led to 10 misses last season.

Signature Stat: Missed a tackle once every 5.1 attempted, tied for the ninth-worst of all draft-eligible cornerbacks in this class.

P.J. Williams, Florida St.

CFF-inset-pj-williamsWilliams is arguably the most frustrating cornerback in this draft class and is the perfect example of how subset scouting can lead to a guy being overhyped. In his best games, he looked very good when getting his hands on a wide receiver early and attacked the run and screen passes aggressively, launching himself through blockers.

The problem with Williams is inconsistency. As good as he looked against Louisville and DeVante Parker, he played very poorly against Syracuse, North Carolina State, and Georgia Tech. Very good when he gets his hands on a receiver, but as soon as he loses direct contact he struggles, something that will be a big issue in the NFL. Like the previous two we mentioned, he missed too many tackles in 2014. It’s not something he doesn’t look capable of, but poor technique such as arm tackles and trying to swat at the ball when he’s in a bad position give him big problems.

Signature Stat: Williams allowed a quarterback rating of 100.0 on all passes thrown into his coverage.

Eric Rowe, Utah

CFF-inset-roweRowe is a cornerback who divides opinion, with some seeing him as a better prospect at safety than cornerback, while others think he’s a better fit at the position he played during his final season in college. One thing you can say for Rowe is he’s very strong. In the Washington State game he was too physical for the receivers he went up against and made life miserable for them. He’s physical enough that he makes contested catches tough on wide receivers, and works best in press-man when he’s able to get his hands on the wide receiver.

The problem with Rowe is he looks very uncomfortable in off-coverage at times, looking lost and struggling to get a feel for everything around him. He also struggles with recovery speed so when he loses at the line of scrimmage he’s in trouble. Any success he has in the NFL will come from being able to get a good jam on wide receivers at the line of scrimmage unless he can improve his work in off-coverage.

Signature Stat: Was targeted once every 6.6 snaps in coverage.


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| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Cover2coach

    Yall be hating on Trae Waynes and I don’t understand it at all.. I listen to your corner podcast you spend 5 minutes bashing Trae than use the same arguments to excuse other corners? Is he the next Champ Bailey.. probably not but the guy has two years worth of good tape, he’s given up only 2 tds in 2 seasons… Now Sam pointed to a lot plays from the Oregon game that has him not sold on Waynes, the play where he gets picked off on the crosser the first play of the 2nd quarter, the tight end got pushed into him but you criticize him for his lack of awareness??? Shouldve been offensive PI but .. ok. There’s actually a lot about that Oregon game from him I don’t like, if you know anything about Michigan St’s defense you know they don’t ask their outside corners to go to the slot a lot, and in that game in particular Oregon went to 3×1 sets and Trae Waynes went to the slot, It could be argued he was indirectly responsible for those 3 straight second half tds… With that said he’s still the best corner in this class for me. They play a lot of meg coverage in their defense which gives the corners the freedom to turn what is generally Cover 4 into pretty much press man cover 0 ( the seahawks do this with their Cover 1/Cover 3… When he plays this style of defense it’s reminiscent of Richard Sherman in the fact that the man he’s manned up against is no longer available, kind of forces the offense to play with one hand behind their back….Anyways, if you’re a team that plays a ton of man coverage specifically Cover 1 & Cover 0 you have to have Trae Waynes high on your board. If you’re a team like Arizona and you need a corner with speed and coverage skills to complement Pat P, and every corner in the draft is still on the board you run to the podium… Hey I love all the things you guys are doing with CFF, enjoy the information, just put a little more context into not liking a guy, and you gotta understand that every team may value guys differently because of their scheme.

    • AntonSirius

      “I listen to your corner podcast you spend 5 minutes bashing Trae than use the same arguments to excuse other corners?”

      Are those other cornerbacks projected first round picks, or mid-round picks? This is about draft value.