Analysis: Senior Bowl Cornerbacks Who Seahawks Could Target in 2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 Senior Bowl featured a ton of long-armed cornerbacks. Ahead of the NFL Draft, and finally armed with the one-on-one footage from Mobile, Matty F. Brown evaluates the best Seahawks fits from the All-Star college event.
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The 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl ended January 30. Nearly four months later and just before the NFL Draft, I’ve managed to get my hands on the one-on-one footage between the wide receivers and cornerbacks. The high level of competition present at the event is invaluable for evaluating prospects, an especially true factor for the smaller school guys.

With Seattle desperately needing to bolster outside cornerback—in 2021 and for the future—I decided to take a look at the Senior Bowl measurements and tape to see which attendees were Seahawk-y. I hope you enjoy my analysis and cut ups.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse

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Melifonwu is the glitzy corner profile with the height, length, and speed—he’s even received first round buzz, a stratosphere that would be well away from Seattle’s range. I really disliked how Melifonwu did not utilize his length in press and I’m sure the Seahawks will have been put off by this too. Melinfonwu was happy to stay over the top of receivers in press technique by using his feet and athleticism, employing an inch/step off technique.

In off coverage, his twitch is impressive given his size. He adjusted his leverage well to route stems and had the confidence to stay patient. By not turning to open too soon, he was able to camp on the intermediate. He opens his hips in off coverage in a gradual manner that allows him to flip back to the underneath break. Ultimately, his play style from press does not feel Seahawk-y.

DJ Daniel, Georgia

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Daniel is an intriguing prospect. He had refined mirror footwork at the line of scrimmage. His quick jam technique, where he came back to balance with good timing, was similarly polished. He was comfortable in his kick step transition to stay on top of the initial release too. Finally, his rerouting featured genuine strength and obviously benefited from his length. He was eager to deploy it.

The issues for Daniel in press came from an athletic standpoint. He lacked twitched out of his transition. Even when initially winning the redline or with a receiver releasing outside of his frame, the receiver was able to run around him. At that point, Daniel lacked the burst or the recovery speed to cut off and ended up getting beat deep.

Daniel’s off coverage featured more positives. Like his press, there was a clear pitching of his tent with Daniel trying to play sound leverage. He also attempted to show route anticipation and be fearless. His footwork was measured. Finally, he was conscientious in trying to prevent box-outs in the short space of goal line work.

However, his lack of twitch out of his break points caused issues. This resulted in Daniel being overly grabby as a recovery move in off coverage. I’m unsure of Daniel’s NFL fit and he’s unlikely to be the answer for Seattle.

Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota

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St-Juste played in very Seahawk-y fashion. The Canadian’s base looked slightly narrow yet, crucially, featured weight on his in-steps. His footwork in press was independent feet, with him push-to-move mirroring the receiver releases. He wasn’t afraid to give some ground with his lateral steps sometimes slightly backwards, which is an aspect Seattle is not afraid of coaching when the receiver has not declared. This is because it buys the defensive back more time without unnecessarily locking the hips up for the pending transition.

St-Juste brought his arms with his feet, just as Seattle coaches like, punching with two hands at the pecs of the receiver. The way he played 2-to-1-to-0 arms is very Seahawk-y. Once the receiver had clearly declared, St-Juste was keen to attack at the line of scrimmage without locking out.

St-Juste instead rode his jam down the field in a Seahawk-y way, and was able to kick step to stay on top of the receiver, tempoing that footwork in order to stay in-phase. He took the air out of releases, cutting them off rather than just running with the receiver downfield. This removes the redline. The way that he moved with his jam and kick-step enabled him to wall an outside release slant that had other corners flummoxed.

St-Juste even employed a read-step with his outside foot on occasion—an element that Seattle coaches their more inexperienced corners in order to build confidence and take away the outside release routes first and foremost.

St-Juste had impressive movement skills to break on intermediate routes, showcasing recovery ability at the break point. This short area quickness will serve him well. The corner described his Senior Bowl invite as a “last minute call,” to Rob Staton of SeahawksDraftBlog. He looks like a Day 2 player.

