2020 NFL Draft: Should Alabama Cornerback Trevon Diggs Be the Jaguars' Target at No. 20?
As the 2020 offseason progresses, JaguarReport is going to be taking extended looks of some NFL draft prospects who could theoretically make sense for the Jacksonville Jaguars at some point in April.
In this version, we examine Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs, the latest in a long line of Crimson Tide cornerbacks projected to be a top-50 pick. A former wide receiver and the younger brother of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon, Diggs has a chance to make his own mark in the NFL starting with April's draft.
Originally starting his career at Alabama playing on offense, defense, and special teams as a freshman, Diggs began his full-time transition to defense in his sophomore season in 2017. That year, Diggs recorded three tackles and three pass deflections, biding his time until he could find a starting role in Nick Saban's defense.
Diggs entered the role as a full-time starter at cornerback in 2018, recording 20 tackles, six pass deflections, one interception, and one forced fumble. Unfortunately for Diggs, he sustained a foot injury vs. Arkansas in the middle of the season that would end his junior campaign and cut his first season as starter short.
In 2019, Diggs recovered from the injury and returned to a starting role as a senior. One of the top players on Alabama's roster, Diggs recorded 37 tackles, eight pass deflections, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns. As a result of his solid 2019 season, Diggs was named a third-team Associated Press All-American and second-team All-SEC player.
What Trevon Diggs does well
Where Diggs will win at the next level will likely be as a press zone corner who is utilized heavily in cover 3 coverages. He is physically imposing at the line of scrimmage thanks to impressive size and length (6-foot-1, 205-pounds, 32 3/4-inch arms) and a willingness to attack receivers' frames early in the route. His jabs at the line are effective, quick, and timed well, and he can smother smaller wide receivers and pin them to the sideline.
Diggs plays with an attitude in coverage that allows him to physically challenge receivers with confidence, and this shows in man and zone coverage. When jamming wide receivers at the line, Diggs does a good job to ensure he stays balanced and doesn't give up inside or outside leverage, all while using his length to limit space.
In zone coverage, Diggs has good instincts for jumping routes and doing so a few times in 2019 resulted in some of the biggest plays of his collegiate career. He passes off targets to the next zone and sinks in underneath zones with discipline, allowing him to undercut passes on the boundary. He appears to have a really firm understanding of route concepts and what the wide receiver and quarterback are each trying to accomplish on a given play, giving him a mental advantage at times.
At the catch point, Diggs flashes serious ability to disrupt wide receivers and jar the ball loose. His length gives him a bad advantage in this regard, as he can be beaten in coverage and still recover enough to get a hand on the ball. His length also makes him a valuable red-zone defender due to the condensed space and his physicality.
When Diggs finds the ball in the air, he flashes his former receiver skills and is able to highpoint the ball or make an adjustment in the air. Once he has caught the ball, his ability after the catch and experience as a receiver and return man make him a candidate to make dangerous plays in space
What Trevon Diggs needs to improve at
Overall, Diggs looks to lack the agility and fluidity to mirror quicker wide receivers in man or off coverage, making his scheme fits a tad limited. He has hulking size which benefits him more often than not, but it also restrains his ability to click and close or prevent separate on in or out-breaking routes.
In terms of ability to flip his hips and run with a receiver vertically, Diggs can be hit or miss. This is mitigated when he is able to press a wide receiver at the line and slow down their game plan, but receivers who can shake free from him at the line of scrimmage can get deep separation, even if he has solid long speed.
Diggs' biggest issue at this stage of his development is an inconsistent ability to find the ball in the air, especially when he is playing with his back to the quarterback instead of being able to drive on a pass. Diggs' head can be late to find the ball, leaving his susceptible to back shoulder passes and 50/50 vertical shots, an area in which LSU made sure to take advantage of in 2019.
While Diggs has the speed and length that would lead one to think defending deep routes could be his specialty, some stiffness in his hips make it hard for him to maintain positioning downfield, often allowing for wide receivers to get a leg up on him.
As a run defender, Diggs doesn't display anything particularly noteworthy. As physical as he is in coverage, he can at times be too tentative taking on blocks on the perimeter and his tackling is ultimately hit or miss.
Just in terms of a fit with the Jaguars, Diggs makes a lot of sense schematically. He is a cover 3 cornerback who thrives when he is asked to press and play in a deep third, all duties the Jaguars consistently require out of their cornerbacks under defensive coordinator Todd Wash.
As an outside cornerback in the Jaguars' scheme, Diggs may be one of the better pure scheme fits in the entire draft. He has the size, length, strength, and awareness in zone to slot in on the outside early on in his NFL career.
The question is if Diggs has the fluidity and versatility to be anything more than a team's No. 2 outside cornerback, which leads to the question of if the value for his skill set is worth the No. 20 pick, or better suited for a pick such as the Jaguars' second-round pick (No. 42). Diggs doesn't have the quickness or smoothness in coverage to play in the slot, so he will likely be restricted to the outside.
Against bigger wide receivers, Diggs could be a valuable piece of a defense. With that said, there are enough questions to his game to make him a boom or bust pick early in the draft despite his immense physical tools.