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NFL Draft

TDN Scouting Roundtable: Is Man Vs Zone CB Divide Antiquated?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 8, 2020
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It seems like the 2020 NFL Draft just happened, but we move fast here at The Draft Network.

Currently going through summer evaluations for the 2021 NFL Draft class, our scouting team of Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino, Jordan Reid, and Drae Harris are meeting up every day to discuss prospects, traits, and concepts. New to TDN will be a daily scouting roundtable where we go through and identify the most important points of conversation from that day’s meeting.

One of the main sticking points on Monday was at corner, where recent trends and traits at the position were discussed.

Man vs. Zone

In the current NFL, the line between zone and man corners is as blurred as ever. Old ideology dictated that prospects who were bigger, more physical, and less fluid would be zone guys. That same thought process doesn’t work anymore.  

“It’s interesting because there's no longer a true distinction between a man guy and a zone guy, Harris said. “At some point even primarily zone teams are playing man and vice versa. During an actual rep, every zone coverage turns to man once the route has developed anyway.”

This gray area between the two types can also be brought up when discussing the safety position. Box and single-high roles are more comparable than ever, mainly due to the fact that coordinators are putting them out of position on a more frequent basis. Rarely do you see players drafted with the intention to just fill one role without expecting to do a bit of the other. Everyone has to be able to do everything and that same versatile mentality has to go into evaluating draft prospects.

"If anything, it’s easier to segment guys who play off the line and on the line of scrimmage as opposed to those who play zone and man,” Crabbs said.

Speed Turns

When discussing South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn, one of the key points brought up was that he'd be better off executing speed turns during transitions as opposed to fully opening up his hips. Now, what exactly is a speed turn?

Essentially, in the simplest way of describing it, it’s a technique used instead of opening up, where the corner goes all the way around his body as opposed to opening up his hips.

“The thought process there is instead of having to work your hips back against their own momentum and the way you’ve committed them to go, it’s faster just to roll all the way through and go the remaining 270 degrees,” Crabbs said.

The way a speed turn is implemented almost always depends on technique preferences, leverages, and the coverages being instilled, but it’s especially beneficial for longer, tighter-hipped corners who don’t necessarily have ideal fluidity at the position.

In this case, Horn fits that description.

Back-Pedaling is Overrated

It’s natural when you think of the corner position to envision a defender backing up with his body squarely facing the receiver. Well, it’s time to stop.

“I say this all the time, even when I was a scout because I would help facilitate all the West Coast pro days. I would often tell coaches that the “W” drill is one of the most pointless drills, especially for a corner,” Harris mentioned while discussing South Carolina corner Israel Mukuamu.  

“Nowadays, most of the game is played in open (space). How often do you see a corner backpedaling five yards? You rarely see it, especially in the NFL. So I don’t think being able to pedal is as important as it once was.”

Seeing a cornerback's back-pedal on tape is still extremely useful, usually because of the knee bend and foot quickness that are combined along with it, but it’s not a necessity. Ultimately, putting extreme importance on it is outdated and serves little purpose.

Prospects Evaluated:  Justin Fields QB Ohio State, Chris Olave WR Ohio State, Asante Samuel Jr. CB Florida State, Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina, Israel Mukuamu CB South Carolina, Zach Wilson QB BYU, Zac Thomas QB Appalachian State, Justin Rice LB Fresno State, and Matt Bushman TE BYU.

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