From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#8 Zech McPhearson/CB Texas Tech – 5’11” 195 lbs.
- Solid size and build
- Good long speed
- Fluid, quick hips. Quick feet. Great COD (change of direction) skills. Able to mirror receivers off the line. Has burst. Good click and close ability
- Effective in both man and zone coverage. Displays aggressiveness in man. Displays patience in zone (and man, depending on the situation), doesn’t open ‘the gate’ in man to give the receiver somewhere to go. Trusts his eyes and technique to lead him to the ball
- Ball skills in zone, plays instinctively. Able to read route concepts and the eyes of the QB to anticipate routes/throws. Plays the catch point well
- Can line up outside, in the slot, and at safety (can roll into deep coverage)
- Most effective in off coverage, capable in press coverage
- Knows how to use his hands in the release and stem of routes. Has some punch to his jam
- Willing to come up and play the run. Shows a gritty attitude, doesn’t give up on plays
- Should provide special teams value
- Can work to improve his play recognition/mental processing ability. Had some mental lapses/communication issues, vacating his zone or biting on ‘eye candy’
- Seems to be more comfortable in zone than man. Seems to be more comfortable in off coverage, half-turn/bail technique specifically (consistently relies upon half-turn technique), more so than press. Upright/rigid in his backpedal at times
- Lack of height hurts him against bigger receivers. Struggles in contested catch situations when he’s at a serious size disadvantage
- Lack of size can also leave him victim in the run game on occasion. Gets stuck on blocks or removed from the play at times
- Can work to improve his tackling technique. Tries to grab high (shoulder pad, horse-collar, face mask area) or dives low at times instead of wrapping up low in a fundamentally sound fashion
- Had some recurring penalty issues
- 2020 Stats (10 games): 47 solo tackles, 53 total. 6 passes defensed, 4 interceptions
- Career Stats (33 games): 100 solo tackles, 121 total. 14 passes defensed, 4 interceptions
- Pro Day Numbers (according to Jim Nagy and RAS): 4.48 40-yard dash, 40.5″ vertical, 10’10” broad, 4.00 short shuttle, 6.88 3 cone, 14 225-lb. bench press reps
- 2020 All-Big 12 First Team selection by the conference coaches
- Named to the Captain’s Circle in a vote by his teammates (2020)
- According to Alex Kozora: Has 7 siblings. Father Gerrick Sr. played in the NFL, mother Kim played in the NWFL, brother Gerrick Jr. was drafted by the New York Giants, brother Josh was a running back at Penn State, brother Derrick was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers MLB franchise, brother Emmanuel played football at New Mexico, brother Jeremiah played football at Indiana, brother Matthew was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks MLB franchise, sister Kimberly played soccer
- Full name: Zechariah McPhearson
Zechariah McPhearson is another cornerback prospect worth looking at in the 2021 NFL Draft, due to the combination of the positives he put on tape, as well as his Pro Day results. McPhearson comes from an extremely athletic family (see Bio), as his Mom and Dad were both athletes, as were his his seven siblings. McPhearson’s father, Gerrick Sr., played DB and was drafted by the New England Patriots. His brother, Gerrick Jr., also played DB and was drafted by the New York Giants.
Zech began his career at Penn State before transferring to Texas Tech for the 2019 season. Playing for Texas Tech is what allowed his collegiate career to really take off. In his recent 2020 season, McPhearson intercepted four passes with six passes defensed. With a strong Pro Day showing, McPhearson is likely on the radar of a lot of NFL scouts, meaning he could find an NFL home on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
This first clip shows McPhearson coming away with an interception from his 2020 game vs. Baylor. Texas Tech only rushes three, dropping eight into coverage (looks like three deep, five under). McPhearson (top of the screen) is playing a deep zone assignment and is able to read the QB’s eyes to get a break on the pass. It’s an overthrow, so McPhearson is gifted one here, but his ball skills do show up on tape.
