2021 Senior Bowl: Identifying Long Cornerbacks as Potential Fits For Seahawks

Matty F. Brown looks at the 2021 Senior Bowl weigh-in numbers and identifies potential outside cornerback fits for the Seahawks.
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The 2021 Senior Bowl has officially started! The first part of the All Star event that gets widely covered by media is the weigh ins. In a normal year, these take place in a quiet convention room at like 6 AM. Everyone in attendance loads up on coffee, bleary-eyed and looking shoddy.

Each prospect has their name read out before walking onto a stage in their underwear. They step onto some scales, then they are measured by a professional measurer - yes, that’s a job. The room is then filled with the scribbling of a thousand pencils and pens, each scout and media member slotting these measurements into their Senior Bowl spreadsheet. Occasionally there is a gasp as an athlete stands out among his peers by looking even more chiseled, even more like a marble, renaissance-era statue. It’s weird.

Of course, 2021 is not a typical year. COVID-19 has prevented many from making the trip to Mobile, Alabama. Thankfully, however, the official Senior Bowl account tweeted out each prospect’s numbers. While there is a morally wrong vibe to the weigh-in event, these measurables are important for each NFL hopeful. Teams have thresholds to determine player fit and future success. An extreme, simple example: there has never been a 5-foot-2 starting NFL quarterback.

Last week, I identified outside cornerback as an immediate Seahawks draft need. This is a position that Seattle visibly has a clear threshold for. In the John Schneider-Pete Carroll era. The Seahawks have never drafted an outside cornerback with arms shorter than 32 inches. They seek long guys who can jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage, stay on top of receivers, and contest the ball at a variety of catch point.

Here are the five Senior Bowl cornerbacks that meet this 32-inch requirement:

  • DJ Daniel, Georgia, measured 5-foot-11 5/8, 183 pounds, 33-inch arms, 81-inch wingspan (American Roster #14)
  • Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse, measured 6-foot-2 5/8, 212 pounds, 32 1/8-inch arms, 80.18-inch wingspan (American Roster #8)
  • Bryan Mills, North Carolina Central, measured 6-foot 3/4, 180 pounds, 32-inch arms, 79-inch wingspan (American Roster #5)
  • Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas, measured 5-foot-11 7/8, 195 pounds, 32 3/8-inch arms, 79-inch wingspan (American Roster #23)
  • Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota, measured 6-foot-3 3/8, 200 pounds, 32-inch arms, 80.28-inch wingspan (National Roster #25)

With just four draft picks and no first rounder, despite the obvious need at outside corner, the Seahawks may be forced into taking another late round flyer - basing the selection purely off traits on measurements while trusting their coaching to mold the pick into an NFL starter.

The popularity of the Cover 3 scheme after Pete Carroll’s early success with it has been well-covered. Longer cornerbacks have been valued much more since the days of Richard Sherman becoming a fifth rounder. Seattle has struggled to truly hit again on defensive back talent after the "Legion of Boom" drafting days.

Given circumstances, the Seahawks may attempt a safety to corner conversion again, like they did with Tre Flowers a few years ago. Coming out of Oklahoma State, Flowers ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash with 33 7/8-inch arms and a 6-foot-2, 208-pound frame. There are some long safeties at the 2021 Senior Bowl too.

  • Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State, measured 6-foot-3 1/8-inch, 213 pounds, 34 1/4-inch arms, 82.68-inch wingspan (American Roster #25)
  • Mark Webb, Georgia, measured 6-foot-1 3/8, 210 pounds, 32 1/8-inch arms, 79.18-inch wingspan (American Roster #26)
  • Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech, measured 6-foot-3 3/8, 226 pounds, 32 3/4-inch arms, 79.18-inch wingspan (National Roster #27)
  • Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh, measured 6-foot 5/8, 201 pounds, 32-inch arms, 77.48-inch wingspan (National Roster #33)

There is a chance that the Seahawks stay away from drafting such 32-plus inch length after the success of 5-foot-9, 31 5/8-inch armed D.J. Reed. This is something that Pete Carroll suggested himself after Reed had an impressive performance versus the Washington Football Team.

"Everybody's known the long-arm corners and all that stuff, that's what I've always wanted,” Carroll said. “They [cornerbacks] come in different shapes and sizes, you know? And we just have to be open to it and not be stubborn about everyone has to be like this mold."

Carroll raised the example of his cornerbacks when he was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina State in the early 1980s, "where all of our corner play and the source of it started." He started with 6-foot-2 corner Perry Williams, whom Carroll, while miming a press jam, described as "beautiful." Williams sounds like that trademark Seattle prototype. To contrast, and in relation to Reed, Carroll then touched on the 5-foot-7 Donnie LeGrande.

Potential diversion addressed, it’s nice to have a large list of long corners to watch. Yes, it’s no guarantee that the Seahawks will draft these players. The keys to identifying the real targets will be looking to see if the prospects listed play aggressive, physical, and with sound leverage. Each practice is evaluation gold. One-on-one drills are catered to offensive players but positive traits can still be displayed by defenders. A bonus would be the defensive backs utilizing kick-step press technique, the favored tool in Seattle.

The Seahawks have revealed the importance of the Senior Bowl in their player evaluations. L.J. Collier, Damien Lewis, and Jordyn Brooks are previous attendees that have ended up in Seattle. The team specifically spoke about the added importance given the pandemic. 

The event is a chance for guys to prove themselves against a high level of competition - especially important for smaller school prospects. The adaptability to a new environment is tested by Mobile.

Furthermore, the Senior Bowl is a great opportunity for teams to meet with players and observe their behavior. This is of especially high value to front offices given the NFL Combine interviews have turned virtual due to the risk of COVID-19. The 2021 Senior Bowl has become the ultimate job interview.