The Eagles did not land a star corner in Free Agency. As of yet, they haven’t signed any corners. With Steven Nelson leaving in free agency, it leaves the Eagles without a 2nd outside corner worthy of starting. They have a couple of young guys who have not shown they are capable of starting on the outside. Avonte Maddox was a great nickel corner last year but struggled the year before on the outside. All this puts the Eagles in the position of needing a corner in this year’s draft. We have looked at Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., and Trent McDuffie. For the final CB preview before the draft, let’s look at the boom our bust corner out of Clemson, Andrew Booth Jr.
Human Highlight Reel
If Andrew Booth Jr. is known for anything, it is for head-turning highlight plays. Whether it is leaping and snatching an interception out of the air, coming out of nowhere to make a big hit, or taking a fumble the other way for a TD, he is a regular weekly guest on the SportsCenter highlight reel. He plays the play like he is WR. He may just be 6’0″, but his long arms give him exceptional reach to snatch balls out of the air or break up a pass. Booth had 5 interceptions, and 9 pass deflections in 2 seasons as a starter. Including this impressive takeaway.
Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr defending 20+ yard throws— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) November 30, 2020
🔒 13 targets
🔒 2 catches allowed (0 TDs)
🔒 2 INTspic.twitter.com/g9BmxJRjna
On paper, Booth has all the traits you want in an NFL corner. Booth did not run at the Combine or his Pro Day because he was nursing a Quad Injury. But he apparently ran a 4.39 while at Clemson. The Speed shows on tape, with him covering a lot of ground quickly to make plays or recover from mistakes. Also, while he is not necessarily big he is more than capable of being physical. That physicality shows up the most when working through blocks, or attacking the ball carrier. He is not someone who shies away from contact. Booth made several booming tackles in his time at Clemson. But that aggressiveness in run coverage can at times hurt him. He has been caught over pursuing bad angles and trying to make highlight-reel hits, but whiffing.
“Seeing him out here at full speed you really get to see his athleticism and just how dominant he is as a corner. He’s got a really bright future. He’s freaky athletic, just got a ton of potential. It’s going to be fun to watch him grow this season and out here at camp as well.”- Fellow Clemson DB Nolan Turner
Despite that physicality, he knows how to use it without getting penalties. In his time at Clemson, he was called for only a single penalty. That trait will surely come in handy in the NFL where defensive holding and interference calls seem to be more and more common. Any corner who can hold up and man coverage, yet not get called for penalties, will be useful on modern defenses.
His upside is the type of player you can ask to shadow the other team’s best player for a whole game and just forget about. His body control is exceptional allowing him to mostly stick to his guy with no issue. He occasionally bites too quickly on fakes and double moves but is capable of recovering quickly when he does. But his best trait will always be his ball skills. He could be the type of guy who leads the league in interceptions if he reaches his ceiling.
A History of Injuries
There are some red flags here though. The biggest of which is his long history of injuries. He has missed several games across 3 years with various injuries, has had multiple surgeries, and couldn’t work out all draft process because of another injury. Here is a list of all the injuries he has dealt with so far
- Grew up with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which causes inflammation in the knee. Eventually went away.
- Dealt With Knee Tendinitis in Highschool
- Got Surgery After Freshman Year to Repair Tear in Right Patella Tendon (Knee)
- Missed one game Junior year with a Hamstring Injury
- Missed another game Junior year with Stinger
- Had double Hernia Surgery after Junior Year
- Dealt With Quad injury during draft process that prevented him from working out
We have seen players with similar injury histories go on to have healthy careers. This does not necessarily make him injury-prone. But it is something teams have to consider, It’s a big reason he is falling after once being considered up there with Stingley Jr as the best CB in the draft.
A Regrettable Punch
There is also the matter of the punch he has been trying to live down ever since he threw it. The low moment came vs Louisville his Freshman year. In the 3rd quarter, Booth got into a scuffle and threw a regrettable punch. It got him ejected from the game and earned him a ride home on the equipment bus instead of the team plane.
But oftentimes how we respond to our lowest moments are when a true character can shine. And while that punch was a very low moment, the way he responded says a lot about his character.
“[Booth] has responded well. He is disappointed in himself, embarrassed. He has apologized to our team and our AD. He’s been extremely remorseful. What happened is way out of character for who he is. Very pleased with how he has taken ownership. He had a long bus ride home last night and plenty of time to think about it.”- Dabo Swinney
By all accounts, there was not another issue from Booth during the next two years. The punch is something he will have a hard time getting away from. But he has not shied away from it, or from taking responsibility for it. It will be up to each team if that was just a low moment or says anything about him. But from the outside looking in, it seems to be a bad moment, that he has worked ever since to make up for.
What Draft Experts Say
“Booth stays in phase because of his lower-body quickness and hip-flip skills to mirror routes, staying coordinated in his transitions and in position to make plays on the ball. There is nothing finesse about his playstyle and he takes his contain responsibilities seriously in the run game, but his downhill aggressiveness makes his tackling an adventure. Overall, Booth’s tape has some volatility and he must mature his feel for spacing, but he has fluid athleticism, finds the football, and disrupts the catch point, three important ingredients to playing the position at a high level. He has NFL starting traits (if he stays healthy) and projects best in a man-heavy scheme.”
“Booth is an athletic, quick-footed cornerback with very good ball skills. In press coverage, he doesn’t throw his hands to re-route but does a nice job of staying in the hip pocket of the wideout. He is fluid to open up and has enough speed to stay in phase versus vertical routes. He has been inconsistent in off coverage. Occasionally, he’s caught flat-footed and gives up plays over the top. However, he’s very good on balls thrown in front of him. He has some pop out of his plant and he can find and play the ball. He’s a willing tackler, but he had some costly misses in the games I studied. Overall, Booth is still a work in progress, but I believe he’ll develop into a solid number No. 2 cornerback.”
Andrew Booth Jr. is a solid prospect. But he is certainly behind Ahmad Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr., and probably behind Trent McDuffie too. It would be a reach to take him over one of those corners. but if they are off the board, and the Eagles trade down with that second pick and land Booth, it would be a move that is hard to argue with. His ball skills are elite, but there are some coverage concerns. Not enough to pass up on him, but enough to put him in the second tier of corners in this draft.