The top two cornerback prospects in college football will take the field in Georgia-LSU on Saturday, and the game features a variety of other impressive prospects with top 100 pick potential.
Here’s a full breakdown of the top 2019 NFL Draft prospects in this massive SEC battle.
LSU CB Greedy Williams
Current draft value: Top 5
How he wins: A create-a-player-like combination of height, length, fluidity, speed, and ball skills. Williams has perimeter cornerback length and slot corner agility. He’s rarely caught out of position, and when that does happen, he has the athleticism to quickly recover. Williams almost always finds the ball in the air and plays it aggressively. Pertaining to coverage ability, Williams has everything you’d want in a corner.
Where he needs to improve: Tackling. Williams isn’t unwilling to stop the run, he’s just a little late to arrive too often and is apt to dive at ball-carriers legs instead of wrapping up. Is it hugely concerning? Not really. But many NFL coaches place a high emphasis on their cornerbacks’ ability to tackle on the outside.
Most difficult assignment vs. Georgia: Riley Ridley. Brother of 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley, the 6-2, 200-pound Ridley has NFL athleticism and is only beginning to reach his potential as a receiver. Though he doesn’t have a specialty at this point, Ridley is a well-rounded receiver with good speed, reliable hands, above-average capability after the catch.
LSU LB Devin White
Current draft value: Top 25
How he wins: White plays, as my mom used to say, like a bat out of a hell. Think incendiary speed, pedal-to-the-floor acceleration, and hair-on-fire aggressiveness. The LSU linebacker is one of the most athletically gifted linebackers I’ve scouted. In terms of pure physical talent, he’s in the same elite group as Ryan Shazier, Roquan Smith, Reuben Foster, Tremaine Edmunds, and Myles Jack. White can get to the football like a safety, but he’s 240 pounds, and oncoming blockers don’t scare him. He flashes shedding ability yet mainly wins with pure speed and twitchiness.
Where he needs to improve: Maybe because he’s going 100 mph every play, White isn’t always in full control, and that leads to more missed tackles than the normal linebacker. Also, he tends to be a tick late reacting to the play in front of him, whether it be a stretch run to the opposite side of the field or a play-action pass intended to go behind him over the middle.
Most difficult assignment vs. Georgia: The sentence I just wrote. Jake Fromm on the Georgia passing attack will hone in on White’s overaggressive nature and try to get him to sink his teeth into inside runs before a play-action fake and an in-breaking route between the numbers. The quicker White diagnoses what the Bulldogs are trying to do, the better LSU’s defense will play, and the more his draft stock will rise.
LSU DT Rashard Lawrence
Current draft value: Round 2 – Round 3
How he wins: Short-area quickness and power. The 6-foot-3, 317 pound Lawrence moves like he’s closer to 300 pounds. That allows him to win through gaps and deploy a quick swim move to disrupt the backfield. His burst is excellent, and once he has the leverage advantage, he capitalizes. While not a prospect with an insane amount of pass-rushing moves, Lawrence has been well-coached on ways to shed blocks against the run.
Where he needs to improve: Instead of almost solely relying on his acceleration when reacting to the snap to win, Lawrence needs to be able to lean on his hand work more often to beat offensive linemen then explode to the quarterback. Right now, he’s not a hand-use master. Lawrence isn’t a run-stopper only, but that’s clearly his area of expertise at the time being.
Most difficult assignment vs. Georgia: Center Lamont Gaillard, an experienced interior blocker who looks like a mid-round prospect. Gaillard is listed at 6-2, 308, so he’s more of a low-center-of-gravity, quick-moving center than an old-school mauler. Lawrence will have his work cut out for him against the fleet-footed Gaillard in the trenches and will likely create most of his pressure in one-on-one situations against Georgia’s guards, redshirt sophomore Solomon Kindley and freshman Cade Mays.
Georgia CB Deandre Baker
Current draft value: Top 15
How he wins: Baker isn’t the size-athleticism freak Williams is, but the Georgia standout is quicker reacting to wideout’s cuts, and he plays with the same high-caliber ball skills of his LSU counterpart. He’s a man-to-man, mirroring monster, a corner who seemingly runs receiver’s routes all game. At just under 6-0, some NFL teams will dock Baker due to his size, but his stats speak for themselves. Since 2016, Baker has seven interceptions and 20 pass breakups … and teams usually stay away from him in coverage.
Where he needs to improve: Baker isn’t as comfortable in zone as he is in any type of man coverage. Right now, there aren’t many clear-cut problems with his game.
Most difficult assignment vs. LSU: Justin Jefferson is LSU’s height-speed threat at 6-2 with a current 16.4 yards-per-catch average. Baker is fast but not an elite burner downfield. Don’t be surprised when the Tigers do decide to target Baker, if that happens, it’s down the field to Jefferson.
Georgia EDGE D’Andre Walker
Current draft value: Round 3
How he wins: At 6-3 and 240, Walker is in the same mold as his former teammate and 2018 third-round pick Lorenzo Carter, so he wins with twitchiness and versatility at the outside linebacker position. Walker can convert speed to power on occasion when rushing off the edge. He’s fantastic on twists and can hold his own in zone coverage
Where he needs to improve: Pass-rushing moves. Walker doesn’t really possess any at this point, a big problem when he’ll face NFL offensive tackles next year who can match his quickness and speed to the corner.
Most difficult assignment vs. LSU: The Tigers actually have a relatively young offensive line that’s been banged up early in 2018, so Walker’s most difficult mathcup isn’t necessarily against LSU’s left or right tackle. Limiting 220-pound runner Nick Brossette on outside zone plays and swing passes will help Walker to showcase his versatility.
Georgia C Lamont Gaillard
Current draft value: Round 3 – Round 4
How he wins: Quickness and getting underneath defensive linemen. Because he’s not an overly tall or overly heavy center, Gaillard makes his impact with speed to the second level on combination blocks and the ability to control bigger defenders by winning the center-of-gravity battle. He’s further ahead as a run-blocker than he is as a pass-blocker but has improved in the latter area from 2017.
Where he needs to improve: Gaillard can block down on a three-technique defensive tackle then move to the second level and drive a linebacker out of the play as well as any center in the country. But he’s not excellent moving laterally when having to deal with quick gap-shooters or refined defensive tackles who use counter moves to win at the point of attack.
Most difficult assignment vs. LSU: Rashard Lawrence is a fast gap-shooter and uses a nice swim move to make offensive linemen block air while off balance. Gaillard probably won’t have one-on-one matchups with Lawrence often, but he will need to find LSU’s star interior defensive lineman when his neighbors at guard are grappling with him and provide a chip in passing situations.
Georgia WR Riley Ridley
Current draft value: Round 3 – Round 4
How he wins: Like his brother, Ridley is a violent, one-cut player with the ball in his hands, often stopping on a dime to move against the grain to pick up extra yardage. That agility allows him to create separation running routes with some regularity too, particularly on complex routes with multiple cuts.
Where he needs to improve: Downfield speed is a slight question mark for Ridley. Also, though he’s bigger than Calvin, Ridley isn’t an overly powerful or polished player at the line of scrimmage when facing press man.
Most difficult assignment vs. LSU: Ridley is likely to draw Greedy Williams on the outside, a nightmare of a matchup for any collegiate receiver. He won’t be able to win solely on athletic talent against the long, fluid corner. Nuanced routes and explosiveness after the catch will be of the utmost importance for Ridley against Williams.
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