Film Room: What Should We Expect From Marvell Tell III in 2021?

After a promising rookie season in 2019, Marvell Tell III opted out of the 2020 season. Now as he enters his second (third?) NFL season, what are the expectations for the young cornerback?
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The 2019 Indianapolis Colts' draft class has been a bit of a letdown up to this point. Outside of safety Khari Willis, there hasn't been one player from that draft class that has solidified themselves as a long-term piece for the team.

The biggest wildcard of the group, though, is 2019 5th Round pick Marvell Tell III. A safety in college, Tell III made the switch to cornerback in the NFL and flashed quite a bit as a rookie.

Tell III opted out of the 2020 season, and his status going into year three is a bit of a mystery. Can Tell III build off of a strong rookie year and emerge as a starter for the team or will he show the rust from a year off and lose all of that positive momentum?

In today's film room, I dive into Tell III's film from his rookie year and discuss what reasonable expectations should be for the young corner.

The Flashes

Tell III is a unique cornerback. Standing at 6'2" 200 pounds with a 40 inch vertical, there isn't much of the field that Tell III can't cover. With his safety background, he is also a much better tackler than most cornerbacks in the league.

This play is excellent all around against the Miami Dolphins. He sells press-man coverage by jamming his wide receiver at the line and carrying the route vertical. He quickly shifts his eyes back to the quarterback at the first down marker and gets into his flat zone at the sticks.

From there, he locates the receiver breaking into his zone and delivers the big hit to force the incomplete pass. Great technique and finish to get the defense off the field on third down.

A major aspect of cornerback play that I like to study is how players react when they lose track of the ball. Basically, do they opt to grab the receiver or do they calmly redirect their focus to the hands of the receiver?

Tell III is more of the latter to me, and this play exemplifies that. He is in good position on the crossing route but is unable to get in front and make a play on the ball. Rather than panicking, he does the next best thing. He waits for the ball to arrive and then swipes at the receiver's hands, knocking the ball away for the incomplete pass.

The highlight play of the season for Tell III, at least in my opinion, came on what a box score would chart as a simple pass breakup. The rep was near perfection throughout.

The play came against the Jaguars in week 11 with Tell III matched up with D.J Clark (the receiver who beat him for a big touchdown earlier in the game). Tell III is in press man coverage against a vertical route on the bottom of the screen.

Tell III starts off by jamming the route outside the hash and pinching Chark to the sidelines. This creates a smaller window for the quarterback to throw to. From there, Tell III gets in phase and in perfect position in Chark's hip.

Tell III is then able to get his head back to the ball and nearly make the interception on the play. Perfect coverage all-around and so close to an outstanding finish.

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Still Work to Be Done

While the flashes were excellent, Tell III was far from perfect as a rookie. He allowed a 111.2 passer rating when targeted in coverage and was picked on a bit when he lined up in the slot.

This is where he could have really benefited from playing last season. His issues revolve mostly around his decisiveness and confidence when in coverage. Those are simply two issues that need to be worked out with repetition and playing time.

Obviously, I'm not saying that opting out was a bad decision by Tell III last year, just that he really could have used the extra reps and play in a natural sophomore season.

Final Thoughts and a Reasonable Expectation

Cautious optimism is the motto I am taking for this upcoming season and that applies to Marvell Tell III as well. The flashes as a rookie were super intriguing, and I have a lot of hope for him to hit his potential in Indy.

The truth right now is that we have no clue where he is at physically or mentally after a year away. Obviously more will be known throughout Training Camp and the Preseason, but right now the projection is a bit murky.

At this point in the offseason, I believe that he will start behind Rock Ya-Sin on the depth chart for the second outside cornerback spot and be a key cog on special teams throughout the year. Hopefully, he can build off of the flashes as a rookie and develop into a long-term fixture on the Colts' roster.

Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.

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