What I like-Trufant is exactly what an NFL team would look for in a cornerback from a physical perspective. He’s tall, but not so tall as to impede his flexibility and ability to move in space. He’s got plenty of muscle and plays with very good functional strength. In terms of coverage, there is likely not a more complete overall cornerback in the entire draft. While at the University of Washington, Trufant was asked to play in multiple coverages from off zone all the way to press man. He does a nice job on the outside using the sideline to manipulate the receiver and does a nice job routing receivers to help in coverage.
In many cases, a player like Trufant with his physical tools; great size, exceptional speed and quickness tend to let their technique slip and not work on the polish of their game. That’s not the case for Trufant. Between 2011 and 2012 Trufant really worked hard to improve some of the more subtle parts of his game. Keeping his butt low in his backpedal, holding it longer and opening up quickly and with much more fluidity than he did in 2011.
You can also tell that Trufant has put in his time in the film room. He has gotten much better in zone coverage this year. Less hesitation, more use of the quarterback’s eyes and seemingly much better anticipation. But it’s in man coverage that I am particularly impressed with Trufant. He’s physical at the line and fearless in any situation. You can just tell watching him play that he genuinely feels like he is going to win every one on one matchup he has. That’s the test of a great corner when they can play with such confidence.
What I don’t like-Obviously when you have a player who strives to be great on every single play, there are going to be times when he takes risks and those risks do not pay off. Where this seems to rear its ugly head the most is in his tackling. In traffic, he shows good instincts in run support; he reads the play, closes fast and hits hard. But in the open field he struggles much more. Gets himself either caught flat-footed, lunging for the ball carrier, or he sells out on the big hit and misses. He tends to drop his head and doesn’t use his arms properly. The only other real flaw I have witnessed in Trufant’s game is at times he’ll miss on the jam, and doesn’t always recover like he should. If he’s going to get up there and jam big, physical NFL wide outs, he’s going to need to hit the weights and get stronger in his upper body, but along those same lines, he’s going to have to be smart and when he misses be able to use that elite recovery speed and smooth hip turn to get around and chase.
What it all means-There is much discussion about who the best cornerback is in this draft. For my money it’s Trufant. Expanding a little on Trufant’s game, one thing that makes him special for me is that he can move around into different spots in the secondary. This is a draft where the top corners are primarily boundary players. Trufant is excellent on the outside, where he can run with receivers, use the sidelines and force bad plays. But I think compared to the rest of the top corners he is a smooth enough athlete and strong enough in his technique that he would be excellent covering in the slot. With today’s NFL running better and better athletes out of the slot receiver position, a player like Trufant with his instinctive play and ability to read option routes and breaks gets a big bump from me.
Going back to another area where Trufant can improve it’s in his ball skills. He can leap, he can run, and he can cover. I want to see him turn more of his great coverage plays into interceptions instead of just incomplete passes. Picking up the football in the air more quickly will help. Where Trufant ends up being drafted will depend largely on what type of defense a team is running. I consider him one of the top ten players in this draft class and a can’t miss prospect. In a draft with players full of flaws, the problems with Trufant’s game can be fixed more easily than some of the others. He may never be an elite tackler and he may never pick off 10 passes a year, but he’s a natural leader and inspires the rest of his team to play better, while closing off the opposing team’s best weapon on offense.