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Greedy Williams
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Evaluations

NFL Draft CB Rankings

by Thor Nystrom

This is the 11th and final installment of my NFL Draft deep-dive scouting series, following quarterbacksrunning backstight endswide receiversguardscenterstacklesinterior DLEDGE and linebackers. Check back for my top-400 big board and final mock draft on Wednesday!

The spider web of each prospect's test results from the NFL Combine comes courtesy of MockDraftable. SPARQ composite scores are provided by Zach Whitman. All players’ ages are calculated as of September 2019.


1. Greedy Williams (LSU) | 6’2/182

Age: 21.7

SPARQ percentile: 68.6

Comp: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Stephen Ruiz)


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Andraez by birth, Greedy got his nickname as a kid because he had an appetite that wouldn’t quit. His father in-and-out of jail, Greedy learned to fend for himself early. He adopted a take-what’s-mine attitude that would later suit him so well on the field.

The moniker fits, his there-are-no-receivers-with-the-ball-in-the-air-only-people attacking play style so well you’d think a coach thought of it. He’s extremely aggressive but not a reckless gambler with the ball in the air, making calculated decisions and going up with authority on balls he thinks he can come down with.

Greedy and LB1 Devin White were not only teammates at LSU, but in youth football. White was a part-time contributor as a true freshman, while Greedy begrudgingly redshirted due to LSU’s (“DBU”) absurd cornerback depth that year. They ascended concurrently, both making second-year leaps. 

That year, Greedy led the SEC with six interceptions and was named a Third-Team All-American. Last season, as offenses smartly threw Greedy’s way less and less, his counting stats dropped but he was named a Second-Team All-American anyway. At that point, Greedy and Devin both opted into the draft. Each will be top-20 picks.

A long press corner who covers with an air of defiance, Greedy jams out at the line and uses the sideline like he’s tilting a bowling lane toward the gutter. He makes sure he’s always on your mind. He gets his hands on you, applies the adhesive with a combination of 4.37 wheels, effortless backpedal, smooth transitions and length, and then gets in your ear when he swats a ball out of the air.

Greedy leaves college with eight interceptions and 28 passes defensed in 25 starts (1.3 per game) over two campaigns. PFF charted him No. 4 among corners in the draft class in forced incompletions over the past two seasons. Greedy surrendered a passer rating of just 38.7 in college and held opposing receivers to 0.84 yards per cover snap.

Greedy boasts great length but is skinny as a poll, having bulked up considerably from the 155 pounds he toted to Baton Rouge as a freshman but probably close to topping out already at 182. He can also get too handsy at times, and he isn’t the guy who’s going to crash down hard on rushing attempts. He’s also not much of a tackler, weak and only quasi-willing in general.

Tape guys have raised those concerns. In addition, the analytics community is slightly suspicious. My colleague Hayden Winks ranked Greedy CB4, the No. 49 overall prospect on his top-300 analytics big board. “Size for corners matters more than I thought … and being too thin has been a really bad sign,” he wrote. “That's potentially bad news for Greedy Williams, who is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds.”

All of that stuff should be noted, but I remain on CB1 Greedy Island. I’m sorry, but I saw this kid shut down too many stud receivers in the SEC. Against top-competition, Greedy surrendered only 27 career completions on 74 targets, and he was often lined across from the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver.

You wanna get a good indoctrination of the Greedy Experience, find the cut-up of his game against Ole Miss in September. Greedy sets the tone in the Tigers’ 45-16 beatdown, absolutely shutting down D.K. Metcalf, who finished with a 2-21-0 line on seven targets. 

It was the wafer-thin Greedy, and not the Hulkian D.K., who was the bully. Greedy made it clear that he wasn’t going to be beaten long. Greedy essentially challenged D.K. to prove he could beat him in the intermediate sector, and when the Rebels tried to oblige, he easily sniffed out the labored telegraphing of D.K.’s intentions to turn each catch-point situation into a party at Greedy’s. 

Greedy will start outside on Day 1 and stick in the back-pockets of the opponent’s best receiver. I’ll work around the run game stuff. This kid is going to be a real pest for all No. 1 NFL receivers regardless of size and play style, and I can’t say that with assurance about any other prospect in this corner class.


2. Byron Murphy (Washington) | 5’11/189

Age: 21.6

SPARQ percentile: 46.1

Comp: Brent Grimes (Lance Zierlein)


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Murphy has the slick feet and deviously crafty game of his father’s cousin Mike Bibby, the former NBA All-Star. And also Bibby’s non-ideal stature. Murphy is close with Bibby, who went to the University Arizona and lives in Phoenix. Murphy grew up in Scottsdale.

