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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: WR Cornell Powell

  • The Draft Network
  • January 8, 2021
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Buried on the depth chart, Clemson wide receiver Cornell Powell did not catch more than 15 passes in any season from 2016-2019 but exploded onto the scene in 2020 when he hauled in 53 receptions for 882 yards and seven touchdowns. He truly shined when DJ Uiagalelei started in place of Trevor Lawrence and he averaged more than 120 receiving yards per game over the final six games of the season. His chemistry with Uiagalelei carried over to when Lawrence returned to the lineup and he had one of his personal best games of the season against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. In a limited sample size, Powell had many exciting flashes when it came to route-running, hands, ball skills, and the ability to win after the catch. The concern with Powell really stems from a limited sample size and why it took him five years at Clemson to make any sort of impact. Powell is an intriguing developmental option that is an ascending talent based on how he produced in 2020. 

Ideal Role: Developmental wide receiver.

Scheme Fit: Any.


Written by Joe Marino 

Games watched: Boston College (2020), Syracuse (2020), Notre Dame RS (2020), Pittsburgh (2020), Ohio State (2020)  

Best Game Studied: Pittsburgh (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Syracuse (2020) 

Route Running: Powell is a smooth route-runner that makes seamless vertical cuts that are executed with precise timing. Overall, he does well not to tip his route breaks and he has good quickness in and out of breaks. With that said, there is room for him to develop more deception and expand his route tree. 

Hands: Powell has soft and reliable hands. He’s able to pluck the football away from his frame with his extension and hang on through contact. In a small sample size, he illustrated the ability to extend his catch radius and secure the football in traffic. Powell had four drops on 134 career targets. 

Separation: Powell feasts on off-man coverage where his ability to accelerate, eat up cushion, stack, and separate shines. He runs routes with good timing, which enables him to plant, drive, and accelerate away from coverage. In a small sample size, I was impressed with his ability to find and attack space against zones. 

Release Package: Powell played most of his reps out wide and faced a fair amount of press coverage in 2020. During those reps, he showed the ability to clear contact but there is room to grow, as there were instances where he got hung up and needed to blend his hand and footwork together to defeat the jam. He glides out of his stance and does well to vary his stride length. 

Run After Catch: Powell had some dynamic plays post-catch in 2020 and the first Notre Dame and Pittsburgh games both stand out in that area. He is physical and decisive as a ball-carrier with enough wiggle to shake tackles. He has enough twitch to make defenders miss in space. 

Ball Skills: In a small sample size, Powell showcased the ability to track and adjust to the football down the field. He knows how to get himself positioned at the catch point and he has a natural feel for the ball's arrival. He makes good late adjustments and my exposures did not reveal issues with the ball getting on top of him. 

Football IQ: Powell barely saw the field in 2016-2019 but he was ready when his number was called in 2020. Given how small the sample size for Powell, his technique is quite impressive. Powell appears to have good spatial awareness. 

Versatility: Powell has upside from the slot and out wide but primarily played out wide for Clemson. He has appeal at all levels of the field for targets. Powell has eight career kick returns and one punt return. Surprisingly, he didn’t play much on special teams despite being a depth receiver for most of his career. 

Competitive Toughness: Powell being ready to deliver like he did in 2020 after being buried on the depth chart from 2016-2020 speaks to his competitive toughness. He battles as a blocker and competes for extra yardage after the catch. Powell’s motor is always running hot. 

Big-Play Ability: Powell showed his ability down the field in 2020 when he averaged more than 16 yards per reception and hauled in eight passes when he was targeted 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. He is productive after the catch and accelerates quickly with how his stride length eats away turf. He isn’t a blazer but there are traits present that can help him overcome that. 

Prospect Comparison: Jermaine Kearse (2012 NFL Draft, UDFA)  


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 71.5/100

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