The Miami Dolphins needed help at every level of the defense. After addressing the defensive line in round one and the linebacker position in round two, the Dolphins decided to take a defensive back in a deep draft class loaded with talent. In round three, they chose Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley. I had read about Tankersley, but he didn’t appear on my radar until a Miami Herald article mentioned him several days before the draft. My personal belief was that Miami would address the nickel/slot cornerback position as they are low on depth there. Tankersley projects as an outside corner and Miami has three players fighting for time there. The Dolphins are very high on sophomore Xavien Howard, whom they took in the second round of the 2016 draft. Tony Lippett was a 5th round pick and a project due to being a convert from wide receiver, but was pressed into playing time last season. He only led the team in interceptions. Byron Maxwell was the target of an offseason trade last year and is the default number one corner. Tankersley seemed a bit redundant.
But of course, the folks running the Dolphins draft room know much more than I do about such things and they clearly saw a need to draft Tankersley. Defensive backs are much easier to review in All-22 mode, which I don’t have. So I had to watch 5 different videos to get a good picture of the traits Tankersley brings to the table.
- Tankersley mirrors very well of the line of scrimmage. When Clemson put him in press coverage, he was able to stay with the receiver into the route, rarely allowing separation.
- He is patient off the line of scrimmage. When in press, he rarely panicked or over-committed to what the receiver was doing.
- Both his patience and quickness at the line of scrimmage could mean he might see time in the slot.
- He had a nice jam. The tape I saw didn’t show him jam very often, but when he did, he could disrupt the receiver’s route.
- When in zone coverage, he has the ability to close on plays quickly.
- He has soft hands. When he gets around the ball, he can pick it off and create a turnover.
- Tankersley is disinterested in tackling. Not only that, he’s not good at it either. I don’t mind if a cornerback isn’t a good tackler as long as he’s good in coverage. But Tankersley will need to work on this.
- To add to that point, even though his skills could allow him to see time in the slot, his lack of desire/ability to tackle will probably prevent that.
- His recognition in zone is inconsistent.
- Tankersley has good speed, but it doesn’t always show up.
- He is inconsistent finding the ball in the air.
- His backpedal is clunky and almost duck-footed. He will definitely need to work on his backpedal in the NFL. When he was in press coverage, he would often react to the receiver before making his move. Either that or Clemson had him employ bail technique. His mirroring ability is good, but savvy NFL receivers will take advantage of this backpedal to create separation.
This play shows Tankersley’s ability to close on a play. Here he is in off coverage.
He follows the receiver across the middle, who then decides to sit down in the opening of the zone.
Tankersley read it and closed quickly to the receiver.
In this shot, you can see the ball in the air and Tankersley is already at the receiver.
He is unable to break the pass up, but he stops the receiver short of the sticks on third down. Getting off the field on third down is key to being a great defense and having a corner that can make plays like this certainly helps achieve that goal.
On this play, Tankersley was lined up in off coverage. The Buckeyes decided to throw it short to take advantage of that coverage.
Tankersley closes quickly, as the blurry image can attest.
He tried to tackle the receiver too high however and the receiver shook him off. Tankersley hits the ground and the receiver picks up a few more yards. This is where guys like Jarvis Landry and Julian Edelman do their damage. They shake off weak tackles to gain extra yards. Defensive backs have to make these tackles.
On this play, Tankersley lines up in press coverage.
You can see that at the snap, Tankersley has moved to bail technique. Bail technique is where a defensive back runs instead of backpedals with the receiver. This technique allows the defender to run with the receiver without having to flip his hips. He’s using outside leverage, which protects against out-breaking routes but gives up inside breaking ones. That is fine because he has safety help inside.
Tankersley, for some reason, hesitated for a moment, and the receiver ran past him.
Tankersley was unable to close and the receiver had all the separation he needed for a touchdown, even with the angle the safety was taking.
Fortunately for Clemson and Tankersley, the pass was way off the mark and incomplete. This will not happen in the NFL. A good NFL QB will put this pass on the outside shoulder of the receiver and it will result in touchdown.
There wasn’t much to highlight from the Virginia Tech game, although Clemson gave up a big play to none other than... new Miami Dolphin Isaiah Ford (1:36 mark on the video). On this play, Clemson lines Tankersley up in press and let’s him use a jam.
Tankersley still has his hands on the receiver, disrupting the play. He’ll have to learn the NFL rules and be smart with his hands, but he will be disruptive at the line of scrimmage.
Here he is lined up in press coverage again.
And once again, he drops back in bail technique.
Unlike before, he stays right with the receiver on this play.
He times his jump perfectly and breaks up the pass.
Here he is again in press coverage.
This shot shows him mirroring the receiver. The plays I liked from this game had Tankersley lined up at the bottom of the screen, so his good work was hidden by graphics. I would highly recommend watching this game. It shows his mirroring skills and his awkward backpedal. This game showed his man coverage potential. In this instance, the film will reveal better than the still shots.
This play caught my attention the most of any. Tankersley is lined up in press once again.
Highlighted by the arrow, it appears as if Tankersley is beaten to the inside by the receiver.
However, Tankersley closes on this ball and makes an incredible interception. No “hands like feet” here. Miami needs defensive backs that can turn the ball over like Tankersley did on this play.
That’s not an easy play for either player and a pass broken up would have been a great play too. But Tankersley made an even better play. There was two other things I noticed about this play however.
The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, meaning Tankersley had some help on this play. So was he still beaten?
I’m going to make the assertion that while the tipped ball aided Tankersley with the interception, he still makes a play on the ball regardless. You can see the great position he’s in here while ALSO seeing that the receiver is having to reach back to attempt to make the catch. If the ball wasn’t tipped, he gets a pass defensed, if not hauling in the interception. That’s an elite play and Miami needs many more of those.
To win in the NFL, defenses need to be able to play man coverage. This is where Tankersley fits right in. He has the potential to be a very good cornerback. He’s probably never going to be great in zone coverage, even though film shows he’s decent at it. But once he smooths out a few details in his game like the hand usage and backpedal, he will be an excellent man coverage defender. His patience and mirroring will serve him well. I don’t believe he’s polished enough to start week one for the Dolphins; not with the three other guys ahead of him having that necessary experience. But he should be working his way into a starting spot by the end of the season, if not before. Miami will probably not use him in the slot because he simply cannot handle the tackling part of that position right now.
All video comes courtesy of draftbreakdown.com.
Tomorrow, we look at Miami first offensive selection in this draft: Utah guard Isaac Asiata.