Tariq Woolen tested out with a raw athletic score of 10.0 after his performance at the NFL combine. The uber-long, 6-foot-4 corner has drawn some of the biggest hype post-combine in draft history. The testing was off the charts for Woolen. He ran a 4.26 40 yard-dash and had a 42-inch vertical jump. But you don’t strictly draft an NFL player off of traits. A big factor regarding Woolen is experience. He only recently switched over to play corner from wide receiver, so he’s still very raw at the position. Nevertheless, with scouting, you take into account all new information. With that being said, we must go back to the tape and see if Woolen’s play matches up to his athleticism.
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Name: Tariq Woolen
Jersey: No. 3
Weight: 205 lbs
Games Watched: Illinois (2021), Western Kentucky (2021), BYU (2020), North Texas (2020)
Major Injury History: None
Man Coverage (12.5/15)
The potential Woolen has is most clear in his man coverage play. Sure, he gets beat a good amount, much more than any of the top corners in this draft, but it’s beautiful when Woolen locks a route down. Woolen will use his elite speed and length to blanket the receiver in these scenarios. His mirroring ability is well polished for someone so raw and a real cause for excitement.
With that inexperience comes the negative plays. Those mirror well in the later traits, though we can preview them here too. The first thing out there was Woolen just isn’t consistent with his timing. Yes, he’s got that great route mirroring ability; however, he needs to find a balance of when to stop on defending curl routes or when to flip his hips on certain cuts. Again, we’ll get more into the struggles later, but this is a positive start for a player with such potential.
Zone Coverage (12.75/15)
This was a pleasant surprise. UTSA seems to favor man coverage a bit over their zone, but Woolen has ample experience in both. For starters, the length makes him a prime target to disrupt passing lanes and simply cause havoc on a quarterback’s decision-making. We will keep discussing inexperience for Woolen, though that inexperience does not apply here. He’s smart to vacate the zone when needed, he’ll filter out guys pretty well, and Woolen’s natural athletic ability allows him to get anywhere on the field. Woolen isn’t a player that should be playing in a primary zone coverage defense, though he’s got the skills to make it work in any scheme.
Woolen is very slow to react to the ball being snapped and the release of an opposing wide receiver. The main, and nearly only, reason that Woolen gets beat deep is that he’s slow to react in press coverage. If his reactions were even average to that of other corners in this class, he’d be the top cornerback out there. Even in scramble drills, we see Woolen struggle to mirror an unnatural cut from the receiver. Where we see positives are with the ball in the air. Woolen has done a nice job of reacting to the ball in flight, coming downhill, and making a play.
Ball Skills (6/10)
For a former receiver, Woolen’s ball skills did not live up to that narrative. The UTSA product has struggled mightily to turn his head. Against BYU, the one time Woolen got beat, he could not turn his head at all, even though his length could’ve allowed him to make a play. You’d hope improvement would come in 2021, but the same thing happened on a go-route versus Illinois.
This is one of those areas in that Woolen’s testing differs from his film. We saw in the combine drills an excellent ability for Woolen to track the ball and switch direction to make a play. He does do this at times on the tape, but it doesn’t come on those deep shots, which matter most when you consider how easily Woolen should lock those down with pure speed.
For how iffy Woolen’s reaction timing is, he does very well to get his hands on the receiver early. From there on out, Woolen is a tad inconsistent in the jam. We’ve seen reps where Woolen doesn’t fully out-physical the player, but he does enough to win the rep. Then, there are others where he just gets completely tossed aside. The potential is there for Woolen to be a good physical corner, though it will take time.
Long Speed (9.5/10)
That 4.26 40-time for someone that is 6-foot-4 is unheard of. That being said, Woolen’s elite speed doesn’t give him everything. If he gets beat deep, Woolen won’t automatically recover and be fast enough to get back, although there are tons of plays where he does make it close. What Woolen can do is use this speed to blanket guys when he doesn’t get beat off the line and dominate horizontally.
Tackling/Run Support (6/10)
The frame will make Woolen a good tackler at the next level, and he’s already shown improvements. In 2020, Woolen showed no will to get involved in the run game. Come 2021, he got a lot better in this aspect. We saw tackles from Woolen where he practically engulfs the ball carrier with his size. Additionally, Woolen can use that size and athleticism to be a prime candidate for blitzes. This will excite any NFL defensive coordinator from frame alone, and the technique will get there.
When we look at that 10.0 RAS score, it’s an obvious boost into the elite trait of the rankings. Then, we see Woolen’s testing puts him first out of 1,806 cornerbacks, dating back to 1987. This metric is just absurd, and you can see it on the tape. Woolen has no weakness in his athletic profile and will be the clear reason why he’ll get drafted so high.
Change of Direction (4.75/5)
For someone with such a large frame, Woolen has an excellent change inability. You would’ve liked to see him compete in the agility drills at the combine, but Woolen has shown time and time again that he is a fluid mover. The reason he doesn’t get full marks is that with his length Woolen is just a tad clunkier than Andrew Booth, Derek Stingley Jr., or Kaiir Elam.
This one is pretty easy. Woolen looks massive on the tape. When he blitzes against the run, he looks like a linebacker coming downhill. The size and length allow Woolen to recover so easily when beat. It’s impressive how he can disrupt the passing lanes with this length and is another reason why the draft world is so excited for this guy.
Woolen is one of the most intriguing prospects in draft history. The unprecedented athleticism, combined with elite size and movement ability, is incredible for the upside Woolen has. Right now, though, Woolen is a raw football player. He needs to develop techniques, and it will take time. Because of that, Woolen will get some reps early in his career but work towards a starting role further down the road. From a projection standpoint, there’s no real consensus for Woolen. He’ll most likely end up being an early day two pick, one that is definitely worth the selection.
Rookie Projection: Developmental Backup
Third-Year Projection: Mid-Tier Starter
Player Grade (79/100): Mid-Third Round Pick
Pro Comp: Ahkello Witherspoon
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