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 Mississippi State CB Martin Emerson Jr.
#1 Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State (Jr.) – 6015, 201 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Martin Emerson||6015/201||10 1/8″||33 1/2″||79 1/2″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Possesses prototype size to play the cornerback position at the NFL level, large, filled out frame with freakish arm length
— Delivers quick and violent jams at the line of scrimmage, using his length to stun receivers and disrupt their releases
— Extremely comfortable in his crossover run, which helps make him particularly effective in zone coverage assignments
— Arm length and violent punch allow him to extend and disengage from stalk blocks efficiently
— Long speed appears better on film than his 40 time, rangy corner who covers ground well as a deep ⅓ defender in Cover 3
—Plays with good patience and tempo in off man coverage, keeps him in phase to contest shallow and intermediate routes while collisioning receivers at the top of their routes
— Plays with a clear understanding of where the sticks are at on third down, adjusts his approach accordingly
— Transitions quickly and gains ground while breaking downhill out of his crossover run, makes him extremely effective in his press bail technique
— Has showcased solid hit power when able to come downhill and square up his target
— Solid zone presence, does a good job of reading quarterbacks eyes and occupying throwing lanes to force checkdowns
— Solid route recognition in man coverage, does well to match the receivers tempo
— Does a great job of using his length to squeeze receivers into the sideline downfield
— Can be a solid run and screen game defender when he stays engaged on a play to play basis
— Needs to become more consistent in wrapping up and bringing more physicality as a tackler, too often allows easy YAC opportunities
— Stops his feet on contact at times as a tackler
— Somewhat stiff in the hips, fails to maintain balance at time in his transitions, creating separation
— Can struggle to open and run with receivers when put into a trailing position at the line of scrimmage
— Will occasionally get caught planting outside of his frame, which can cause him to lose his footing breaking downhill
— Lack of top end athleticism and movement skills limits his potential ceiling at the next level
— Gets caught knifing inside off the edge occasionally, putting him in position to lose outside contain in the run and screen game
— Could use his size to become even more of a bully than he already is, appears to play smaller than his frame at times
— Has solid, but not elite ball skills, locates the football well, but turnover production was not great, just two forced turnovers in three years at the collegiate level.
— 154 tackles 6 TFLs 1 FF 1 INT 16 PDs
— 2021: 50 tackles 3 TFLs 3 PDs
— Tied to lead all Power 5 cornerbacks with 11 forced incompletions in 2020, was given the 7th best coverage grade in the FBS and 3rd best in the SEC(82.9), per PFF
As receivers are taller and faster in the modern NFL than in any previous era, a lengthy cornerback has become more coveted than ever in the current NFL landscape. Enter, Martin Emerson Jr a talented cornerback out of Mississippi State who possesses freakish size and length at 6’2” 202 pounds, with 33 ½” arms, a 79 ½” wingspan, and 10 ½” hands. His size and arm length give him one of the most disruptive punches in this year’s class, making him extremely effective when able to get hands on at the line of scrimmage.
While his best season came in his sophomore year, where he collected 72 tackles, 1.5 tackles for losses, and 11 passes defended, his effort against Alabama’s talented receiver room from his junior season this fall really caught my eye. Against the Crimson Tide, Emerson Jr showed his ability to win from press, off, and catch alignments in man coverage, while also making plays both as a flat defender in Cover 2 and a deep ⅓ defender in Cover 3. Moreover, given that he is a long strider who builds his speed downfield, Emerson Jr’s tape shows that his top end speed is far quicker than his 4.53 40 time would suggest, as the 40 is extremely dependent on a good start and acceleration phase.
In a league where receivers continue to become faster and more precise in their route running, off man coverage has slowly become a dying art at the NFL level. With his patience to stay in phase and physicality to disrupt receivers coming out of their breaks, Martin Emerson Jr has proven to be extremely effective in off man coverage in his work at the collegiate level.
Below, aligned in off man coverage to the field as part of a split field coverage in a home matchup against Alabama this past season, Emerson Jr takes three patient read steps at the snap, staying square before gauging the receivers tempo and settling down just past the sticks. As Jameson Williams breaks inside, Emerson Jr works to flatten his route with a two hand jam, staying in phase to break downhill, and use his length to break up the curl route.
Emerson’s unique combination of size and length allows him to suffocate receivers downfield when able to get hands on in either press, off, or catch man coverage. Below, against a talented receiver in Alabama’s John Metchie III, Emerson Jr backs off to eight yards depth before squaring up to the line of scrimmage and settling into his catch man technique.
After forcing the receiver wide with his patience, Emerson Jr works laterally and engages in a two hand jam, squeezing Metchie into the sideline with physicality before flipping his hips to transition downfield and staying connected to the near hip. Downfield, Emerson Jr continues to squeeze Metchie III into the sideline while turning to locate the football, as it falls aimlessly to the turf. Emerson Jr’s ability to disrupt the receivers timing in reaching his intended landmark and ability to eliminate space for the quarterback to fit the ball in down the sideline eliminates this route before it had even started.
While Emerson Jr certainly doesn’t possess the quickest hips in the 2022 cornerback class, his ability to flip his hips, particularly when forced to speed turn, is more than enough to keep him in phase even with the best receivers at the collegiate level. Aligned to the top of the screen in off coverage, playing a quarters assignment to the strong side of a Cover 6 split field coverage, Emerson Jr aligned at nine yards depth, tasked with guarding John Metchie III out of a cut split.
