On tape, cornerback Cory Trice Jr. looks like a Day Two player. Big, physical, athletic, productive with high character. So how does a guy like that nearly fall out of the draft, all the way down to pick #241 before the Pittsburgh Steelers stopped his slide. This year’s cornerback class was deep but not that deep.
As we’ve talked about since the pick was made, and really well before it, the issue appears to be medically related. In a Sunday tweet, Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy confirmed teams were worried about Trice’s health. He also confirmed that was the reason why Trice did not receive a Senior Bowl invite despite having the tape to play in Mobile.
Nagy’s tweet says teams “tipped” him off to that in November with him believing Trice could fall out of the draft entirely. Instead, he went with pick #241 of the 259 players drafted.
While Trice’s medical concerns weren’t realized by most draftniks, our scouting report flagged him with the “medical” label given his injury history. In October of his senior year of high school, Trice broke his ankle.
He was cleared by January to play for his basketball team though he admitted he felt only 70% healthy and gutted it out. Perhaps coming back sooner than 100% created additional strain on his ankle.
In college, he suffered a high ankle sprain early in 2021. In September, he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. He returned for the 2022 season but played with a brace on his leg, which he admitted hindered his ability to turn and change directions. From the Lafayette Journal & Courier, which detailed his recovery in an article last year.
“He’s coming off ACL surgery and was wearing a knee brace since preseason practices started in August. He wasn’t smooth in his technique. It wasn’t the Trice we’ve seen since making the move to cornerback.
The team’s athletic trainers encouraged him to remove his knee brace earlier in the season. He finally did it last week.”
For those reasons, in our pre-draft scouting report, Trice carried a medical red flag and we noted those injuries in our report. Apparently, only the NFL (and us) were aware of those problems. Thus the fall.
Trice finished with a productive year, completing it with 10 pass breakups and two interceptions. His game is similar to Joey Porter Jr.’s but with arguably better ball skills, five career picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns, though Trice lacks some of the elite length Porter possesses. Porter has 34-inch arms, Trice 32-3/8, though it’s still a solid figure.
It’s important to note that Trice is healthy now and should be ready for rookie minicamp two weeks from now. Trice attended the Combine (where teams checked him out medically) and went through drills and testing while he did his shuttle drills at his Boilermakers Pro Day, attended by Steelers’ area scout Mark Gorscak. There’s no reason to believe the medical concerns will prevent him from immediately practicing with the team. Rather, the concerns appear to be over his long-term health. Like Darnell Washington, Trice is a long and leggy player and perhaps there’s concerns over his knees and ankles holding up given his frame. But it’s hard to ignore the value and Trice was worth the risk at the end of the seventh round.