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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: CB Nate Hobbs

  • The Draft Network
  • February 4, 2021
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Illinois cornerback Nate Hobbs will enter the NFL after an accomplished career with the Illini that featured 35 starts. Hobbs has adequate athletic ability to play cornerback at the pro level and his coverage ability has afforded some significant opportunities in the Big Ten; going back to early career matchups with the likes of Terry McLaurin (Washington Football Team). Hobbs has plus size and suitable length to play on the boundary and his primary coverage in games studied saw him in deep third zones and playing in a half turn to get suitable depth out of the snap to drive and stay leveraged overtop of vertical route stems. Hobbs had a productive career but there was a large point of emphasis on big plays—something Hobbs didn’t make a ton of via turnovers; he logged just three career interceptions and a fumble recovery (returned for a touchdown). That, plus just 11 career passes defensed, leaves you wanting a little bit more from Hobbs given some of the bright flashes you see on tape. This is a scheme-specific developmental prospect. 

Ideal Role: Developmental outside cornerback.

Scheme Fit: C-3/bail-tech-heavy defensive system.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Michigan State (2019), Wisconsin (2019), Rutgers (2020), Nebraska (2020)

Best Game Studied: Michigan State (2019)

Worst Game Studied: Wisconsin (2019)

Man Coverage Skills: Hobbs was predominantly used in deep thirds in the games studied, but he does offer the size profile you’d look for in a press-man corner. His development here, however, may be hindered due to short-area agility and the need to develop clean footwork at the line of scrimmage. Hobbs offers sufficient length and pursuit skills once his hips are opened up the field to challenge vertical routes. 

Zone Coverage Skills: Shows the needed hip hinge to open vertically and stay leveraged over the top of routes that push hard up the field. Hobbs does not necessarily have high-end click-and-close once he’s opened, however, and quick-hitting routes underneath his zone can uncover quickly. In deeper pre-snap alignments, he shows effective trigger skills to drive into the LOS. 

Ball Skills: Just three career interceptions and 11 passes defensed, but the challenges he’s had at the catch point have been of high quality. He’ll rake at the hands of receivers as he arrives late and he does appear to play with the functional length to reach and extend through the body of the receiver. Lack of production here is somewhat of a byproduct of how Illinois played him in coverage. He’ll need to learn how to more tightly shade his coverage to be a bigger presence at the catch point. 

Tackling: Hobbs has shown the ability down the field to wrap up or alternatively cut down ball-carriers and receivers in pursuit. He’s a bigger cornerback and has effective finishing skills in wrap-and-roll scenarios. Hobbs is selective with his aggressiveness in this facet of the game, but when he’s committed he’s capable of delivering effective hits. 

Versatility: I’m not sure I’m sold on Hobbs playing inside in the slot at this point in time and, based on the games studied, he does feel a bit more scheme-specific to stay in a Cover-3-heavy defensive system. That said, he has two years of sparing use as a returner as well on special teams and if you can ignite a fire under him as a tackler, he feels like a viable kick coverage option as well.  

Competitive Toughness: Hobbs is selective here but physically capable of negotiating blocks with effectiveness and even flashes some assertiveness to attack blocks on the perimeter (Rutgers 2020). His length and density offer him upside to press and extend to collapse receivers looking to set an edge, but he’s more likely to linger and serve as the last line of defense instead of charging into the perimeter runs in deep coverage. 

Functional Athleticism: Hobbs should be considered an adequate NFL athlete. His half-turn play in coverage offers him more effective drive for leverage than asking him to play in a pedal. Even in the half-turn, his transitional quickness is only adequate and flooding his zones will lead to the opportunity to dissect his assignment for stronger-armed quarterbacks. 

Football IQ: He’s disciplined to stay in his assignment, but anticipation and ability to feel route development prevents him from logging a high volume of challenges on the football. He’s more reactive to layered targets and underneath routes. 

Run Defending: He has not yet shown a great appetite for attacking the run. He will instead diagnose and wait out pursuit, lingering with depth to ensure the back doesn’t turn up the alley. When he does attack and drive, he shows the needed length to disengage off blocks and effective ability to cut down ball-carriers on the outside. 

Length: Anatomical length appears to meet the thresholds needed to play on the outside at the NFL level. He has shown the ability to, from the hip, attack the hands of receivers and force difficult finishes at the catch point. 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Kyle Crabbs: 69.5/100

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