Playmaking CB Paulson Adebo guarantees NFL won’t forget Stanford in 2021

Rob Rang

Over the past several weeks, NFLDraftScout.com has previewed the top NFL prospects for each of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 programs, as well as top independents Notre Dame and BYU. Among other conferences at the FBS and FCS level, the Big Ten and Pac-12’s bold decision to cancel their respective fall seasons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic means that NFL scouts will be evaluating prospects from their teams based mostly off of 2019 film. Until college football games officially return, we will be continuing our breakdown of each team with the mighty SEC on tap following the conclusion of the Pac-12 programs.

Stanford Cardinal

Head Coach: David Shaw (10th season)

2019 Record: 4-8

2020 NFL Draft Picks: Colby Parkinson, TE, Seattle Seahawks – 4th Rd, No. 133 overall

Casey Toohill, LB, Philadelphia Eagles – 7th Round, No. 233 overall

Overview:

From both a raw talent and value perspective, few programs suffered through a more injury-ravaged 2019 campaign than David Shaw’s Stanford Cardinal.

The team lost celebrated five-star recruit and returning First Team All-Pac-12 left tackle Walker Little to a torn ACL in a season-opening win against Northwestern. Without his top blocker helping to protect him, returning team captain and Second-Team all-conference senior quarterback K.J. Costello went down, as well, playing in a total of five games and ultimately transferring to Mississippi State in the offseason after graduating.

After entering the year ranked in the AP’s Top 25, the injuries sapped Stanford’s strength, dropping the Cardinal to a disappointing 4-8, including 3-6 in the conference. To put that into perspective, Shaw’s previous worst record at Stanford was 8-5 back in 2014 with five different years reaching double-digit victories in nine seasons at the helm since taking over for Jim Harbaugh.

As is often the case, the struggles on the field in 2019 carried over to the NFL draft where just two Cardinal players were selected, beginning with tight end Colby Parkinson being picked in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks at No. 133 overall. That is the longest Stanford has waited until its top prospect was selected in the NFL since 2004.

A presumably healthy Little would have drawn plenty of interest from scouts this fall. If the Cardinal do not return to action prior to the 2021 NFL draft (currently scheduled for April 29-May 1) and Little does not transfer to play elsewhere, the 6-7, 320 pounder would require a leap of faith by any NFL team willing to invest a top 100 selection in him, having only played one game in nearly two full seasons. In this way, Little might just be the player most affected by the Pac-12’s decision to opt out.

Though he too missed three games to conclude Stanford’s disappointing 2019 campaign due to an undisclosed injury, fellow First-Team All-Pac-12 pick Paulson Adebo, on the other hand, ranks among the more established NFL prospects in the conference, making it quite possible that the redshirt junior won’t play another down for the Cardinal.

Featured 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Paulson Adebo, CB, 6-1, 190, 4.50, rJR

Like Little, Adebo was lured to Palo Alto from the talent-rich state of Texas, signing with Stanford as a consensus four-star recruit. He redshirted his first season on campus but exploded once on the field, leading the entire country with 24 passes defended (20 pass breakups and four interceptions) along with 64 tackles (third on the team), including 3.5 for loss. In doing so, Adebo earned Freshman All-American honors from some publications as well as First Team All-Pac-12 honors.

Much to the delight of Stanford fans, Adebo was especially effective in high profile showdowns with Oregon and its future first round quarterback Justin Herbert (career-high four PBUs, including three in overtime), as well as a rival Cal (career-high two interceptions), helping seal road wins.

With opposing quarterbacks and receivers now fully aware and game-planning against him, Adebo was targeted by double-moves early in 2019, surrendering some big plays.

His play steadied as the season went on, however, notably generating First Team All-Pac-12 honors from league coaches last year despite missing the final three games of the season and dropping to Second Team honors from the media, finishing with 33 tackles, 10 pass breakups and another four interceptions, giving him 8 in just 21 career starts.

