Throughout the college football season, I will be conducting a weekly scouting notes series for Cowboys Blitz, which will show some of the main takeaways from my week of film breakdown for eligible prospects in the 2017 NFL draft. My goal is to give a short description of each player I am breaking down, but also paint a clear picture of which traits these players possess at the same time. In this edition, I will take you through some of my notes on Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley, Alabama FS Eddie Jackson, and Washington DT Elijah Qualls.
Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson, 6’1 190 (Senior)
Tall, lanky cornerback with long arms that gives him a matchup advantage on the outside. Uses his length and physicality to re-route the receiver at the LOS, showing a necessary trait of a press cornerback. A skill that stood out in particular was his ability to cover with his back to the ball. His loose hips and nimble footwork allow him to stay on the receiver’s hip pocket through the remainder of the route, to then stay under control with excellent eye discipline and reactionary quickness to look over his shoulder and attack the ball at its highest point. A lot of collegiate cornerbacks struggle in this aspect of the game when they are asked to do so, but for Tankersley, sticky man coverage comes natural to him. When the ball is in front of him and he is asked to plant his foot and break on the ball, he is able to close quickly and find the ball on the receiver’s hip pocket. What gets him in trouble is when he becomes a bit too aggressive. In Press, he will get handsy and grab the receiver’s jersey to gain leverage, which will draw even more attention from referees at the next level. With the ball in front of him, his fearless aggression burns him in run support as although he is a willing tackler, he will miss easy ones going for the big hit instead of wrapping up, or by simply overrunning his pursuit angle. There is a lot to mold here with his sticky cover skills, length, physicality, and technique playing with his back to the ball, and I believe with another solid season, Tankersley could enter the upcoming draft as the top senior cornerback in the class.
Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama, 6’0 194 (Senior)
A cornerback turned safety in his junior season for the Crimson Tide, helping lead his team to a national title with six interceptions in 2015, two of them being returned for touchdowns. The transition to this new position also led to him garnering All-SEC and All-America honors. My analysis on Jackson is quite simple: He is a playmaker. While playing deep, he can move sideline to sideline with his impressive range and make a play on the ball. When the ball is in the air, he turns into the wide receiver, finishing at the high point with strong hands. As a former wide receiver in high school, a top level recruit at that, it makes sense as to why he looks natural at finding and attacking the ball in the air. Before the play forms, he is able to read his run/pass keys and react quickly, but with patience, rarely finding himself in panic and out of position. His range, ball skills, and ability to diagnose and react as a centerfielder will appeal to teams at the next level looking for a true free safety. There are deep holes however in his ability to stop the run, limiting his appeal as a two-way safety. The aspects that I saw lacking were willingness, indecision, and timing. On the willingness side, it seemed as if he was not aggressive enough, being timid and indecisive as to when and if he should attack the ball carrier. As a result, this messes up his angles and timing. Timing also affects his ability to wrap up as he either lunges too early or decides too late and attempts to arm tackle the ball carrier from behind. He does not like to get dirty in the run game, and that could give teams pause if he continues to keep this part of the game on the lower end of his priorities. Jackson is a true centerfielder, something that is somewhat rare nowadays with his range, ball skills, and mental processing, but he must become more willing to get physical in run support, and if he does, his timing with his wrap up and pursuit angles will undoubtedly improve. The holes I highlighted in his inability to stop the run are evident in this clip as he is indecisive as to when and if he should wrap up.
Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington, 6’1 321 (Junior)
Qualls may look like your prototypical nose tackle with his size, but he is an impressive athlete with an abundance of potential as a pass rusher. The junior defensive tackle from Washington was actually an all-state running back in high school, which shows on the field with his nimble feet and natural bend. He finished the 2015 season with 4.5 sacks along with 16 solo tackles, as he disrupted the opponent’s backfield time and time again both as a dynamic pass rusher and stout run plugger in the middle. With a quick first step off of the snap, he puts interior linemen on their heels as he is able to create a push with strong leg drive and hand placement. At the point of attack, he is able to disengage and engulf the ball carrier, but he can work on doing this with more consistency. He normally lines up as the nose in the Washington defense, but I believe with his pass rush potential and athletic traits, the three technique position could also be a good spot for him. With his position flex and ability to be a three-down defensive lineman, he will be highly valued when he decides to enter the draft, whether that is this year or as a senior in 2018.
8/12 Scouting Notes (Chad Kelly, Chide Awuzie, KD Cannon)