During his youth in Arizona, Murphy was close friends with WR N’Keal Harry, who joins him in this draft class. But while Harry decided to stay local and play for the Sun Devils, Murphy elected to sign with Washington, a school quickly becoming an NFL defensive back factory to rival anything north of Baton Rouge. 

Like Greedy, Murphy redshirted as a freshman, dominated for two years, and then declared. But while Greedy’s play dropped off a bit (80.5 PFF grade) following a sensational 2017 season (88.2), Murphy built on a stellar debut (86.6) by utterly dominating as a redshirt soph (92.0).

He’s a my-ball corner who is willing to sacrifice his body in run-support (*cough* unlike Greedy *cough*). Murphy was a menace in the 20 games he started in college, posting seven interceptions and 20 breakups in just 87 targets with a 47.7% completion percentage against and 17 forced incompletions. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best corner in the country last season.

Murphy thrived as a boundary corner in a zone scheme at Washington. He’s not a scheme-specific player — his game will translate -- but Murphy is a matchup-specific player. He needs to be assigned to shorter, shifter receivers who do most of their work in the short-to-intermediate sectors. He wiped those guys out in college. 

Murphy is undersized and doesn’t have great length to compensate. Size can give him issues and that’ll be of more concern at the next level. He also has long speed concerns, running a 4.55 forty with an uninspiring 46th-percentile SPARQ showing. 

But he’s extremely twitchy and sticky, a joystick who gets his hands on a ton of balls. Murphy would excel in the slot. But he’ll also likely be capable of starting long-term on the outside in the NFL. I’d just want a longer corner — like Greedy! — starting opposite him so teams with lanky outside burners couldn’t eat my lunch over the top all afternoon.

And while Murphy’s height is a negative datapoint but not a disqualifier outside, it needs to be mentioned that his skillset is going to allow him to slide from the slot to the outside depending on matchup. That could make him a sort of Joker card for his next defensive coordinators, able to tend to the most dangerous threat he’s capable of containing (i,e. size permitting) no matter where the confrontation is destined to occur.

Murphy absolutely dominated as a redshirt sophomore. He won’t turn 22 until near the end of his rookie season. He has an extremely advanced instincts and feel for the game and a river current’s fluidity to stick with receivers. All of that hints at more development to go, as well as a very high floor. 

But Murphy’s poor size/athleticism combination can’t be ignored — it limits the number of receivers he can be assigned, and it requires his team to pair him with a specific kind of boundary corner if it intends to regularly play him on the opposite side. I like Murphy a lot, but I couldn’t quite get there with the CB1 Byron movement because of these reasons.


3. Julian Love (Notre Dame) | 5’11/195

Age: 21.5

SPARQ percentile: 60.8

Comp: Ronde Barber (Charlie Campbell)


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A Chicago native and lifelong Notre Dame fan, Love earned his Fighting Irish scholarship via a dominant two-way high school career. The Fighting Irish made him a cornerback full-time. And unlike Greedy and Byron, Love not only was active as a true freshman, but he actually cracked the starting lineup for the final eight games of the campaign.

For all the love Murphy gets at 5’11/189 with 4.55 speed and a 46th-percentile SPARQ score, Love has gotten criminally overlooked in part because of a focus on his 5’11/195 build with 4.54 speed and a 60th-percentile SPARQ score. While Murphy was putting up PFF grades of 86.6 in 2017 and 92.0 in 2018, Love was producing grades of 81.8 in 2017 and 90.4 during Notre Dame’s playoff run in 2018.

Love’s leap got less ink, but it served noticed that he needs to be considered near the top of this cornerback class. Love earned All-American honors and a Thorpe finalist nomination for his work in 2018, which saw him finish in the top-10 of the nation with 16 pass breakups.

PFF charted him with 21 forced incompletions in 2018, No. 6 in the country, and listed him No. 10 with 14 coverage stops. In all, Love broke up 32 passes the last two seasons, high-level stuff.

Love is a natural cover corner, agile, technically-elite and super smart with loosey-goosey hip joints. He has the almost exactly the same height and speed numbers as Murphy, and naturally comes with identical concerns -- but he also shares the scheme versatility and ball skills.

He’s not as skilled in the run game as Murphy is, but Love is willing to scrap. His length and strength limitations, as well as his projected struggles against elite burners, will render Love a matchup-specific player like Murphy. 

But I like Love for a lot of the same reasons I like Murphy, and I think he’ll be able to do 97% of the same things at a sticker price that’ll be cheaper than that. Love excelled on the perimeter in college but could shift into the slot either full-time or by matchup. But like Murphy, I think he could hang on the outside at the next level.