St-Juste’s major weakness was his location of the ball downfield from bump-and-run coverage. He could also have looked-and-leaned better downfield when in the trail position. It’s these areas that will require the most work in the NFL, with the corner looking uncomfortable. In press, he may overstep slightly giving up the inside, although some of the Senior Bowl releases and routes were borderline stupid. I wish we had more than three minutes of St-Juste’s 1-on-1 tape.

Bryan Mills, North Carolina Central

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Mills made the jump from JUCO to Division I football, where he had a huge season, finishing First Team All Conference while recording five interceptions and 13 pass break ups. Before the Senior Bowl, Mills answered a question from DraftDiamonds on his best trait with: “my press and my jam.”

Sadly, during the Mobile one-on-ones, Mills struggled. He was put in a corkscrew. He struggled to get any connection the at line of scrimmage, overstepping with his mirror and getting turned around. He was plagued by impatience. He opened the gate too early in press with no gradual easing of it. He had the appearance of always being on the verge of recovery mode.

Despite a smooth backpedal, his transitions were lumbering and stiff, with Mills appeared high-hipped and leggy—a linear athlete. In off coverage, he took the cheese on deceptive stems. It would have been nice to see more of a read pedal or skootch technique in goal line off coverage work, as opposed to Mills back-pedaling well into the end zone. This is an experience aspect that can be coached up. The rest is more problematic although it could be a case of Mills needing more time to acclimatize to the level of competition and speed.

Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas

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Rochell promised so much. However, after the first play versus Cornell Powell, he pulled up with what looked like a muscle injury. We were left with his 1 minute and 57 seconds of tape and I’m not sure how much of that was impacted by his tweak.

Rochell looked really big. His press technique looked sushi raw, with him overplaying certain stuff. I’d love to see him improve his kick step/kick slide to stay on top of receivers from press position.

“I really don’t think I’m close to my peak,” was how Rochell analyzed his game in July 2020, talking to Craig Forrestal of DraftDiamonds. Good luck finding Central Arkansas tape to better evaluate the corner.

Keith Taylor, Washington

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You know a cornerback impressed if he makes this article despite having arms shorter than the 32-inch mark. And that’s what Taylor did.

Down at the line of scrimmage, he played with a really wide base and mirror footwork. I would be interested to see this against certain releases because it might place him in some trouble. Sometimes his first step was more lateral, the outside, sometimes it was more forwards, the inside. He soft shoed with his inside foot too, looking to deny space at the immediate line of scrimmage more. He was able to stay fairly loose doing this, but again if you are wrong your hips are inevitably locked and you find it difficult to go with the eventual release if it’s in the other direction to what you expected.

Taylor had the footwork to stay on top of most releases. And his body positioning after the first phases was aggressive, with him working the 45 degree angle rather than fully opening the gate. His kick steps on top were super comfortable, his hips silky smooth, and then he had the speed to get out and on top throughout the route.

Taylor often had subtle-enough grabs and tugs to stay in-phase at certain breakpoints, for instance defending the sideline comeback or inside release dig route, sling-shotting himself towards the ball. He also hand fought downfield with receivers to boss the redline.

Taylor was keen to vision the quarterback and ball through the receiver when the release and/or route allowed for it. Most impressive was his ability to locate the football on deep downfield routes from bump-and-run. He is a natural at knowing how and when to turn back for the ball. His play was feisty throughout the week.

Taylor’s shorter length did show up at the catchpoint sometimes, as his ball production would have been even greater if he had longer arms. His frame is skinny in general and his college tape does feature physicality concerns versus the run. Finally, he earned a few interception opportunities that ended up only as pass deflections, raising some questions over his catching ability.

Former NFL defensive back and brief Seahawk Will Blackmon worked out Keith Taylor in the offseason: “Watching you, I’ve seen you, how you play, watching your film. When you’re in control, you’re good, because there’s no one can run by you and there’s not a route you can’t break on. Right? So let’s be controlled,” Blackmon assessed. I think Taylor cemented himself as a Day 2 selection.