Seahawks 2021 Draft Profile: Paulson Adebo

An analysis of Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo—a potential high upside play for the Seahawks in the mid rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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Having lost starters Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar this offseason, the Seahawks are in search of more cornerback depth. They have one starter seemingly established on the right side in 2020 breakout D.J. Reed, and a competition for the job opposite him between free agent signing Ahkello Witherspoon, Tre Flowers, and possibly Damarious Randall.

There will likely be at least one more name added to that group at some point either through free agency or in the draft. They were involved in Griffin's market before he agreed to a whopping three-year, $40 million contract with the Jaguars, as well as Dunbar's until he landed with the Lions. They've also been linked to a possible reunion with future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman.

But it may be the draft where they finally land their guy. Aside from wide receiver, the incoming class of cornerback prospects is the deepest position group the 2021 NFL Draft has to offer. There should be plenty of opportunities for a team like the Seahawks, who currently boast a league-worst three picks in next week's event, to come away with someone they like.

Many mock drafts have them taking a cornerback with their first pick, namely Syracuse's Ifeatu Melifonwu. However, with their limited selections and a plethora of other needs along their roster, this may wait considering they already have a player in-house, Witherspoon, they really like for the left cornerback job. They may not have that at a spot like strong-side linebacker, center, or slot receiver. 

If they wait to go corner later in the draft, specifically at their second schedule pick at No. 129, Stanford's Paulson Adebo is a name to keep an eye on. After opting out of the 2020 PAC-12 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Adebo's lost some of the momentum he built in three years with the Cardinal, particularly in 2018. Let's take a look at what he has to offer.

Strengths

Adebo had a very productive collegiate career from a pure stats perspective, putting up eight interceptions and 27 pass deflections over the course of two seasons. He put his length to great use, causing problems for opposing receivers by suffocating them with his reach—albeit shy of the Seahawks' standard of 32 inch-long arms; he measured at 311/2.

Speed may be Adebo's best tool, registering a 4.45 40-yard dash time at his pro day in mid March. Although he could add a bit more strength and thump, he flies to the ball like a torpedo and attacks. He can go step-for-step with any receiver and beat them to their spot, and has the quickness to make up ground if needed.

A converted receiver, Adebo is sure-handed, which greatly assisted his high interception total. While a couple of those turnovers were gifted to him, his intelligence was put on full display with a few great plays on the ball to flip field position. While he has quite a few warts, which we'll get to in a moment, his above-average ability to change the course of a game on a dime is quite appealing. 

Though he isn't incredibly physical, he doesn't shy away from making the occasional tackle. His technique in that department is sound and he has the speed and agility to get to the ball-carrier to make the necessary play. 

Weaknesses

There are quite a few reasons Adebo's stock has diminished over time. Firstly, no one's seen him play in roughly a year-and-a-half since he opted out of the 2020 season. Secondly, his 2019 - while statistically comparable to his campaign the year prior - wasn't great on tape and was cut short by an injury that remains a mystery to the public. 

So a lot of the information we're going off of is fairly outdated, since it mostly pertains to what Adebo did nearly two years ago. But since that's pretty much what we have to work with, there are a few other hiccups in his game to go over.

As evidenced by his speed, Adebo is quite the athlete. However, he tends to not back that up in his coverage, especially from a technical standpoint. He has the tendency to not look very comfortable in his body, getting flat-footed in his backpedal and appearing stiff in his hips with change-of-direction.

He's prone to being deceived by a quarterback's eyes and opposing receivers' double moves, perhaps due to his burning desire for the ball. It's a very real problem and he's paid dearly for it multiple times in games, particularly against UCF in 2019. He'll need to become more disciplined because he doesn't seem to have the ability to recover from those mistakes in a timely fashion. 

Seahawks fans are well aware of Shaquill Griffin's struggles with turning his head around to the ball when targeted, and Adebo suffers from the same problem. While he has the straight-line speed to hang with most receivers, he's going to get tagged for quite a few downfield penalties in the NFL if he doesn't fix this.

Fit in Seattle

As you may be able to tell, there are some significant red flags on Adebo. However, most of these issues are relatively fixable and he offers some strengths that are hard to come by in the mid rounds of the draft. 

What makes the Seahawks a great fit for him is simple: they don't have to rely on him to start in 2021. They can ease him into the process, help him work on some of the issues we covered, and see where that takes him. And if anyone is going to get him right, it's widely acclaimed cornerback guru and Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.

His gifted profile fits everything the Seahawks love their corners to do, both in zone and press. He has the makeup to be that prototypical Seattle corner, even if he doesn't check every single box in testing. It all comes down to getting his flaws hammered out, but if so, he could be yet another cornerback success story to come out of the Pacific Northwest.