As NFL offenses grow more explosive, the demand for dominant corners increases. The 2021 NFL Draft features a promising crop of defensive backs to help limit these offenses. Two corners stand out in particular.
Caleb Farley dominated in 2019, giving up the third-lowest passer rating in the past 7 years. His combination of elite athleticism and size at 6’2 will translate to the next level. Through sticky coverage, opposing receivers will be hard-pressed to get open.
In particular, Caleb Farley’s fluid hips stand out on film. Receivers are shadowed seamlessly in transition. Wide Receivers rarely have any space to breathe, with Farley’s sticky coverage skills. Not only does the opposition rarely get open, but he also features the ball-hawking skills to convert inaccurate passes into interceptions. On bubble-screens, Farley shows aggressive and cutting angles to the ball-carrier. Although, inconsistent tackling form is one of the few weaknesses of his game.
While he features ideal length for a man coverage corner, Virginia Tech usually played him off-ball. In situations where he jammed receivers at the line, his PFF graded regressed by about six points. Doing so is essential for elite man-coverage. Despite this, he has the athletic traits to win in any scheme with the proper coaching.
Patrick Surtain II
The biggest question mark about Caleb Farley is his decision to opt-out of the 2020 season. Patrick Surtain II dominated the 2020 season with the Crimson Tide. Through sound technical play, Patrick Surtain II operated as a shutdown corner.
At 6’2, alongside Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II utilized his father’s NFL pedigree with his coverage skills. Jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage with great consistency, opposing receivers struggled to get open. He also managed to make high IQ pre-snap reads and diagnosed route-trees before the play.
Despite his refined game, Patrick Surtain II isn’t quite the athlete that Caleb Farley is. He would have expected to run between a 4.5 and 4.6 in the 40-yard dash had he ran at the combine. Rather than having the blazing speed of other corners such as Farley, Surtain II won with technique. Generally, Nick Saban opted to have him shut down one side of the field rather than follow the number 1 receiver around the field. This schematic style resembled Richard Sherman’s time with the Legion of Boom.
Richard Sherman’s Hall of Fame Career shows a clear pathway for heady corners who are elite at jamming receivers off the line. Alongside this skill, Patrick Surtain II shows an incredible ability to diagnose routes.
NFL Teams tend to value potential upside over everything else. Caleb Farley has this type of upside, not to mention the skills of a true shutdown corner. While Caleb Farley edges Patrick Surtain II in potential, you can’t go wrong with either prospect.