Another similarity Murphy and Love have is that they are young prospects. In fact, Love is younger by a month. He’s shown preternatural ability early, and I think his ascendance has just begun. 


4.David Long (Michigan) | 5’11/193

SPARQ percentile: 91.2

Comp: Malcolm Butler (Stephen Ruiz)


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Why is nobody talking about David Long?

He was a top-100 overall recruit coming out of the prep ranks in Los Angeles. He went to Michigan and was an utterly dominant corner in the Big 10 from the jump. He allowed just 18 catches over 595 coverage snaps in his entire career, and led the country last year with a 36.9 passer rating allowed.*

And then he went to the NFL Combine and — unlike Deandre Baker or Byron Murphy, for example — answered speed and athleticism concerns with a 4.45 forty and a 91st percentile SPARQ score at 5’11/193.

Of my top-six corners, Long had by far and away the best RAS score, a metric that is both size-adjusted and category-weighted (giving it more value than SPARQ). The highest-ranked player on my CB list who bested Long’s RAS score was Lonnie Johnson.

Per PFF’s metrics, Long also finished No. 1 in this class in yards per cover snap (0.14), snaps per reception (32.8), forced incompletion percentage 32.3%, first downs allowed (2) and completion percentage allowed (29.0%). And that was against the Big 10’s best receivers!

In that conference, Long was the boogey-man. You avoided his side of the field as best you could. Long was only targeted 60 times in three years. He gave up 18 receptions. And this smaller boundary corner never got burned — and I mean NEVER.

On 29 career targets 10-plus yards downfield, he allowed a 4-59-0 line with 13 breakups(!!!). He broke up 45% of the downfield throws he saw in college while giving up less than two yards per target. That’s insanity.

But despite all that, get this!: I’ve seen multiple national NFL Draft analysts out there rank Long outside of their top-25 corners in this class. WHAT?!?! And I’ve seen very few — outside of PFF itself — rank Long among their top-10 corners.

Long’s scouting reports consistently nitpick the heck out of his size and speed while concluding he doesn’t have the measurables for the perimeter or the slick feet to project as a slot star. But from my seat, Long has similar dimensions to Murphy, Love and Baker, performed as well as they did in college, and is clearly the best athlete of the four. 

He’s the only one with 4.4 speed, and not only that, he led his position group in the 3-cone and short shuttles. Whether you prefer SPARQ or RAS (or any other metric), Long is consensually a top-10 percentile NFL athlete at corner. After dominating on college’s biggest stage following a ballyhooed prep career and then blowing up the NFL Combine, he’s been criminally and shockingly overlooked.


5. Deandre Baker (Georgia) | 5’11/190

Age: 23

SPARQ percentile: 9.5

Comp: Tre’Davious White (Chris Trapasso)


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Georgia’s coaching staff had to coax the bulldog to come out of the shy Miami three-star, but he listened, refining at every suggestion. Baker first flashed in 2016 under Mel Tucker, made the leap in 2017, and capped off one of the great careers in Georgia history with First-Team All-American honors and the Jim Thorpe award in 2018. Baker was the first Bulldog to win the Thorpe, given to the nation’s premier defensive back. 

Baker possesses a clairvoyant understanding of his position and loathes ending up on the wrong side of highlights. A borderline genius of positioning and timing, Baker essentially erased whole sections of the field in 2018, with 10 first downs and zero touchdown allowed. He earned a second consecutive PFF grade over 90.0 (dominant). Whatever timidity he might have had early on, it’s gone, now.

He colludes with the sideline to cut off oxygen on routes and pushes his boundaries with the zebras as best he can. Baker doesn’t have the size or speed (4.52 forty, poor SPARQ) to be timid, and he plays with a physical edge in kind. Larger wide receivers can shed him, and faster ones can win a step on him. So he lives on the edge a little.

He’ll outsmart you and he’ll happily body you up, but just be ready for that rare false step. You can capitalize. More strangely for a player whose upside lies in his superior smarts, Baker came to the combine with an odd, lax attitude, more or less sloughing off the entire process. 

I had questions about his athleticism, but I didn’t expect to have to consider questions about his maturity. I just found it odd that a sharp player who had his athleticism questioned throughout his entire career didn’t show up prepared. And then he, you know, tested like crap.

Even so, I saw him shut the lights out on so many NFL receivers in the SEC that I know he's going to make it work at the next level, even if his ceiling is capped because his athletic limitations hurt against both shifty guys who force him to take extra steps to push off to gather momentum for a burst and burners who can test him deep.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!