The 2022 NFL Draft is full of cornerbacks in round one. Unfortunately, there seems to be a heavy drop-off on day two of the draft. One player that will be selected on day two that isn’t getting enough attention is Martin Emerson of Mississippi State. The former three-star recruit from Florida chose to attend Mississippi State over schools like Miami, Florida International, and Florida Atlantic. Emerson appeared in over 30 games for the Bulldogs over his three-year career, and was the team’s starting left cornerback for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He succeeds in both man and zone coverage, and his length and instincts will be coveted at the next level.
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Name: Martin Emerson
Jersey: No. 1
School: Mississippi State
Weight: 200 lbs
Games Watched: Alabama (2020), Alabama (2021), Texas A&M (2021), Memphis (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Man Coverage (11/15)
Emerson is solid in man coverage. He faced tremendous competition playing in the SEC, and while there were times when he let up scores, it wasn’t necessarily all his fault. Emerson has faced the likes of DeVonta Smith, Jameson Williams, and John Metchie against Alabama the last two seasons. Metchie was smooth enough with his routes to make Emerson look like a fool, while Williams flew by Emerson with his elite speed. When he plays man coverage, Emerson primarily will press the receivers at the line of scrimmage, which we’ll get to shortly.
Zone Coverage (13.5/15)
Emerson is generally really stout in zone coverage. Mississippi State deployed a ton of zone coverage, and he did very well in the scheme. Emerson played very well in cover two, three, and four and consistently knew which receiver to cover and when to let that receiver go into the next zone. He does a great job of looking at the quarterback in quick game and is a consistent factor in breaking up passes in zone coverage.
Emerson’s instincts are a fantastic part of his game. He has a great understanding of the scheme deployed by the Bulldogs and is consistently communicating pre-snap. Emerson does an outstanding job of keeping his eyes on the quarterback in zone coverage. By doing so, Emerson can look from his number one receiver to see the quarterback checking down to the running back on his side.
Ball Skills (6.25/10)
With Emerson playing a ton of zone coverage, he rarely had the opportunity to break up passes or intercept passes downfield because the receivers were almost always in front of him. In his three seasons with Mississippi State, Emerson only totaled one interception. While that isn’t the greatest thing to see on a scouting report, the lack of interceptions wasn’t his fault, and it was part of the scheme forcing underneath throws due to the deep coverage. With his instincts and length, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Emerson surprise in his interception numbers at the next level.
When Emerson is playing man coverage, he typically does so by pressing opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. He is physical from the snap and can manhandle cornerbacks to the point they can’t get into their route. Thanks to his length, Emerson does fantastic in this regard, and it will be a welcomed addition at the next level.
Long Speed (7.75/10)
It was seen consistently that Emerson doesn’t have the greatest speed in the class. He was torched down the field by Williams in the Alabama game, and he struggled to catch up with receivers racing down the sideline. Emerson ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash, which seemed right with what was on film. It may not be the biggest concern at the next level, but he most certainly doesn’t have the greatest speed, which may keep him off some team’s radars and make him go later in the draft.
Tackling/Run Support (8.25/10)
Emerson is quite physical in the run game. He is consistently in gang tackles and isn’t afraid of contact. While there were a few cases of him missing tackle due to aiming low and diving at the ball carrier, Emerson is typically a good tackler. He has a tenacity for being aggressive, and there were multiple cases of him having great tackling form to stop the receiver almost as soon as they get the ball in their hands.
Emerson’s athleticism isn’t amazing, but it isn’t terrible. It is good, and while he doesn’t have the elite top-end speed to cover receivers like Williams. He scored in the eight range on the RAS scale, with mostly good grades outside of his vertical jump, which he struggled in, and his elite numbers in his measurables.
Change of Direction (3.5/5)
Due to his length, it isn’t necessarily a surprise to see Emerson struggle in this regard a little bit. While it isn’t as much as many would expect, there is still an issue at the top of routes where Emerson struggles to break and get back to the ball.
Emerson’s length is his best attribute. At six-foot-two, he has the biggest hand, wingspan, and tied for the longest arms in the class with Ahmad Gardner. In the third round, Emerson will be coveted due to his absurd length, and teams that run a heavy amount of zone coverage like the Texans would be wise to take a look at him on day two of the draft.
Overall, Emerson is a solid cornerback that could fight for a starting spot during his rookie season. His consensus draft spot on late day two of the draft is just about right. Emerson does well in both man and zone coverages, pair that with the fact he has outstanding instincts, length, and is only 21 years old, and he will be coveted on Friday, which some teams will love due to the drop-off of talent at the cornerback position.
Rookie Projection: Third Outside Cornerback
Third Year Projection: Starting Outside Cornerback
Final Grade (80.25/100): Early Third Round
Player Comp: Amani Oruwariye