Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes has the best ball skills in the 2023 NFL Draft. Forbes has a rare knack for making game-changing plays. His six career pick-sixes represent an all-time FBS record. Forbes’ 14 total interceptions make him the active leader in the FBS as well. With 35 additional pass breakups, there isn’t another prospect that impacts the catch point and takes the ball away like Forbes does.
Forbes recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about the instincts and ball skills that led to a historic amount of production, playing man and zone coverage, running a blazing-fast 4.35 at the NFL Scouting Combine, and more. Forbes also discussed which teams have shown interest in his services throughout the pre-draft process.
JM: You grew up with 10 siblings. What was the household like growing up?
Emmanuel Forbes: It was a lot of fun. Of course, it was very competitive. I was the second youngest of 10. There was a lot of tough love for me (laughs). It made me tougher in all honesty.
JM: How do you think that upbringing nurtured your competitive nature?
Emmanuel Forbes: It helped me out a bunch. It made me want things more if you know what I mean. I had to fight for everything I wanted. It definitely made me the ultimate competitor.
JM: That approach jumps off the screen. So do ball skills. You depart Mississippi State as the owner of the FBS all-time record for pick-sixes (6). You totaled 14 interceptions and 35 pass breakups. Those are video game numbers. What is it about your game that allowed you to get your hands on the football so often?
Emmanuel Forbes: I always put myself in the right positions to make game-changing plays. I put myself in the right position. If I’m there, I’m going to make the play. That’s the main reason why.
JM: Where do your instincts come from? A lot of those interceptions were the result of elite instincts in my opinion.
Emmanuel Forbes: I was a 3-sport athlete growing up. Developing instincts across different sports helped me out a lot. I was a really good baseball player. You need to have good hand-eye coordination to play baseball. That’s where the instincts come from.
JM: At what point did you decide to pursue football over baseball? You were a really good baseball player.
Emmanuel Forbes: If I wanted to continue playing baseball, I eventually was going to need Tommy John surgery. That didn’t appeal to me. That was never going to be an issue during my football career. I was medically assured of that. It was pretty easy to give up baseball.
JM: That’s a fair reason. You played both press-man and zone coverage. Mississippi State mixed up their looks. I thought you were terrific in both, but you must have a preference?
Emmanuel Forbes: I honestly don’t have a preference. I can play both press and zone coverage. Like you said, we played all types of coverage at Mississippi State. I don’t have a preference.
JM: I’ll put you in a scenario then. Say it’s 3rd-and-long with the game on the line. It’s an obvious passing down. Would you rather be manned up, or playing zone with a chance to make a play on the ball near the sticks?
Emmanuel Forbes: I’d rather go to Cover 0 in that scenario. Let’s send a blitz and make the quarterback get the ball out of his hands early. That’s just my opinion.
JM: Wow, that’s a risky call on 3rd-and-long.
Emmanuel Forbes: If you turn on our [Mississippi State] film, you’ll see that we did that a bunch. We loved Cover 0 on 3rd-and-long. We trusted our defense. We had a lot of success with that call. I felt comfortable with those concepts.
JM: I love the boldness. You have terrific length with those 32.5-inch arms. That’s another asset that led to your historic number of interceptions. Talk to me about using length to disrupt the catch point.
Emmanuel Forbes: That’s something we preached at Mississippi State. We approached the ball with a physical mindset when it’s in the air. We had tall, long, fast cornerbacks like myself. We were very physical at the point of contact. If we can’t catch it, we’re going to at least make sure that you don’t catch it. That’s where the length played a pivotal role.
JM: Do you approach bigger, physical receivers differently than you do smaller, shiftier ones?
Emmanuel Forbes: I approach every receiver differently regardless of size. It depends on what my film study tells me.
But yes, if I’m going to press a bigger and slower receiver, I’m definitely going to switch up my technique a little bit.
If I’m down in press coverage against those bigger guys, I won’t be right in his face. I might be a yard or two away. I want him to come to me. I want to force him to get into his route.
Those taller, physical, bigger receivers always take a while to get into their route. They have to go now basically. I play it from there.
JM: That’s a great point. Who’s the dream matchup at receiver for Emmanuel Forbes? If you could choose the opponent in Week 1, who would it be?
Emmanuel Forbes: That’s a great question. I’d have to go with Ja’Marr Chase. I’d love to go up against him.
JM: We can’t wait for that one. You ran a blazing 4.35 at the NFL Scouting Combine with a super-fast 1.48 10-yard split. Do you think you surprised some scouts with your long speed?
Emmanuel Forbes: They thought I was going to be slower (laughs). I was actually supposed to run faster than that, to be honest with you.
JM: What were you hitting in training?
Emmanuel Forbes: I was hitting like 4.27. Scouts were definitely surprised. They thought I was going to run a 4.50.
JM: You proved them wrong. Have you completed any Top 30 visits, private workouts, or Zoom meetings?
Emmanuel Forbes: I had Top 30s with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Commanders, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals to name a few. I’m missing some. I’ve had so many Top 30s. I’ve been busy.
JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. We’ve appreciated your time. This conversation has highlighted why Emmanuel Forbes is one of the best cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Why should a team use a first-round pick on Emmanuel Forbes this Thursday?
Emmanuel Forbes: The game is all about the ball, right? There isn’t another cornerback that takes the ball away like I can. That’s been proven.
You can draft a cornerback that created 14 turnovers in three years of college football. I had six pick-sixes. Nobody changes the game like I can.
I’m going to give our offense opportunities to get the ball back and go score points. I have the most ball production in this class, and that would be the case if we looked at the last few draft classes as well in all honesty. That’s something you should want on your team.
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