Is McDuffie the clear top corner in the 2022 draft?
@ChiefsFan4Lyfe Chiefs Focus @Chiefsfocus
The Kansas City Chiefs made 10 picks during the 2022 NFL draft and will look to sign several other contributors during college free agency, adding an influx of first-year talent to the roster. Chiefs rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie, the 21st overall pick and the Chiefs’ first-round draft selection in 2022 had been considered one of the (and often the) top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft class. But how good is he, and how does he stack up to the rest of these talented cornerbacks on the roster?
Quick summary report:
Trent McDuffie spent three seasons for the Washington Huskies, starting all but three games. In 2021, he was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and was named the team’s defensive MVP, leading a secondary that allowed just six passing touchdowns in 12 games. He was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2020 and a second-team freshman All-American in 2019. McDuffie is worth the 1st-round trade up for the Chiefs…and when I contemplate McDuffie’s true value, I always revert to comparing him to another former 1st-round CB player with the same skill set– Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers. Both a little smaller than you’d like – 5′10′′ and under 200 pounds. When both get up in press, both have the quickness to mirror a WR all the way or recover if they lose a step off the jump.
McDuffie is going to work at the next level as a #1 CB or slot guy…and gives an option as a punt returner like Alexander coming out of Louisville. As evidenced by McDuffie’s last two seasons at UW, allowed him to stick in his assignments’ pocket in one-on-one situations and led to him allowing only a 38.4% completion percentage and no touchdowns allowed over the last two years. McDuffie not only stands out due to his athletic skill set, though. He also is an aggressive player in press-man coverage that is able to place his hands well on the player he is in coverage to interrupt the timing between quarterback and receiver. Furthermore, McDuffie’s tape also shows a player with great instincts that recognizes plays well, reacts accordingly and, if need be, patiently prepares for making a play on the ball carrying player. He’s known by Pro Football Focus as the best zone corner in the 2022 Draft class. He does an amazing job in zone coverage, reading the quarterback on his way to the play. Just like Marcus Peters did when the Chiefs drafted him out of UW in 2015. McDuffie is a disciplined zone defender, respecting his assignments and not being tricked into chasing receivers.
How he fits with the Chiefs:
McDuffie fits with the style of Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme the same way Janoris Jenkins did with the Giants when Spags alongside Dave Merritt running that same scheme in 2016 — Jenkins was also 5’10”, 190 pounds, but his physicality and athleticism more than make up for that. Though Jenkins’ instinctive ball skills are definitely superior to McDuffie’s, the UW product is a better and more well-rounded athlete. McDuffie has the athletic and mental traits to be a starter immediately and replace Charvarius Ward and has the potential to receive Pro Bowl honors early in his career. McDuffie will quickly ascend up the depth chart to become the Chiefs’ top cornerback as a rookie. Playing against the big arms in the AFC West, such Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and Justin Herbert, should only increase his targets. While he is a rookie and opposing offenses will test him regularly, he’s no ordinary rookie and will make those same offenses suffer if and when they make mistakes. Spagnuolo will get his cornerbacks to play man coverage a majority of the time, and he is rewarded for his trust in L’Jarius Sneed, Rashad Fenton and McDuffie. With Sneed in the slot, If Fenton and McDuffie can take away the offenses outside receivers, this allows either Sneed or safeties Justin Reid or Juan Thornhill to spy the underneath routes and make interceptions.
McDuffie is as experienced as they come and has dominated as a starter versus elite Power-5 competition (PAC-12). The Chiefs desperately need McDuffie to become that lockdown corner they have been missing. He is super-talented, but that won’t deter opposing offenses from testing McDuffie early and often. As we all know, rookies, no matter how talented they are, get tested early and often. A lot will be expected from McDuffie, we can expect a ton of targets to come his way. But again, he’s no ordinary rookie. He is able to play man and zone defenses, with the mental toughness and skills to match up against any outside receiver he will face this upcoming season. McDuffie is also disruptive at the catch point, despite his size, using his skills and explosiveness to disrupt receivers. He might not generate a lot of turnovers, but McDuffie is very good at denying the catch and forcing incomplete passes. I mean this guy hasn’t allowed a touchdown since 2019 at UW.
All that being said, McDuffie should start immediately and his combination of speed, athleticism, and football IQ give him a very high floor, as well as a potential “Pro Bowl” ceiling. With the best cornerback in the draft in McDuffie, Spags can be more aggressive as a play-caller, knowing that one side of the field is shut down.
Trent McDuffie Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3U_DydLxdk
Jaire Alexander Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70yv5CJIGjI
Janoris Jenkins Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt1gD9WRUB0&t=87s