By Dylan MacKinnon
It is a very good year to need a cornerback in the draft. We have already discussed Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr, but that is only scratching the surface of the many quality CB prospects in this year’s draft. For our next CB profile, let’s go to a school whose mere mention will trigger bad draft memories for many Philly fans. Trent McDuffie, from Washington.
Now I know some of you will immediately say to not take any players from Washington. Bad memories of Sidney Jones scar Eagles fans. And then there is Andre Dillard from Washington State. Throw in Markelle Fultz for the Sixers, and Philadelphians have a strong bias against the entire state of Washington. But do not let your distaste for that state taint your view of Trent McDuffie. This guy is a legitimate NFL Prospect. And he is well worth a look for the Eagles.
Does Everything Fast
The term elite athleticism gets thrown around as much as the term elite QB does. But when you call everyone elite, it stops meaning anything. It is not an exaggeration with McDuffie though. The way he moves on a football field, elite is the least you can say.
He is fast in all types of ways. Not just in terms of straight-line speed. It’s his speed while backpedaling. It’s his speed when changing direction. The speed he has bursting into the air to attack the ball. It’s how fast he moves laterally. He gets off the line fast. Then he tracks down the ball carrier fast. Every single thing he does on the football field is fast.
But speed is not the only tool he has. Both his long jump and broad jump ability place him at the top among cornerbacks. His body control also stands out. He is so athletic, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman put him on his annual “Freaks List.”
And that athleticism translates to on-the-field success. In both his sophomore and junior years held opposing QBs to a QB rating of just 52 when targeting him. For reference, the lowest QB rating among NFL QBs this year was Zach Wilson at 69.7. He did not tally many interceptions, but part of that is because QBs stopped throwing his way because he was so effective at shutting down his WR. It does not get more Shutdown than what McDuffie did in his last two seasons.
And something else defensive coordinators will love, he is scheme versatile. He can stand up in man coverage despite his small size. But he also excels in zone coverage and usually knows right where he needs to be.
Additionally, he is not your typical corner who shies from contact. He seeks it. The physicality he plays with is beautiful. He may be small, but he doesn’t play like it. He attacks the ball carrier like he wants to take their head off. McDuffie is like if you attached rockets to a wrecking ball.
Wants to Be Coached
Every single one of Trent McDuffie’s former coaches have the same thing to say about him. He is someone who wants to be coached. The way they make it sound, he is desperate to be coached up. He wants to accept any and all help so he can improve his game as much as possible.
In his senior year at St John Bosco High School, he was attached by the hip to their defensive back coach Colin Lockett. It was McDuffie’s first year there, after transferring for his final year of High School. Lockett recalls an endless barrage of questions from McDuffie. He wanted to know every coverage technique Bosco runs. About how they wanted him to approach certain coverages and certain downs. Lockett said transfers usually take a while to come out of their shell. But not McDuffie.
“He was jumping up there with some of our best receivers, going toe-to-toe with those guys. That just showed me that this guy, he’s ready to make an impact for this football team — and he did.”- Colin Lockett in an interview with The News Tribune
And it did not take him long to pick up all the techniques he needed to adapt to the Bosco scheme. His coaches said he lived in the film room. And even when the film showed he did everything right, he would press his defensive coaches for what he could improve.
“The film would show he covered the guy, and he’d be like, ‘Hey, did I use the right leverage? Hey, can I use the press technique there or should I use this technique?’ He just wanted to be great. We preach that to our kids, and obviously, not everybody ends up doing that. But he was one that you could tell wanted to be great, wanted to be coached.”- Bosco Defensive Coordinator Chris King to The News Tribune
And that mindset carried over to his time at Washington. Trent McDuffie is the type of player never satisfied with how good he is. He can always be better, and he will work his butt off to be better.
Areas of Concern
The first concern many will have for Trent McDuffie is his size. At 5’11”, 195lbs, he is small for an NFL corner. The good news is he plays bigger than his size. He does not shy away from contact and is a physical tackler. McDuffie also showed he can stand up in man coverage. But that doesn’t mean his short height will never hurt him. Taller WRs and Tight Ends will be able to outreach him, and he will have to adjust and find ways to cover them even if they can reach higher than him on contested catches.
The other concern may be the pedigree of his competition. He is not going up against NFL talent every week like he would be if he were at an SEC school. But it should be said he is not the first CB to come out of Washington. The school has become known for developing NFL Defensive backs.
It started in 2007 when Dashon Goldson was taken in the 4th round and went on to be an All-Pro. Since then, Desmond Trufant, Marcus Peters, Budda Baker, Elijah Molden, Keith Taylor, and Kevin King all came out of Washington. There is something to be said for taking players out of tougher conferences. But Washington has a track record. Philly fans should not write off Washington Defensive Backs just because Sidney Jones didn’t work out here.
In terms of his actual play, there are of course things he can work on. He can be very aggressive. Sometimes that pays off great. But smart QBs can also take advantage of that. He will have to improve at picking his spots. You don’t want him to lose that aggressive instinct. But you want him to be smarter about when he attacks the ball.
What the Draft Experts Say
“He’s an elite competitor with a route-hugging mentality fueled by body control, foot agility, aggression and burst. He is a pesky press-man defender with the tools to excel in zone. He’s willing to fly downhill and hit anybody near the football. Keeps his eyes on the prize and has an itchy, twitchy trigger to close throwing windows and make plays on the ball. He lacks lockdown traits but has lockdown talent and his competitive energy is contagious. Can play outside or from the slot and carries a very high floor with the potential to become one of the league’s top corners at some point during his first contract.”
“Trent McDuffie is a very good athlete with good lateral agility and overall quickness in coverage. In the run game, he is an aggressive tackler who seemingly enjoys the physical aspect of the game. He seems to relish when he is the force player in zone, so that he can be a willing participant in the run game. In the passing game, although he plays the game from “bail” technique more often than not, he demonstrates good hips and feel to stay in phase in coverage. He is always close in coverage and is rarely out of position.
In zone, he demonstrates good instincts, easily passing off routes. He easily identifies when the opposition threatens his zone and knows how to utilize his help. I wish he were consistently more effective as a re-router in press situations. On third downs, he can play inside or outside but may have more value inside at nickel—it’s there that he can use his physicality, instincts, and lateral agility to excel at this position.”
Trent McDuffie is fast, and plays much bigger than his actual size. Some will be scared away by him coming from Washington, but don’t let that scare you. Under Jimmy Lake Washington became a School known for developing NFL Defensive Backs. McDuffie is a hard working, smart corner, who everyone in the know expects to become a top NFL corner. If he ends up in Midnight Green fans have reason to be excited.