From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Cincinnati CB Coby Bryant.
#7 Coby Bryant Draft Profile/Cincinnati CB 6013, 193 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Coby Bryant||6013/193||9 3/8||30 5/8||74|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Willing and effective as an open field tackler
— Disciplined corner who rarely allows downfield separation
— Does a good job of playing the upfield shoulder/flattening receivers routes coming out of their breaks
— Smooth and fluid mover in his backpedal
— Ability to get out his breaks quickly and close ground efficiently
— Stays patient in the red zone, appears comfortable in catch man
— Was able to gain far more versatility in his schematic and alignment usage at Cincinnati than most other corners at the collegiate level
— Does a great job of locating and high pointing the football downfield
— Works tremendously from trail position/out of phase. Stays calm and plays through the receivers hands with violence to seperate them from the football.
— Has a knack for jarring footballs loose after the catch/has mastered the “peanut punch”
— Has solid, if not great hips. Allows him to stay in phase to contest the catch point when beat off the line
— Great patience in press coverage/matches feet well and is comfortable staying square to force receivers to play through contact
— Had one of the best games of his college career vs Alabama in CFP, quieting concerns about lack of competition
— Does well throttling down with receivers when in phase, makes him particularly effective in press coverage
— Elite ankle mobility allows him to sink his hips and break at advanced angles
— Possesses high level route anticipation, allowing him to beat receivers to their landmarks and undercut passes
— Extremely disciplined in coverage, rarely bites on double moves
— Will occasionally miss tackles due to tendency to leave his feet and aim low
— Can be a little quick out of his pedal early in reps, must do a better job of emphasizing his three “read steps” in his transition to the next level
— Has a tendency to overrun plays when coming downhill as a tackler, creates YAC opportunities at times on hitches and bubbles
— Has instances where he hesitates/shows lack of trust in his breaks. He must eliminate this to effectively contest the catch point at the next level.
— Will occasionally shoot wrong arm in press coverage/putting himself into a trailing position off the line of scrimmage
— Struggles to break downhill/laterally out of a crossover run, making him less effective when in bail technique against out breaking routes
— Struggles to get off stalk blocks at times, needs to be more physical engaging receivers in the run/screen game
— Needs to become far more patient in off coverage, far too eager to give ground before his cushion is threatened
— 170 tackles 5 TFLs 4 FFs 10 INTs 35 PDs 1 TD
— 2021: 44 tackles 1.5 TFLs 2 FFs 3 INTs 11 PDs 1 TD
— 2021 Jim Thorpe Award Recipient(Nation’s best DB Award)
— All AAC First-Team Selection in both 2021 and 2020
— Was a graduate student playing his 5th season at Cincinnati this fall
— Older brother, Christian Bryant, played five NFL seasons after being selected in the 7th round out of Ohio State in the 2014 NFL Draft
While much of the attention from the draft community has gravitated towards his teammate Sauce Gardner, and rightfully so, Coby Bryant, the Thorpe Award recipient from this past season, is a name that deserves plenty of recognition. After tying for the league lead in pass breakups ass a Senior in 2020 with 11, Bryant chose to return to Cincinnati as a graduate student and complete his fifth year of eligibility in 2021, once again leading the team with 11 pass breakups while also adding 42 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions, one of which he returned 74 yards for a touchdown.
Bryant exits Cincinnati with a well rounded game, showing the ability to excel in man coverage from both press and off alignments, along with the ability to key quarterbacks and undercut routes for various zone coverage assignments. His best trait is his ability to consistently eliminate the deep ball, working well to stay connected to receivers upfield shoulder, flatten their routes, and high point the football downfield.
At Cincinnati, Bryant showed plenty of ability to effectively cover ground from the sideline to the hashes when working in Cover 3, where he worked well to gain depth and stay on top of receivers in his bail technique. Below, playing the boundary in a 2019 matchup vs UCF, Coby Bryant is working as the deep ⅓ defender in a Cover 3 scheme, aligning at four yards depth before opening into a crossover run at the snap. Bryant then gives an under call and settles on top of the hitches before diagnosing a double move from the slot receiver, taking a perfect angle to arrive on top of the route at the catch point, and playing through the hands for an impactful downfield pass breakup.
While preventing explosive plays is the primary task of a cornerback in zone coverage, those who are able to slow down their tempo and simultaneously contest intermediate routes when their cushion has not been threatened can be true difference makers. Below, from a road matchup at USF this past season, Bryant is working as a deep ¼ defender in a Cover 4 quarters scheme, aligning at nine yards depth to allow himself to play patiently in off coverage.
At the snap, Bryant slowly opens into a side shuffle, protecting his outside leverage and keying the receivers near hip. Once the receiver breaks inside, Bryant is able to close to the near hip, get in phase, eye the quarterback, and jump the curl route for a PBU, which his teammate would secure for a tipped ball interception. One trait I’ve noticed, Bryant has elite ankle flexibility, which allows him to plant and break from untraditional angles, making him particularly effective in jumping routes from off coverage.
The play of Coby Bryant and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was at the forefront of the Bearcats’ massive road victory against Notre Dame this past season, helping hold the Irish to 23/46 passing, 257 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions, and an average of just 5.6 yards per attempt. In the game, Bryant finished with 7 tackles, and a team high three pass breakups, stifling the Notre Dame receivers all afternoon.