This second clip shows another interception for McPhearson, this time against Oklahoma State in 2020. McPhearson is in off coverage boundary side and mirrors the receiver vertically. While the rest of his coverage is not shown in the broadcast view, we can see from the replay that the pass was intended for wide receiver Tylan Wallace, who McPhearson was not covering. This means McPhearson was able to stay with the boundary side receiver upfield, then gets his eyes on the quarterback in order to see the throw and make a play on the football. Great awareness.
This clip is from the same 2020 game against Oklahoma State. McPhearson is in off coverage field side. What stands out about this clip is McPhearson’s recognition, then break on the throw. Since he’s already giving the receiver cushion, he displays patience to let the receiver come to him while he’s reading the QB’s eyes. The QB takes a short, quick drop, and McPhearson is able to react and explode on the hitch route in order to get in front of the receiver as the pass arrives, denying a catch.
This clip is from Texas Tech’s 2020 game vs. Oklahoma. McPhearson (field side) illustrates he’s not afraid to come up and make a tackle. He passes off the receiver heading deep, reads what’s happening in front of him and sees the running back leak out to the flat, then he fires down to lay a hit on the RB, catapulting him into the air.
This clip is from Texas Tech’s 2020 game against Texas. McPhearson is lined up as the field side safety in a long distance, third down situation. He reads the routes of the receivers in front of him while staying patient until he’s able to diagnose where the QB is going with the football. Once he is certain about the QB’s intentions, you can see that he breaks on the vertical route closest to the sideline, and climbs the ladder to make it a contested catch that the receiver is unable to reel in. This clip displays McPhearson’s positional versatility on the back end.
This clip from the same 2020 game vs. Texas shows McPhearson break up a deep ball by playing through the receiver’s hands. Immediately after the snap, McPhearson begins side-shuffling backwards utilizing a bail technique in order to keep the receiver in front of him. When the receiver cuts outside and is able to slip behind him, McPhearson swiftly flips his hips and maintains engagement with the receiver by getting his hands on him. He’s also able to get his head around to see the flight path of the ball, to which he’s then able to play through the receiver’s hands at the catch point, dislodging the football and breaking up a potential catch.
This clip is from overtime in the 2020 Texas Tech-Texas matchup. McPhearson is field side. Post-snap, he shuffles backwards in a side-turn. With a receiver motioning across the formation for a possible swing pass, McPhearson hesitates due to the new threat, allowing the field side receiver to cut inside on a free lane to the end zone. With no inside help due to the middle of the field safety’s positioning, it becomes an easy throw and catch for Texas to score.
In this clip from Texas Tech’s 2019 game against the Iowa State Cyclones, McPhearson is beaten on a throw to the end zone while guarding a bigger tight end. Post-snap, McPhearson is a bit high in his backpedal but displays quick feet as he keeps eyes on the QB while ensuring he stays with the tight end. However, with size working against him in this situation, the tight end positions himself behind McPhearson, and McPhearson is unable to jump for the football in the end zone. McPhearson does often compete at the catch point, but these types of mismatches in terms of size put him in a difficult position to make plays at times.
This clip is from the same 2019 game vs. Iowa State. McPhearson leaves his shallow zone to instead chase the field side receiver running a drag route. Since the rest of the defense is maintaining their zone assignment, this leaves the flat wide open for the running back to leak out and pick up free yards, which the RB turns into a big play. Some type of miscommunication or mental error must have occurred on the defensive side of the ball, specifically for McPhearson.
A positive is that he chased the RB down to make the tackle, putting in effort to ensure the big play didn’t become a scoring play.
Zech McPhearson offers upside as a defensive back. He is a versatile defender with valued plus traits, and with good Pro Day numbers, numerous NFL franchises will most likely have him on their radars come draft time. Teams that employ a zone-based scheme may have their eyes on McPhearson, but he is capable in man coverage (especially in the slot) as well.
Projection: Mid-Day 3
Games Watched: Iowa State (2019), Texas (2020), Oklahoma (2020), Baylor (2020), Oklahoma State (2020)