The cornerback class in the 2022 NFL Draft has a few safe starters at the top that could help teams right away. However, even the top two in the group have significant deficiencies that could cause teams to worry.
Andrew Booth Jr – Clemson
Arguably, football coaches love little more in a player than intensity. In that respect, they might like Andrew Booth, because he plays this game with just that – and with great aggression.
Booth is very motivated to tackle, especially against the run. However, he is sometimes too aggressive and unclean in his technique in this area. He often leaves the ground on tackles, risking missing the tackle and leaving a lot of room for a runner.
However, that is not his core discipline either. Rather, we are talking about a very good cornerback who is basically not tied to any system. He’s been zone-playing lately, but he’s also featured frequently in press-man and man-coverage, precisely because Brent Venables’ defense at Clemson combined the two. This makes it a very good all-rounder that can be used in a variety of ways. At least when it comes to one of the outside positions, because Booth only played sporadically in the slot.
One of his best skills are his feet, which make him very agile and allow him to stick to his opponents even when changing direction. However, he sometimes overdoes it with his steps, especially when he reacts too quickly to feints from his opponents in coverage and then has to get back into position first.
At 1.83 meters, he is a decent size for an NFL cornerback and is therefore also able to attack higher balls.
Andrew Booth: Is it enough for the first round?
He is very agile in the route and can accelerate at the right time to close any gaps just before the catch. In addition, he has a good eye and estimates the trajectory of the ball at a high level, which means that his anticipation is also very good.
What he needs to work on, however, is said tackling. And he needs to be more cautious about reacting to what he’s seeing from the quarterback, for example. Too many times in college he fell for pump fakes and the like. Sometimes he also seems to think too much in general before the ball is even in the air. In addition, he should not be involved too often in sprint duels on deep routes, because he may lack the top speed for that.
What should also be of concern to NFL teams is the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of experience on the field. He only became a starter during the 2020 season and was therefore only active as a full-time starter in 2021. But that also means that he should get even better with more match practice in the near future.
Due to his all-rounder qualities, Booth can play in almost any system, but often acted in shell concepts at Clemson, which are also being used more and more in the NFL. However, since he is not limited to specific systems, it is also difficult to find the perfect team for him.
He could board in Round 1, especially if one of the better teams at the end of the round wants to go for cornerback on day one. But otherwise, I see his spot early on day two when the teams that tended to O-line or pass rush early in Round 1 then want to tackle the secondary.
Kaiir Elam looks like a top cornerback at first glance. He is tall (1.88m), weighs around 89 kilograms and is also quite fast for his stature (40-time: 4.39 seconds).
That makes him perfect for press coverage, but he also played a lot of zone for Florida. When he played press, he usually managed to disrupt the receiver on release and win early.
He is quite flexible in the hips and has a fluid movement, which also helps him with quick changes of direction. He also brings good instincts and left the quarterback’s eyes. Elam, he rarely falls for receiver double moves and has no trouble asserting himself on the sidelines in running duels. In addition, he makes good use of his size and bounce to assert himself in jump balls.
In general, he uses his massive body to assert himself against his opponents. It should also be mentioned that Elam was a wide receiver in high school and was quite convincing. He has 1,490 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
However, he did not necessarily demonstrate these good ball skills in college. He has only had 3 interceptions in the past two years while also giving up 5 touchdowns.
However, he sometimes overdoes it with his hands and received some penalties for it. Last season there were 7 in 10 games. In the NFL, there should be a lot more with special attention to illegal contact if he doesn’t turn off these tendencies.
Kaiir Elam: Missing end speed as a problem
He can also be beaten when it comes to stopping abruptly and then picking up speed quickly when the play is in front of him and a receiver moves past him with rapid movements. This happens above all when he acts too far back, i.e. gives the receiver too much space at the beginning of the route.
And even if he brings with him an initial quickness, he lacks a bit of high top speed. In other words: speedsters can pull past him and show him the taillights.
He also has to be more consistent when it comes to tackling. Especially when he helps out in the run game, he may still lack the intensity and, above all, better technique – it’s not enough to go into the man with his physique, he also has to use his arms consistently to bring the opponent to the ground .
In addition, he showed weaknesses when he had to recognize route combinations and react accordingly.
Kaiir Elam: Will he find his way back to top form?
The biggest red flag for him, however, is the fact that Elam has not necessarily had its strongest season in 2021. After a knee injury, he missed three games and was noticeably different after that. So the big question for teams is whether he’s recovered or will his recent performances continue.
All in all, it will be interesting to see whether it will be enough for him for round 1. Round 2 is more likely when the top cornerbacks are off the board and teams are still looking for high upside guys.
So where could Elam land? Everyone can actually use a great cornerback who mainly plays outside. Arguably his best role is press-zone because that would allow you to use his pressing qualities on the line, but at the same time not expose him to extremely fast opponents. A team that would certainly be interesting are the Arizona Cardinals, who are quite thin on cornerback and could also improve in terms of size. The Chiefs should also be interested, after all they lost a starter in Charvarius Ward and have not yet replaced him externally.