CFB Player Bracket: Desmond King vs. Jalen Tabor
Two of the top cornerbacks in the nation face off in this first-round matchup of PFF’s best players in college football. Iowa senior Desmond King and Flordia junior Jalen Tabor are among the nation’s best cover corners, with each of them displaying a penchant for making plays on the ball.
To view the entire bracket and every Round 1 matchup, click here.
The case for Desmond King
Iowa senior King was one of the elite corners in football last season, playing predominantly on the outside he earned a +14.3 coverage grade, seventh-best in the nation and fifth among returning corners. He allowed a 51.3 completion percentage on passes targeting his coverage, and held opposing quarterbacks to a 48.6 passer rating. Like many of the best corners, once the ball is in the air King turns into a receiver and goes after it – the clip below is a perfect example of that.
King tied for second in the nation with eight interceptions, and physically disrupted 20 passes, more than any other player in the FBS. Against Pitt, the Panthers star wide receiver Tyler Boyd was targeted five times when covered by King, resulting in two completions for 38 yards and two interceptions.
King also earned a +9.5 run defense grade, second-best among returning corners, with just two missed tackles from 75 attempted tackles. His 37.5 tackling efficiency (simply the number of tackle attempts per miss) ranks third among returning corners (min 30 attempts). It’s the less glamorous side of being a corner, but King handles it well.
The case for Jalen Tabor
Tabor also played the majority of his football on the outside, opposite Vernon Hargreaves — Florida’s other star corner and a recent first-round selection for Tampa Bay. Like King, Tabor’s playmaking tendencies helped him get his hands on the ball, with four picks and 12 further pass breakups.
Tabor has been excellent since arriving in Gainesville in 2014 — he earned a +10.7 coverage grade as a true freshman and followed that with a +12.7 coverage grade in 2015, ninth-best among returning corners. In both seasons he has allowed less than 50 percent of passes into his coverage to be completed, and in 2015 he held quarterbacks to a 33.0 passer rating when targeted.
The downside for Tabor is that he earned his two worst coverage grades when it mattered most – in the regular season finale against rival Florida State, and the SEC championship game against Alabama. He had a cumulative -1.6 grade in coverage in those games and gave up the only touchdown he’s conceded as a Gator, hardly disastrous but below his usual standards.
The Verdict: Desmond King advances
As a pure cover corner, a case can be made that Tabor has the edge. His coverage stats and grades have been outstanding across his two seasons of college ball, and he is rarely badly beaten. Tabor earned a negative grade on just 6.0 percent of his snaps in coverage, which compares favorably to King’s 8.4 percent.
However, while cover skills are paramount, there is more to being a corner than just covering, and that is where King separates himself. Unlike King, Tabor struggled against the run, earning a -2.2 run defense grade in 2015, largely as a result of missed tackles. Tabor missed nine tackles from 45 attempts, for a lowly 5.0 tackling efficiency rate, and four of those misses came in the passing game. Ultimately, his play against the run and secure tackling swing it for King, the more rounded corner.