Florida State University cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft. After barely playing during his freshman year, he broke out in 2016, recording eight interceptions, tied for most in the nation. His encore performance in 2017 didn’t quite match as he failed to notch an interception. The junior has declared for the draft, so we’ll take an early look into what he offers.
Immediately looking at McFadden what you see is elite cornerback size at 6’2’’, 205 LBs with an athletic, long and slightly muscular build. This prototypical build allows his to comfortably guard the outside which is almost what he exclusively does, generally following the opposing team’s best wide receiver.
He has played against elite talent, including Mitchell Trubisky, DeShaun Watson and Lamar Jackson in 2016 and the Jalen Hurts/Calvin Ridley duo plus Lamar Jackson again in 2017. Playing NFL talent is extremely beneficial going forward and makes the leap to becoming a NFL corner a bit easier.
Athleticism for his size is very good; as a result he generally plays best in press coverage and is excellent in trail coverage, generally staying right with any receiver. His read-and-react skills are decent and his ability to makes plays on the ball when he sees it is superb based on his sophomore year. He is also a willing tackler.
Despite performing best in press, McFadden for his size is very disappointing at jamming receivers on the line. He flashed a solid one-handed punch but not nearly enough to commonly disrupt at the line of scrimmage. He’s good enough at trailing to make up for it but at the NFL level giving guys clean releases will be trouble.
McFadden has issues getting his eyes back around and doesn’t play the ball well when he doesn’t see it coming. When he does see the ball coming he’s dangerous, but in trail coverage he commonly can’t get his head around and make a good jump at the ball.
Open field tackles were an issue, he’s generally pretty good at bringing a guy down when he gets to him cleanly but unless he gets a good chunk of surface on the opponent he wasn’t hard to get past.
He preformed fairly poor in run defense and in block-shedding, anyone his size or bigger can usually lock him up and take him out of the play; playing against bigger NFL players will make that hard to remedy.
Why the drop off in production?
The FSU team as a whole dipped in 2017 after a very quality 2016 season, the defense for the most part stayed about the same and statistically they improved slightly, but the lost offensive talent (Dalvin Cook and four of their top receivers) and an injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois early into the season hemorrhaged offensive production and made the defense’s job a lot harder, which they responded well to but not well enough.
McFadden was told he should look into returning for one more season by the draft board to increase his stock but declared anyway. Some thought McFadden’s 16 campaign was a fluke because of the lack of any interceptions in 2017.
Tarvarus McFadden’s draft stock dropped a good deal in this last season, once a top-15 lock he now grades out as a day two player, though a high one at that. McFadden’s physical attributes and stat stuffed 2016 season combines for a whole lot of potential that some coach or scout will fall in love with, but his lack of production took his first-round lock status away.
His size and athleticism but lack of true press ability might make a man-coverage-heavy team hesitant and it’s possible he might be tried out in more of a deep zone scheme which is something he did not play a lot of in college, but some concerns with his route recognition might make that difficult as well.
Bottom line is he’s currently a top of the second round pick, but his stock could move a lot based on his combine performances, if he matches his size with recorded athletic ability he could rise into the mid-to-late first round discussion. If he disappoints he will fall more into the mid-second to high-third area.