Our Under-the-Radar series continues today with the cornerback position.
The Tennessee Titans have completely revamped this room in the past few months by releasing Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson. Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins was the big addition in free agency here. Second-year player Kristian Fulton figures to play a much bigger role in 2021 than he did as a rookie. Former Texans and Browns cornerback Kevin Johnson was also signed, and appears primed to play a top four role (much to the fan base’s dismay).
There’s still a lot of unknown here. Is Johnson your starter in the slot? Is Fulton ready to play starting snaps on the outside after barely featuring a year ago? The team is likely to draft at least one cornerback. With that said, let’s take a look at a couple of corners that would make sense for the Titans to target on Day 3.
Tay Gowan, CB, UCF
One of the things I was looking for here when identifying prospects that I think would fit the scheme was the ability to play press-man coverage. Everything the Titans have done at the cornerback position this offseason insinuates that they want to play more man coverage going forward. I think they wanted to do it last year as well, but injuries and personnel prevented it from happening on a consistent basis.
Gowan is that type of player. In my interview with Gowan for The Draft Network, he had this to say about playing press coverage: “That’s what I live and die on. I’m a press-man cornerback. I wanna follow the best receiver around. That’s a big part of my game. I can line up right in front of the best receiver. I can completely eliminate that side of the field. I love playing man coverage. That’s how I want to play the game. I want to show NFL teams that I can shut down one side of the field.”
Gowan is big, physical and long. He played a ton of press at UCF. He has the mindset and size to do it in the NFL as well. I love the fit here.
Tay Gowan in 2019:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) September 1, 2020
Coverage snaps: 425
Pass breakups: 7
TDs allowed: 2 pic.twitter.com/mAOxLBlj9n
Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Lenoir isn’t getting much buzz, but he’s a quality prospect. He’s probably going to have to play inside at the next level due to his size (5-foot 10 and 199 pounds) but that’s a role I can see him thriving him in. The Titans sure could use a quality nickel corner. Lenoir is an incredibly smart player that relies on his football IQ to make plays on the ball. The testing results were just average, but the tape is solid.
The first thing that jumps out on film about Lenoir is how smooth and efficient he is. While he’s not a dynamic athlete, there are no wasted movements or false steps here. That’s a big reason why Lenoir is able to stick with his man despite being average athletically. He reads the game at such a high level. He understands how quarterbacks are trying to attack the defense.
Most Career Forced Incompletions among returning college players:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) August 19, 2020
▪️ Thomas Graham Jr, Oregon - 37
▪️ Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon - 35
▫️ T.J. Carter, Memphis - 35
▫️ Tre Brown, Oklahoma - 31
▫️ Mike Hampton, USF - 31 pic.twitter.com/QBuf5AnvxU
Keith Taylor Jr., CB, Washington
I really like Taylor. We’re not talking about him enough in the draft community. He’s a big cornerback that comes in at 6-foot-2 and roughly 190 pounds (Taylor weighed 191 pounds at the Senior Bowl and 187 at his Pro Day). Similar to what I wrote about Gowan, Taylor was born to play press coverage on the outside.
Taylor has terrific length for a cornerback prospect with a 76-inch wingspan and 31-inch arms. He does a great job using that length to his advantage by trying to suffocate receivers at the line of scrimmage. Taylor understands how to kill a route before it even starts. He’s physical, aggressive, tough and nasty. He played for one of the best defensive coaches in the nation in Jimmy Lake.
Drafting Taylor makes a lot of sense in the fourth round, if he gets there.
Keith Taylor allowed a mere 0.51 yards per cover snap last season which leads returning Pac-12 cornerbacks. pic.twitter.com/vTsdVQcwOy— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) May 16, 2019
Shakur Brown, CB, Michigan State
Brown is an incredibly fun, albeit inexperienced prospect. What do I mean by inexperienced? Brown has just 12 career starts under his belt. That’s about as raw as it gets entering the next level. Brown exploded in 2020 by recording five interceptions. Brown did not test well, but I’m choosing to trust the tape here (especially on Day 3).
At just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Brown is a slot-only cornerback prospect. But that’s exactly where he thrives. He’s tough and physical when lined up in man coverage as the nickel corner. That’s the main trait that I identified here. It goes back to what I said about this team wanting to play more man coverage in 2021. That’s the name of the game when it comes to Brown as a draft hopeful. He can play sticky man coverage in the slot.
This is very much an ascending talent.