Long, physical and possessing the ball skills of a receiver, Adebo is sure to draw plenty of comparisons to former Stanford standout Richard Sherman, though he almost surely will not have to wait as long as the All-Pro – selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by Seattle - to hear his name called on draft day.

Strengths: Looks the part of an NFL athlete with broad shoulders, long arms and a tapered middle. Generates good depth on his backpedal, gobbling up yardage due to long gait and possessing the loose hips to turn and run with receivers. May lack elite timed speed but plays fast because of his instincts and understanding of football angles. Uses the sideline as an extra defender, pinning receivers to the boundary and leaving little room for quarterbacks to fit the ball in. Confident in his ability to undercut receivers and use his length to slap away passes as they arrive.

Throttles down smoothly, showing good balance out of his breaks, quick change of direction and an impressive closing burst, especially for a corner of his size.

Terrific hand-eye coordination and body control to play the ball in the air. Excellent timing and explosiveness to highpoint the ball, taking full advantage of his height and arm length, matching up well with the monster receivers so popular in today’s NFL.

Does not panic with the ball in the air, turning to locate and showing quick, accurate hands to disrupt the receiver. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder, flashing WR-like extension and concentration to make circus catches.

Reliable open-field tackler whose length and physicality consistently show up. Lowers his shoulder and brings his hips to deliver emphatic hits on the ballcarrier, bringing them down quickly. Recognizes run quickly and shows both aggression and technique in ripping through receiver blocks to attack runners.

No known off-field issues. Product Design major on track to graduate in 2021. Born in Farmington, Mich. but grew up speaking French at home, the native language of his mother, Pauline Domingo, who emigrated to the US from the West African nation of Benin…

Weaknesses: Smooth but not elite speed, raising questions about his ability to handle one-on-one coverage of the NFL’s top vertical threats. Can get a little grabby at the mesh point, sneaking tugs on the jersey to slow receivers.

Can be a split-second early coming back towards the ball, occasionally driving through wideouts on his way to breaking up passes. Like most long-legged corners, Adebo loses a step in his transition and can be beaten with quality double-moves when he’s caught peeking into the backfield.

Occasionally allows himself to get flat-footed in coverage and this shows up in run support, as well, allowing himself to be the nail, rather than the hammer, at times.

Missed the final three games of the 2019 season with an undisclosed “season-ending” injury which NFL teams will obviously want to investigate. Given his lanky frame, some will worry that long-term durability could be an issue.

NFL Player Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Free Agent – It isn’t often that NFL teams dedicate early picks on Stanford cornerbacks and that is certainly the case at Tennessee State, as well, where the 6-2, 205 pound “DRC” starred prior to the Arizona Cardinals selecting him 16 overall back in 2008. Adebo isn’t likely to prove as fast as Rodgers-Cromartie (clocked at 4.36 seconds at the Combine at 184 pounds) but he possesses a similar lanky frame with excellent balance, loose hips and terrific hand-eye coordination to breakup and pickoff passes. Until the latter stages of his career, Rodgers-Cromartie showed impressive durability and playmaking skills, notching 30 interceptions (and 147 PBUs) in 162 NFL games.

Current NFL Draft Projection: Second Round

The Top 10 NFL Prospects at Stanford:

1. Paulson Adebo, CB, 6-1, 190, 4.50, rJR

2. Walker Little, OT, 6-6, 313, 5.20, rJR

3. Thomas Booker, DE, 6-3, 279, 4.85, JR

4. Gabe Reid, OLB, 6-2, 231, 4.75, rJR

5. Simi Fehoko, WR, 6-3, 210, 4.45, JR

6. Davis Mills, QB, 6-3, 220, 4.85, rJR

7. Foster Sarell, OL, 6-6, 314, 5.15, rJR

8. Drew Dalman, C, 6-2, 280, 5.0, rJR

9. Michael Wilson, WR, 6-2, 200, 4.50, JR

10. Curtis Robinson, ILB, 6-2, 232, 4.75, rSR

*All 40-yard dash times are estimates

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