Now that the NFL Draft Combine has wrapped up, we now have the fullest view we can get of most of the draft’s prospects. This allows us to finalize rankings, or our so called “big boards,” and determine who us experts have ranked in order based on talent. There are plenty of talented prospects across all possible rounds of the draft, and there will surely be steals and busts labeled everywhere. Players will be knocked for random things, and we’ll hear plenty from “an anonymous scout” until the Draft rolls around in late April. One of the guys who may have some news and highlights around him is former Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore starred in his one season starting, and he just may be the best corner in a draft class full of legitimate starting talent. The goal of Describe in Five is to try to get the best picture of a prospect in just five .gifs, with an explanation behind each one. While you can see who we’ve already discussed here, now we shift to the defensive side and take a look at things with Lattimore.
5. vs. Oklahoma (2016)
This is one of the plays that makes Lattimore so special. He is able to bait the quarterback, Baker Mayfield, into throwing to his receiver because it appears that Lattimore is lagging behind. Once the ball is thrown, he uses his catch up speed to get in front of the pass and return it for 10 or 15 yards. “Baiting” the quarterback is a move that faster and smarter cornerbacks can use, and in an era where teams are passing 30-35 times a game, it is a great trick to keep in the back pocket. Lattimore’s incredible athleticism helps him do this, and he made a very good read on the play when making it.
4. vs. Oklahoma (2016)
Another impressive play from the same game here for Lattimore. He frequently played “bail” coverage in this game, where instead of facing the receiver, the cornerback turns and runs to cover vertical routes. On this play, he does a very good job of staying on top of the receiver so as to disrupt the route. The quarterback still tries to throw the pass with the expectation that the receiver will fight for it, but Lattimore is able to catch up to the ball and make a great interception late in the game. Man coverage skills like these, especially in different techniques, are great to have, and many teams will be looking for a cover corner with Lattimore’s skills.
3. vs. Wisconsin (2016)
One area of play on defense that many people fail to look into with cornerbacks is run defense. Tackling and being able to play the run is an extremely important thing for every player on defense, and Lattimore shows that he has that ability. Here he is able to sniff out of the running back and sort of flow down to the play and make a strong tackle. Corey Clement is a very good running back with decent strength, but Lattimore is able to wrap up his lower body and bring him down, which is very sound technique for a member of the secondary. Stopping the run is half the battle on defense, and with Lattimore, you have a corner that can help you with that.
2. vs. Michigan (2016)
Here is one area that Lattimore will need to work on in the pros: route recognition. Here he is playing with the bail technique again, this time against Michigan receiver Amara Darboh. Lattimore reads the play as a vertical route, but Darboh is able to make it into a sort of hitch route where he can sit below a linebacker in zone coverage and beat out Lattimore. He is lost on the play, and this is a common thing in the NFL. Cornerbacks need to be able to recognize the route their receiver is running, and Lattimore missed out here. Plays like these get easier with more work in practice, so it will likely be something that is smoothed over in time.
1. vs. Nebraska (2016)
Ball skills are what people care about the most with players in the defensive secondary, and Lattimore definitely has them. He had 4 interceptions and 11 passes defensed in his one year as a starter. This play accurately shows what he can do. While he is being beaten vertically, Lattimore is able to catch up and make a diving pass break up on a big play. If he misses this, it is easily a touchdown for the Huskers. He does well to keep up the hand fighting as the ball is coming down, and he times his reach perfectly with the receiver jumping and coming down with the ball. This is exactly how you want to see this ball played, and it is an important trait to have for cornerbacks.
Marshon Lattimore was a great one-year wonder for the Buckeyes, and he showed in that one season that he has traits that translate well to being a top cover corner in the NFL. He showed great ball skills, solid coverage techniques, and good skills in the run game and tackling. While it may take him some time to the adjust to the NFL game and play style, he could likely be a #1 shutdown corner for a team picking in the top of the first round of this draft. If a team in the top 10 picks is in need of a new #1 (like the Jets after losing Darrelle Revis), they would be smart to choose him, where they get a great starting defensive piece from Day 1 on.