At the snap, Emerson Jr works laterally to protect his outside leverage before flipping his hips to match the receiver as he declares inside. As the receiver breaks back outside on the deep out route, Emerson Jr uses a speed turn to transition efficiently and stay in phase, closing toward the sideline to play through the catch point and force Metchie III to fight for a tough, contested catch. While cornerbacks will always allow catches throughout a game, as it is the nature of playing the toughest defensive position in the sport, the best in the business will consistently contest the catch point and wear receivers down over the course of a game.
Despite his proficiency in off-man coverage situations, Emerson Jr is undoubtedly at his best when breaking out of a lateral shuffle or a crossover run, making him extremely effective in zone coverage. Below, serving as the flat defender in an inverted Cover 3 scheme, Emerson Jr bluffs a press coverage alignment before backing off to eight yards depth and opening into a slide shuffle at the snap.
After patiently gaining depth and passing the #1 receiver off to his inside help, Emerson Jrtriggers downhill on an out route from the slot receiver, planting efficiently, closing ground, and arriving with physicality to limit the catch to a gain of just five yards, offering no opportunity for yards after the catch forcing a fourth down punt.
As offense’s have continued to get more creative, man coverage sets are more often than ever targeted to create crack/replace situations in the receiving game, making the opposing cornerbacks make quick decisions and sound tackles on the boundary. Below, Emerson Jr is aligned in press man coverage on the boundary in a Cover 1 scheme, matching the receivers inside release off the line before identifying the crack/replace as the tight end leaks out to the flat after bluffing split zone action.
Upon identifying crack/replace, Emerson Jr plants and triggers to the flat, working laterally and shooting low to stick the tight end at the line of scrimmage, allowing no opportunity for yards after the catch. Cornerbacks who can use their football IQ to make plays outside of their man coverage assignment are luxuries for a defense and can help limit great play calls by opposing offensive coordinators, just as we see from Emerson Jr here below.
Emerson Jr is a perfect example of why length is so important at the cornerback position, not just in his ability to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage, but also to disengage from stalk blocks and defend the screen game. Below, aligned on the line of scrimmage outside of a stack trips alignment, Emerson Jr widens to set the edge at the snap, using his length to box the kick out block and force the screen back inside toward his help.
Once the ball carrier commits inside, Emerson violently extends and disengages from the blocker before stepping inside to meet Jameson Williams with a violent stick at the line of scrimmage, stopping the screen for a modest gain. While his consistency in the physicality department could stand to improve, plays like this show both the “want to” and ability for Emerson Jr to develop into a dominant force defending screen and run game on the boundary.
Playing the cornerback position in zone coverage, it is important to understand that the schemes are often designed to force checkdowns, and that “catch/tackle” is often a desired result, as long as the pass catcher is made to earn the yards with a physical stick. Below, aligned in press coverage to the field, Emerson Jr opens into a crossover run, assuming “bail technique” at the snap, sinking to occupy the seven cut window in a smash concept.
Once he has enough depth to occupy the window, Emerson Jr settles, eyes the quarterback, and drives the hitch once the quarterback pulls the trigger, planting, driving downhill, and arriving with physicality to tackle the hitch short of the sticks. Once again, Emerson Jr continues to show the traits to be an extremely physical and effective tackler at the NFL level.
Beyond some bad technique at times as a tackler, Emerson Jr’s primary issue is the lack of top end athleticism and short range speed, which can allow explosive athletes to create a ton of yards after the catch if he is unable to stay in phase. Below, aligned in man coverage as part of a Cover 1 scheme, Emerson Jr aligns at seven yards depth with outside leverage to guard Jameson Williams out of a cut split alignment.
At the snap, Emerson Jr patiently peddles before opening into a crossover run as Williams begins to threaten his cushion. As Williams sinks his hips and breaks on a deep curl route, Emerson Jr breaks efficiently, but is too far out of phase to contest a well timed throw, allowing an opportunity for yards after the catch. While a terrible angle by the post safety ultimately allows Williams to jet down the sideline for an explosive play touchdown, this rep shows how speedy receivers can take advantage of Emerson Jr at times.
Overall, Martin Emerson Jr is a solid mid round prospect with an elite build combined with impressively refined technique after three seasons in the ever competitive SEC. He enters the NFL with proficiency in press man, off man, catch man, and various zone coverage assignments, where his high football IQ and length allow him to consistently contest the catch point. While his lack of top end long speed and athleticism will likely limit his ceiling at the next level, I feel confident in saying that Emerson Jr should find a home and become a capable starter/boundary sub package piece early on in his NFL career.
As for scheme fit, I’d contend that Emerson Jr fits best in a team which primarily features zone coverage schemes, where he is able to rely on his length, physicality, and route recognition while simultaneously masking his weaknesses. That being said, Emerson Jr’s confidence and patience consistently keep him in phase to contest the catch point in man coverage as well, he just might need slightly more over the top help than other top end corners. Skillset wise, Emerson Jr reminds me of longtime division rival Jimmy Smith, who similarly was able to win in both press and off man coverage through using his unique length and physicality, even as he has grown older and lost a step. Similarly, Smith was able to use his frame to become an extremely effective and physical tackler at the next level, a trait which I think Emerson Jr could continue to develop after flashing the ability in college.
Given his raw physical tools and well developed technique, I think most teams will have Emerson Jr. slotted somewhere in the late day two to early day three type range. While the Steelers no longer have a pressing need at the position and are likely more inclined to take a slot capable corner if they were to target one in the upcoming draft, Emerson Jr. is still an intriguing name to keep an eye on. Regardless, wherever Emerson Jr. lands, he should immediately be able to contribute as a boundary cornerback in sub package sets with the potential of developing into a capable full time starter as he continues to develop his game.
Projection: Late Day Two-Early Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.7-Potential Starter/Good Backup (3rd Round)
Games Watched: vs Arkansas (2020), at Alabama (2020), vs Alabama (2021)