NFL teams are always mining the later rounds of the draft for under-the-radar gems with tons of potential. Oregon cornerback Deommodore Lenoir has the tools to be one of those players in this year’s class.
Lenoir recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his impressive career at Oregon, his background as a running back, why he gets his hands on the football so often, and why he’ll make an impact at the next level.
JM: You have a background playing both running back and wide receiver. That’s interesting to me. How did that make you a better cornerback?
DL: It really just helped me athletically more than anything else. It also allows me to think like a receiver or like a running back would. It gives me that option to really know what they’re thinking about when I’m going up against them.
For example, it especially helps me when I’m trying to make a tackle on a running back. When I’m going up against a receiver, my background gives me an easy read on different types of routes. I feel like I’m in their head sometimes.
JM: How are you handling this pre-draft process so far?
DL: It’s a little bit crazy (laughs). It’s a grind but I love to work hard and grind. I’m embracing it so far.
JM: One of the things that jumps out at me about your game is your ability to get your hands on the football. You leave Oregon with 27 career pass break-ups and six interceptions to your name. What is it about your game that allows you to be around the ball so often?
DL: In reality, I’m a dog out there (laughs). That’s why. I’m always thinking about what I can do to get the ball back for our offense. That’s always going through my mind. Creating turnovers is the best thing I can do. I love to get my hands on the ball. It makes me feel more dominant.
JM: You lined up both inside and outside in Oregon’s hybrid scheme. What can you tell me about the defense and what your role was?
DL: The scheme allowed me to have more one-on-one matchups. It brought the best out of all of us. We always had competitors in the secondary and we loved the opportunities that our scheme afforded us. We were always trying to one-up one another (laughs). Don’t get me wrong though, we wanted one another to succeed.
JM: I love that. We’ve touched on your ball skills quite a bit, but what would you say some of your other strengths are? Also, what are some of your weaknesses and how are you trying to improve in those areas?
DL: Another strength of mine would be my ability to excel in press coverage. I feel like I’m the best cornerback in this draft when it comes to playing press coverage. That’s how confident I am when playing press-man.
I wouldn’t really say that it’s a weakness, but I’m working on my skills in off coverage. I’m a better press-man corner than I am an off-man corner right now. I could read quarterbacks a little bit better in off coverage than I do currently. I’m working on that right now.
JM: That’s fair. What’s your favorite part of playing the cornerback position?
DL: I love playing on third down. I say that because in a third-and-obvious passing situation, the quarterback has to go at somebody. With me spending most of my time out there on the boundary, that’s where the one-on-one matchups are. I know every quarterback loves a one-on-one opportunity. There’s a good chance I’m going to get tested and I always welcome the challenge. I want the QB to throw it my way.
JM: That’s a great answer. Playing at Oregon afforded you the opportunity to play against some of the best competition college football has to offer. Who are some of the best receivers you’ve ever had to cover?
DL: Brandon Aiyuk and N’Keal Harry from Arizona State come to mind. Laviska Shenault, Jr. from Colorado was a good one. He’s with the Jacksonville Jaguars now. USC always has a good receiver. Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, and Amon-Ra St. Brown are pretty special.
JM: Those are some great receivers right there. Do you have a favorite moment in an Oregon jersey?
DL: I had this one-handed interception against USC at home. That was probably my favorite moment.
JM: That was a good one. If you could pick off any NFL quarterback, who would you choose and why?
DL: Patrick Mahomes. I would pick him because he’s the quarterback that’s always looking to make a play. He takes the most risks downfield. I love it. I respect that about his game. He probably throws the most deep balls. If I could pick off one of his passes, that would be a lot of fun. He’s one of the top-tier guys right now.
JM: That’s a good choice. How do you approach a bigger, more physical receiver differently in coverage than you may a smaller, more shiftier guy?
DL: I use my technique a little bit more with those bigger receivers. I’m comfortable leaning on my technique with those guys. I know that they’re much heavier and running crisp routes isn’t always their strong suit. They want to lean on their size and overall physicality. That’s where my technique comes into play and I can negate some of what they’re trying to do. I get a bit more aggressive with them.
JM: That makes sense. We’ve now reached the virtual part of the draft. How are your Zoom meetings going so far? Which teams have you met with?
DL: I’ve met with the Patriots, Panthers, 49ers, and Colts. All of my meetings have gone well so far. I’m excited to continue the process.
JM: That’s great. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Deommodore. In closing, what kind of impact are you going to make at the next level?
DL: Whichever team drafts me is gonna get a dog. I’m a person and player that’s going to make the team better.