TDN’s scouting team is a few weeks into our initial film study for the 2022 NFL Draft. Each member of the scouting staff is digging into our respective regions, putting the scouting lens on the draft-eligible prospects, and beginning to write summer scouting reports that will soon populate this website.
During the early stages of the scouting cycle for the 2021 NFL Draft, I got my first look at Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and after studying the tape, his skill set was one that made me text all of my scouting buddies to tell them about the player. Farley’s physical gifts jumped off the screen and his 2019 game tape was simply sensational. It led him to the No. 22 overall selection in the 2021 draft despite limited experience at the cornerback position, opting out of the 2020 season, and an extensive injury history becoming worse once the details of his back injury surfaced and he had another surgery during the pre-draft scouting process.
This year’s version of the player that made me fire off the texts was Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr.
A consensus 5-star recruit, the Georgia native had a sensational high school career. A star cornerback, Booth also played wide receiver and provided additional value as a kick returner. The accolades poured on as he claimed first-team all-county, all-state, and all-region honors. He was the Region Specialist of the Year, County Defensive Back of the Year, and was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game. Booth came to Clemson with high expectations and as he gained more playing time in 2020, it’s quite clear that he’s primed to meet them.
My first exposure to Booth wasn’t when studying film to write the summer scouting report, tracking Clemson throughout the 2020 season revealed plenty of flashes as to the high-level plays he was capable of making. Whether it was the Odell Beckham Jr.-caliber interception against Virginia, the insane pass breakup in the Miami game, him flying across the field against Pittsburgh to snag an interception, the scoop-and-score against Syracuse, or all the physical tackles, Booth popped every time he was on the field. Take two minutes and get acquainted with some of those dynamics plays:
Of course, scouting reports aren’t developed from watching highlight reels, but after in-depth looks at his tape against Ohio State, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Pittsburgh, Booth has the makings of a high first-round selection.
Booth is immensely gifted. Listed at 6-foot and 195 pounds, Booth has ideal size and appears to have sufficient length. From an athleticism standpoint, Booth has terrific play speed, burst, transitional quickness, fluidity, and transitional quickness. There’s no doubt he has the movement skills to mirror in man coverage and he’s lightning-quick driving forward with rapid change of directions skills. He’s sticky in coverage and cedes very little when challenged down the field.
Often what separates good corners from elite playmaking corners are ball skills, and if 2020 was any indication, Booth has what it takes to disrupt at the catch point and take away the football. His receiver background absolutely shows up and it simply appears that the game slows down for him when the ball is in the air, revealing no panic and total comfort. What has a chance to make him really special in terms of playing the ball in the air is not just the athleticism and body control but how he maximizes his length. He breaks on the football with precise timing but has an uncanny ability to extend for the football.
One of the top impressions I gathered from watching Booth is that he is an elite competitor on the football field. He plays a physical and aggressive brand of football and there’s no doubt he plays with an edge. It’s quite clear he doesn’t want to give opposing receivers an inch of cushion in coverage. He is enthusiastic about triggering downhill to tackle and fit the run, and his urgency in pursuit is outstanding. He always wants to be around the football and he plays with a motor that always runs hot.
When it comes to areas of growth to solidify his draft stock, Booth can clean up a few areas. He has a tendency to leave his feet as a tackler, which will occasionally lead to a miss in space, and his zone coverage spacing can be improved with more reps to gain comfort with his landmarks and squeezing routes. Ultimately, the biggest thing for Booth to prove in 2021 is gaining more reps so he can continue to showcase his skill set. He enters the season with only four career starts and about 400 total defensive snaps played.
Even if Derion Kendrick returned to Clemson in 2021, there’s no question Booth would be the Tigers’ No. 1 cornerback, especially after the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State where much was revealed about both players and Booth clearly outshined Kendrick.
The rising crop of cornerbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft is shaping up to be outstanding and Booth has the makings to be one of the first off the board next April.