How do teams evaluate players who don’t just push the boundaries of their physical thresholds for positions, but wind up as significant outliers?
The New York Giants seem to ascribe to the belief that size is not a skill, but other teams are very strict in their size thresholds. That could make the draft stock Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes extremely dependent on the team scouting him.
Forbes is one of the most — if not the most — productive defensive back in the country. Not only is he a sticky coverage player, but he is a big play threat with 6 defensive touchdowns in his career. On the other hand, he has a very slender build and lacks play strength.
What kind of prospect is Forbes on the field?
Games Played: 35
Tackles For a loss: 6.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 20
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 1
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes defensed: 10
Best: Length, athleticism, fluidity, coverage ability, ball skills
Worst: Weight, play strength, hand discipline
Projection: An important rotational corner, with starting upside in an aggressive coverage scheme.
(Forbes is Mississippi State cornerback number 13)
Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes is a long, explosively athletic, fluid, and incredibly productive cornerback prospect.
Forbes has been one of the most productive corners in the nation since his true freshman season. He has 20 passes defensed, 14 interceptions, and 6 defensive touchdowns in his 35 games.
Forbes typically lines up as an outside corner in Mississippi State’s defense, typically on the defensive right. He is occasionally moved around the defensive formation to the left or slot, but is usually the right cornerback. Forbes has scheme diversity and played both off-man and press-man coverage, as well as zone coverage in the Bulldogs’s scheme.
He is surprisingly physical at the line of scrimmage and is unafraid to get his hands on receivers at the start of the play. Forbes is a fluid and athletic corner with a smooth, compact backpedal with quick feet and oily hips. That quickness and fluidity allows him to effortlessly transition from his backpedal to driving forward against underneath passes or staying in phase with receivers as he flips his hips to run. Forbes has great long speed as well as an elite burst and short area quickness, allowing him to defend vertically or cover quick timing routes.
Forbes has good football IQ and understands his role in both man and zone coverage. He is disciplined as a zone defender and is a good communicator before the snap. He does a good job of reading quarterbacks eyes, as well picking up and passing off receivers traveling through his zone of responsibility. He also has a good understanding of post-snap coverage rules and doesn’t struggle against release strategies designed to put corners in conflict.
Forbes is a legitimate ballhawk with great instincts in coverage. He does a good job of anticipating the play, bating quarterbacks into making ill-advised throws, and making them pay when they test him. Forbes puts his length and burst to good use in off coverage, slamming receiving windows shut, even when receivers appear to be open. His speed makes him a threat to score whenever he gets his hands on the ball.
Forbes does need to be more disciplined with his hand usage in man coverage. He can occasionally get “grabby” down the field, and that will certainly draw pass interference penalties at the NFL level.
His greatest weakness is obviously his lack of size. Forbes has a slender frame and a very lean build. He can be knocked around by incidental contact when playing in traffic, and struggle to bring down ball carriers when the ball comes straight at him.
Forbes has good competitive toughness and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in run support, but he will struggle to deal with stouter blockers and get ball carriers on the ground when he can’t wrap up perfectly. He is consistently forced to sell out completely on tackles, and that often takes him out of good position to make a form tackle.
Overall Grade: 7.5
Emmanuel Forbes projects as an important rotational cornerback with starting upside in an aggressive defense.
Forbes is a tricky evaluation. He has many traits that scouts love to see in cornerbacks at the NFL level. He has elite athleticism, great length, and fantastic ball skills. He’s a tough, smart, and aggressive defender – particularly when making a play on the ball. However, he is undeniably thin, and it shows up throughout his tape.
A charitable description of him is “wirey”, while teams with strict measurable thresholds are probably more apt to use “skinny”. Forbes was actively avoided by offenses in the tape viewed and he has the potential to make a game-changing play whenever the ball did go his way. However, his lack of mass and play strength are going to be issues at the NFL level.
Teams will need to make a decision whether they value Forbes’ athleticism and playmaking skills more than they are concerned with his whip-thin frame. The potential rewards offered by Forbes’ upside are tantalizing, but the potential risks are very real as well.