On the rep below, Bryant is working as the flat zone defender in a Cover 2 scheme, aligning square to the receiver at seven yards depth. At the snap, Bryant opens into a side shuffle, forcing the receiver to release inside and protecting his outside leverage. As the receiver begins to sink his hips, Bryant immediately works to undercut the route, getting his off hand across for the pass breakup. While his pad level appears high coming out of his breaks at times, Bryant’s ankle mobility, footwork, and ability to stay in phase with receivers allows him to consistently key routes from off coverage.
Few teams at the collegiate level played more press man coverage than Cincinnati, relying on their tandem of All-American corners to stifle receivers and force quarterbacks to win with tough contested throws over the middle of the field. Naturally, even the best cornerbacks will get beat off the line and put into trailing position at times, making the ability to play from out of phase a separator between average and elite cornerback play.
Much like his counterpart in Sauce Gardner, Bryant has consistently shown the ability to remain calm, locate the football, and separate receivers from the football while playing from a trailing position. On the rep below, from a 2019 home matchup against UCF, Bryant is beaten off the line, and is closing from out of phase on a fade ball target in the red zone. Downfield, Bryant shows great body control, briefly losing his footing before seeing the receiver flash his hands, and leaving his feet to deliver a violent and well placed punch, dislodging the football for a pass breakup. As so many young cornerbacks panic when they are unable to locate the football, it is refreshing to see a talented prospect in Coby Bryant showcase the patience and confidence in his own abilities to focus and make a clean, well timed play to prevent a would-be touchdown in the red zone.
While Bryant’s ability to play from a trailing position rounds out his press coverage game, he often makes his money when able to stay square off the line, get to receivers upfield shoulder, working to flatten their routes and key the quarterback. Below working out of press man coverage in a Cover 1 scheme, in the boundary from a 2019 road matchup at ECU, Bryant utilizes a mirror press, matching the receivers inside release before shooting an off hand jam at the receivers upfield shoulder. By staying on top of the route, Bryant forces the receiver to work through contact to hit his landmark, disrupting the timing and allowing him to effortlessly swipe down through the pocket for a PBU.
While most lengthy corners tend to play press man in the red zone, I have always been a firm believer that catch technique, in which the corner plants his heels just shy of the goal line and does not give ground post snap is far more effective near the goal line. On this goal line rep below against ECU, Bryant aligns at four yards depth, square to the receiver in catch technique one yard shy of the goal line.
At the snap, Bryant weaves inside to protect his leverage before identifying the back shoulder fade, closing to the receivers chest, and batting the ball away with his off hand. With his ability to utilize his efficient footwork, length, and physicality, Bryant’s red zone work was some of the most impressive I have seen in my early scouting of this year’s cornerback class.
When able to square up his target Bryant is a willing and effective tackler. Below from a 2019 road matchup against Ohio State, Cincinnati sends Coby Bryant on a cornerback blitz off the boundary, a defensive call they use at a higher rate than most teams at the FBS level. At the snap, Bryant times the blitz well, creeping from his press coverage alignment to fly off the edge unblocked and shoot low to cut down the back for no gain. While issues can arise with his ability to shed blocks, Bryant enters the NFL as a willing run defender who will likely continue to improve in that department.
Beyond a lack of physicality in taking on blockers, which is a real issue in Bryant’s game at the moment, he will occasionally hesitate out of his breaks, which can be frustrating to watch given how great his click and close ability is on most reps. On this rep below against Notre Dame, Bryant aligns in off man coverage at eight yards depth in a Cover 1 scheme. After matching the receiver, Bryant opens his hips and is off balance breaking on the curl route, taking far too many steps and an easy reception on a poorly thrown ball. Although he was off balance, I believe that if Bryant had fully committed to this break, he likely arrives at the catch point for his fourth pass breakup of the game.
Overall, Coby Bryant is likely going to be a great Day 2 find, equipped with the length, footwork, and confidence to serve as a starter early in his career. He’ll absolutely need to improve in the block shedding department, where often fails to attack oncoming blockers and allows them to get into his body, but as his overall willingness as a run defender is there, I believe this will likely work itself out at the next level.
In terms of a pro player comparison, Bryant has shades of current Washington Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller, who has carved out a solid NFL role, logging 85 starts, 11 interceptions, and 53 passes defended in his six years thus far in the league. Similar to Fuller, Bryant is effective in both press and off man coverage, winning through his superior footwork, physicality, and confidence to compete at the catch point even when giving up size.
Thus far in my evaluation process, Coby Bryant is one of my favorite prospects for the Steelers to look at on Day 2 at the cornerback position, particularly if they are unable to retain Ahkello Witherspoon this offseason. Even in the case that Witherspoon is retained, drafting Bryant would give the Steelers two lengthy, capable coverage men on the boundary, as well as allowing the Steelers to shift Cam Sutton back into the slot in sub packages. While Sauce Gardner has rightfully stolen most of the attention, keep your eye on the 2021 Jim Thorpe award winner Coby Bryant, as I anticipate his name will continue to rise as the draft process continues.
Projection: Mid to Late Day 2
Depot Draft Grade: 8.2 – Future Quality Starter
Games Watched: at Memphis (2019), vs UCF(2019), at ECU(2019), vs Alabama(2021), at Houston(2019), at Notre Dame(2021), at Ohio State(2019), at USF(2021)