There are few commodities more valuable than a cornerback who can excel in press-man coverage.
Press-man corners need a rare skillset, with athleticism, physicality, and great football IQ. Players with all of that are hard to find, but they can give a defense incredible flexibility. The 2022 NFL happens to have an unusually high number of man coverage corners, and that makes focusing on any one a bit tough. So it isn’t a big surprise that Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. isn’t getting more talk in a crowded draft class.
Clemson, as a whole, had a disappointing year and Booth doesn’t stand out physically the way some of his peers do. It also doesn’t help that he’s had a rough path to the draft, suffering a quad strain and sports hernia while training after the 2021 season.
But when he’s healthy and on the field, Booth is athletic, technically sound, versatile, and aggressive. Could Booth be flying just far enough below the radar to be a steal for a team like the New York Giants?
Prospect: Andrew Booth Jr. (23)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2021), vs. Boston College (2021), vs. Pittsburgh (2021), vs. Iowa State (2021)
Red Flags: Quad strain (2022), sports hernia (2022)
Games Played: 25
Tackles For a loss: 3.0
Passes Defensed: 9
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 3.0
Passes Defensed: 5
Best: Mental processing, man coverage, athleticism, physicality, aggressiveness
Worst: Off coverage, long speed
Projection: A starting cornerback with scheme versatility.
Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. has a great combination of athleticism, technique, size, and physicality to play the position at the NFL level.
Booth is a versatile cornerback prospect who played on both the left and right sides of the defense, and took snaps in the slot as well. Booth has experience playing both man and zone coverage in Clemson’s sophisticated defensive scheme.
Booth is most comfortable in tight man coverage. He possesses very quick feet and loose, fluid hips giving him great mirror-match skills in man coverage. Booth uses a stiff jam to disrupt receivers in press-man coverage and is easily able to get into – and stay in – phase with receivers throughout their route. He has a very compact and balanced backpedal, allowing him to gain ground with receivers and wait until the last instant to flip his hips with receivers’ breaks.
Booth is a capable zone defender as well. He quickly gets good depth on his drops and plays with great discipline. He does a good job of picking up and passing off receivers in his area of responsibility. Likewise, Booth plays with one eye in the backfield and has a remarkably fast trigger for underneath plays. He reads the quarterback very well and breaks downhill before the quarterback even finishes his motion.
Booth is an impressively good run defender for a cornerback. He is unafraid of contact and is completely willing to take on bigger blockers before making a play on the ball carrier. At times he even looks as though he is trying to run blockers over on the way to making a tackle. Booth plays with that same aggression as a blitzer as well. He disguises and times his rushes well, but commits fully when he blitzes. Booth doesn’t have much production as a blitzer, but his athleticism and willingness to sustain his pass rush makes him a disruptive player.
There are few true weaknesses in Booth’s game. He can occasionally lose track of receivers when in off coverage, creating opportunities for receptions. Booth can also be a bit prone to losing his tackling form when triggering downhill too quickly.
Booth may also have relatively limited long speed. He didn’t seem to struggle running downfield with receivers, however he also didn’t show “elite” long speed either.
It’s notable that Booth suffered a strained quad while training for the NFL Scouting Combine and was unable to compete. Therefore we don’t have concrete measurables to compare to the rest of the class. It’s also notable that he got sports hernia surgery at the end of March. Booth is expected to make a full recovery in time for his rookie off-season program, but teams might want to pay extra attention to his medical reports.
Overall Grade: 8.4
Andrew Booth projects as a starting cornerback with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
Booth won’t last long on draft day. He has the skill set and experience to thrive in man coverage schemes at the NFL level, and the NFL covets those traits very highly. While zone schemes can be effective, man coverage has a more disruptive effect on offenses and modern defenses need to do everything they can to disrupt offenses.
Booth’s versatility to play a variety of different coverage techniques, play zone coverage, slide inside to play the slot, be an effective blitzer, and a good run defender will only increase his value to teams.
Booth might lack truly elite traits, but he is a very well rounded corner with few true weaknesses in his game. He is one of the cleaner players in this draft and should be a reliable defender from Day 1, with the upside to be an impact player in the right scheme.