Many Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans received their wish with the team finally drafting a cornerback in the second round, making it the first time that’s happened since Bryant McFadden in 2005. What was more surprising was the player the selected – Ole Miss’ Senquez Golson.
A scouting report has already been done on him. So there’s no need for me to delve into a full report again. But I’ll give my two cents.
My initial feeling was a cringe, a knot in my stomach. Anyone who knows me realizes I don’t often get caught up in a player’s size. Focus on that too much and you’re bound to miss some great talent. But even then, there are limits. And Golson comes in at 5’8/5 and 176 pounds. Short, 29 3/4 inch arms. Using my true height as a guide, the Mississippi State product came in dead last for defensive backs and second to last between DBs and wide receivers. What hurt him was his vertical, leaping only 33.5 inches.
You’d like small cornerbacks who can naturally show their ability to elevate. Antwon Blake is tiny but jumped 39 inches at his Pro Day. That’s the difference and my serious concern with Golson.
That was all before the tape. After breaking down several games, it’s obvious why the team likes him. He fits what they look for. Despite a diminutive size, Golson is physical and seeks contact. He can set the edge in the run game, packs a punch, and shows the technique to sink and wrap. Bigger running backs with momentum can give him problems and his lack of strength does become a bit clearer, but a lot of cornerbacks are going to get exposed.
He has plus instincts. High IQ and fits a zone scheme well. Diagnoses and reacts in a hurry with the lower body strength to click and close. Interception against Auburn was entirely reading the eyes of the QB and making a play on the ball.
Overall, a smart guy that takes good angles. Knows how to play to the receiver’s upfield shoulder when defending vertically.
Ten interceptions, no matter how you slice it, is impressive. You can’t take that away from him. But in the four games I watched, only one – the Auburn one shown above – was notable. Three were gimmies. Once, the receiver fell down. Another time, the pass was severely underthrown. And a third was a byproduct of a receiver giving up in a scramble drill. Shows up in the box score all the same but less exhilarating when you’re looking at what skills translate.
He may be a bit high in his pedal and surprisingly doesn’t show great bend but he’s got a fluid turn and change of direction ability.
The biggest question, the elephant is the room, is his ability to compete with the ball in the air. It was hard finding tape to show it.
The best chance at that came against Auburn and the Steelers’ third round selection – Sammie Coates. Mix of wins and losses. Broke up a deep ball early but a receiver with stronger hands probably brings it in.
Lack of size and length hurt him twice, missing playing the pocket on a touchdown and getting boxed out on another deep throw.
That’s it. That’s all Golson has. Leap, find football, and try to make a play. Wasn’t good enough. Natural losses small corners struggle against. As a team, you have to ask yourself if you can live with it.
And that’s where Golson’s ability to help the team will be decided. Can he play the pocket of receiver’s with the ball in the air? Or is the lack of vertical and length going to doom him? I still lean towards the latter, even if I’m come off the “bad pick” stance my gut initially told me.
Blake has hops and still struggles. He gave up four touchdowns last year, three of which occurred inside the five. Watched him every day in training camp. Got picked on. Times where he simply isn’t going to win, compete. Golson must be confident. He’s going to lose.
Steelers seemed to have a lot of other appealing options on the board. Quinten Rollins would have been my selection. It’s too bad the Baltimore Ravens traded up for Maxx Williams. I’d feel a lot better. I’m not alone in that sentiment.