The 2021 NFL Draft has a deep and talented class of cornerbacks. Not only is there a potentially elite trio (or perhaps quartet) of corners who will likely be selected in the first half of the first round, but there is solid depth throughout the position group.
Teams will likely be able to find good values late into the second day of the draft, with potential starters slipping due to the volume of good cornerbacks available. Stanford corner Paulson Adebo is one of those corners who has been on the fringes of the cornerback conversation throughout the process.
He was expected to take strides in 2020 after tying for the lead in the Pac-12 with 4 interceptions in 2019 despite his season ending early due to injury. However, he opted out of the season and slipped below the national radar. But recently he reminded observers of his potential with an exciting Pro Day performance which highlighted his athleticism.
Could Adebo be a sleeper for the right team?
Prospect: Paulson Adebo
Games Watched: vs. UCF (2019), vs. UCLA (2019), vs. USC (2019)
Red Flags: season-ending injury (2019)
Height: 6010 (6-foot-1)
Weight: 198 pounds
Arm Length: 31 1⁄2 inches
Hand Span: 10 inches
40 Time: 4.42 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.70 seconds
Short Shuttle: 4.09 seconds
Vertical Leap: 36.5 inches
Broad Jump: 10-foot-1
Games Played: 22
Tackles For a loss: 5.0
Passes Defensed: 27
Forced Fumbles: 1
Games Played: 9
Tackles For a loss: 0
Passes Defensed: 10
Forced Fumbles: 0
Best: Length, physicality, aggressiveness, short-area quickness, hip fluidity
Worst: Make-up speed, over-aggressiveness
Projection: A starting cornerback in an off-man or zone scheme.
Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo is a long outside cornerback with starting upside at the NFL level.
Adebo typically lined up at the left cornerback position in the Stanford defense and played off-man or zone coverages. He doesn’t waste much motion off the snap and getting into phase with the receiver he is covering. Adebo generally shows a relatively smooth backpedal, getting depth while staying balanced in his drops. He also has enough speed to keep up with most receivers down the field, using long strides to stay in phase with receivers on deep routes.
Adebo has very good ball skills, recording 27 passes defensed and 8 interceptions over the last two seasons. Those passes defensed rank 8th in the Pac-12 since 2005 and his 4 interceptions lead the Pac-12 in 2019. Adebo tracks the ball well down the field, making adjustments and using his length to shrink and close receiving windows. He uses his length well to extend and disrupt passes, either playing through receivers’ hands or high-pointing the ball for interceptions.
Adebo also shows good competitive toughness as a run defender, with good willingness to come downhill and take on blockers or make tackles. He is also a good blitzer, with a good burst into the backfield and commitment to the rush. He is an aggressive defender who is perfectly willing to fly around the field and get his hands dirty.
Adebo is a good, but not elite athlete, which can show up when his aggressiveness gets the better of him. There were multiple occasions in the tape viewed in which he bit hard on double-moves or route fakes from receivers and simply did not have the extra gear to recover and make a play at the catch point. He also has a tendency to open his hips early in reps where he is playing off coverage, which can slow his transition downhill to defend underneath plays, or make it more difficult for him to keep up with receivers when they break sharply.
Adebo shows a slight hesitation in picking up and passing off receivers when dropping into deeper coverage zones. And while Adebo has good competitive toughness and willingness as a run defender, he needs to improve his ability to shed blocks when playing the run.
Overall Grade: 8.0 – This prospect has the traits to work his way into a starting job in the right system.
Adebo projects best as an eventual starting outside corner in a defense which mixes off-man and shallow zone coverages. He has the length and strength required for press man coverage, but issues biting on double-moves could make that problematic against quicker receivers or NFL-caliber route technicians. Likewise, he will need to become more patient in turning to run with receivers.
Adebo is at his best when closing receiving windows and playing the ball at the catch point. He is a natural ballhawk who plays passes like a receiver with the ball in the air. He is also physical at the point of contact and doesn’t shy away from tackling or getting his hands dirty in run defense. He’ll have further value for defenses that like to mix in corner blitzes, as he shows good burst, timing, and commitment as a rusher.
Adebo should be used exclusively as an outside corner and not be. asked to travel with receivers or play the slot. He has the ability to stay in phase with most receivers — particularly those in the mold of a “possession receiver” — but doesn’t have the quickness to match up with slot receivers.
Adebo should prove to be an attractive prospect for defenses, offering good value to teams who aren’t in a position to pick from the top tier of cornerbacks.