The big, long, athletic freak cornerbacks are getting all the attention at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft.
This draft certainly does have some unreal athletes at every position, and cornerback is no different. There are players with incredible combinations of height, weight, and speed, and they are certainly a sight to behold. But those traits aren’t all of what makes a cornerback good at covering wide receivers.
Quickness, football IQ, and discipline are important as well, and those are traits that Washington CB Trent McDuffie has in abundance.
McDuffie won’t be for every team and a defense that focuses on aggressive man coverage, like we expect the New York Giants to do, might want to look elsewhere. However, McDuffie is still a good corner with a role in the NFL and he shouldn’t be overlooked.
Prospect: Trent McDuffie (22)
Games Watched: vs. Stanford (2020), vs. UCLA (2021), vs. Michigan (2021), vs. Oregon (2021)
Games Played: 27
Tackles For a loss: 4.5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 8
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 4.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 6
Best: Quickness, athleticism, zone coverage, competitive toughness
Worst: Size, length, man coverage, tackling form
Projection: A starting cornerback in a zone scheme.
Trent McDuffie is an undersized but smart and athletic cover corner from the University of Washington.
McDuffie primarily aligned as an outside cornerback in Washington’s scheme, playing both the boundary and field, and the left and right sides of the defense. He typically played in zone coverage schemes in the tape watched, usually in Cover-4 or Cover-3 shells.
McDuffie has quick feet and good agility for the position. He is easily able to change direction to gain depth on zone drops, turn and run with receivers, or to close on underneath passes. McDuffie is balanced and patient in his backpedal, with enough confidence in his athletic ability to not panic and flip his hips prematurely.
He also shows good discipline and football IQ as a zone defender. He seems to understand offensive route concepts and tries to put himself in position to avoid schemed traffic from rub routes. He also does a great job of picking up, or passing off, receivers without freelancing and compromising the integrity of his coverage zone. McDuffie always keeps an eye in the offensive backfield and is quick to process what he sees. He has a fast trigger to close on passes in his zone, and enough burst to close down on receiving windows.
McDuffie is an aggressive and physical run defender. He’s willing to come down and take on blockers at the line of scrimmage – including fullback or offensive line blocks – and is a willing hitter in run support. Likewise, he shows great competitive toughness in pursuit. He is willing to pursue plays from behind, as well as run downfield to chase down breakaway runners.
While McDuffie is willing, his lack of size shows up as a run defender. He is physical taking on most blockers, but he is at a significant length disadvantage and can be outmuscled on the perimeter. McDuffie is also a willing hitter but not a reliable tackler. Like many DBs, he relies on shoulder checks too often and can bounce off ball carriers who are prepared for a hit.
McDuffie was almost always in zone coverage in the tape viewed. His ability to play man coverage is unknown at this point. He has the requisite athleticism, but his lack of length and some slight hip tightness could hold him back as a man cover corner.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Trent McDuffie has the traits to become a starting cornerback for a team that primarily – or exclusively – run zone coverages. He’s at his best in Cover 4 shells, but also has the range to man Cover-2 or Cover-3 schemes as well.
That said, he likely lacks the physical traits to play for a team that primarily uses man coverage, particularly press-man coverage. He is short and has short arms, making jams difficult at the line of scrimmage, and opening him up to receivers high-pointing the ball over him in contested catch situations. Likewise, McDuffie relies more on quick feet that oily hips to change directions, which could make staying in phase difficult in tight man coverage.
McDuffie would likely grade out much better as a pure zone coverage player than if the questions about his man coverage are taken into consideration.
He is undersized but stoutly built at 5-foot 10 ¾ inches, 193 pounds. Some teams could look at him as a slot corner based on his size and quickness, though his tape shows the ability to start on the outside in the right scheme.
McDuffie is a smart, disciplined cornerback who understands offensive concepts and does a good job of watching the quarterback for clues. That helps him to patrol his zones of responsibility without being overly vulnerable to zone-beater concepts. He lets the quarterback lead him to the play and rarely guesses wrong.
Teams will definitely want to work with McDuffie on his tackling. He is smart in his angles and willing to be physical when taking on blocks and delivering hits, but his tackling just isn’t reliable yet. He needs to become more of a form tackler to reliably bring down ball carriers at the NFL level.