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Chidobe Awuzie, one of many standout 2017 defensive back prospects hailing from the University of Colorado, now dons a star on his helmet thanks to a number of NFL-ready traits.
Awuzie shows fluid footwork to stick tight with receivers in-route, where he’s able to mirror opponents. You will rarely witness him take a mistaken early step out of his stance to give up an easy release. He has a smooth backpedal, and is able to collect himself and change direction with ease, planting and closing on the ball with physicality, quickness, and disruptive timing. He stays in phase throughout his opponent’s route to routinely be in place to locate and spoil at the catch point. His physicality is often on display, as he looks to get his hands on the receiver and gain strong position off the snap.
Awuzie played both corner and safety, taking on alignment check responsibilities. He reads and recognizes the play quickly, boasting strong awareness and on-field smarts to react instantly to the ball in front of him. He’s capable of carrying receivers out of the slot with comfort, with an uncanny knack to anticipate route development and stamp the breaks.
With nine sacks and 25 tackles for loss in his collegiate career, Awuzie boasts an impressive record behind the line of scrimmage. He shows no tells as a slot blitzer, timing his jump exceptionally, taking savvy angles, and closing with relish. He’s a willing run defender who’s not afraid to throw his body into the tackle, displaying a conscious aim to wrap up opponents, and is seen on film chasing to get in on plays.
Awuzie isn’t necessarily a standout athlete, and lacks great catch-up speed. If caught behind, his shorter arms fail to shut that window at times. He arrives at the ball with timing and physicality, but doesn’t show velcro ball skills to complete interception opportunities. He’s not opposed to hand-fighting mid-route but will need to walk the fine yellow flag line at the next level.
Awuzie knows where he wants to redirect his blocker in the run game, but doesn’t have the upper body/hand strength to steer, shed, and consistently floor the ball-carrier. He possesses physical intent when tackling, but his lack of power sees the opponent bounce off too many of his attempts. Awuzie needs to focus on driving through ball-carriers from legs up. His intelligence and anticipation put him in position to blow up swing passes, but he needs to break down better with over-zealous angles undoing his quick recognition.
Prior to Jourdan Lewis’ selection in the third round, the easy assumption would have been to suggest that Awuzie was a candidate for the nickel role inside as Orlando Scandrick ages along with trade rumors. But with Lewis now on the roster, Awuzie’s flexibility in coverage and position stand out. His ability to mirror patterns playing up at the line and click and close from depth in off coverage suits Rod Marinelli’s mix and match designs for outside corners. However, his physicality driving on the ball, change of direction, field awareness, and blitz potential mean a role outside would be wasteful. Expect Awuzie to provide help on the boundary as needed, but to spend time at nickel and the Cowboys’ relatively interchangeable safety spots to best utilize his skill set and football IQ.
Best Pick Available?
Dallas left longer, speedier cornerbacks like Cordrea Tankersley and Fabian Moreau on the board at pick No. 60 to take the fourth-year Colorado Senior. While the two previously mentioned would have been my preferred picks, the Cowboys’ last three cornerback/nickel picks speak to a new focus: footwork, intelligence, quickness, aggression, and flexibility. The movable Chidobe Awuzie creates a tantalizing and exciting young corps with second-year corner Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis.
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