- Senior Bowl
- NFL Draft
Primed to set the Senior Bowl on fire, UTSA’s Tariq Woolen has presented one of the premier athletic marvels the 2022 draft class has to offer. With height/weight/speed measurables scouts drool over and tape that pops off the screen, Woolen has become the poster child for a group of Roadrunners prepared to make their jump to Sunday football. Following their most successful season in program history, where a 12-win campaign saw head coach Jeff Traylor’s unit jump to as high as No. 15 in the AP Poll, UTSA could see as many as three players come off the board in April, and in turn, set the school record for most players selected in a single draft. While Marcus Davenport (2018, Round 1) headlines just one of two past players with UTSA roots that earned the opportunity to compete at the pro level, Woolen, running back Sincere McCormick, and offensive tackle Spencer Burford—also a Senior Bowl invite—have paved the way for an enticing trio of talents; but none is more exciting than the 6-foot-4 product in Woolen, whose pure athletic talent has sent shockwaves through NFL board rooms as we head into the meat of the pre-draft circuit. A former wideout by trade, Woolen enters the draft process with just two years of experience as an outside defender. In a day in age where athletic profiles often trump technicality, where teams will opt to bring a player in and coach them up to produce a refined product, you’d be hard-pressed to find a prospect in the class with as high a ceiling as Woolen if everything clicks. A tick over 200 pounds, Woolen is a wiry, aggressive cornerback whose vertical prowess on the perimeter, at the forefront, presents an intimidating matchup for smaller, slower wideouts. While he’d likely be the first guy off the board if the upcoming class lined up in a t-shirt and shorts in a pickup game, with a reported 78 3/8-inch wingspan (!!!) and verified 33 1/8-inch arms, he’s a pterodactyl on the perimeter whose range and quickness to close down what looked like open grass has presented elite traits to work with for teams in need of a corner help. While many past NFL ceiling defenders have made the switch from receiver to corner, Woolen’s technical prowess and continued improvement in his mirroring ability are years ahead of where guys like Trevon Diggs out of Alabama and Quinton Dunbar out of Florida were out of college—both of whom were four-star wideouts at the prep level before making the jump to the defensive side of the ball in the SEC. What stands out for Woolen is his lower-half explosion and fluidity. Sure, it’s nice to have elite linear north-south speed, but if you’re unable to change directions, T-step to close, or flip your hips to remain in phase with opposing wideouts in fifth-gear, you simply won’t earn snaps. For Woolen, his ability to consistently remain balanced with feathery feet and a powerful closing step has consistently seen him flash on film working both downhill near the LOS when asked to make tackles in open space or close on pass-catchers’ hands at the point of contact. Although many have looked to find flaws in Woolen’s game, where, yes, just because you are a premier athlete doesn’t mean it will translate in between the lines, Woolen is different and vastly unique in the fact that his herculean testing numbers aren’t just percentiles to ‘wow’ at on a spreadsheet. He’s become one of the prospects with the most to gain heading into April’s draft. As we approach Mobile—home of the Senior Bowl—Woolen will find himself with the boldest of dots next to his name from myself, scouts, and team executives across football—deservedly so. While his production in Conference USA play and athletic projection has got him to this point, if he’s able to dominate isolation scenarios working against some of the class’ premier pass-catching talent, Woolen’s upward trending stock could enter warp speed.
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