Playing corner in the NFL is a lot more than just being an athlete, so I endeavored to see what McCollum’s tape looked like.
First off, finding good tape of an FCS corner is, well … challenging, but not impossible. Here are a few clips from his game against SE Louisiana this past year.
Table of Contents
First let’s start with this red zone rep. McCollum is No. 22 at the top of your screen.
Pre-snap McCollum bails from a press look. This allows him to keep his eyes in the backfield post-snap so he can read the quarterback. As soon as the ball is snapped quarterback Cole Kelly immediately looks to his left for the receiver McCollum is lined up on. The receiver is running a simple 10-yard curl route. Kelly is hoping McCollum tries to protect the end zone and gives more cushion on the route. But he doesn’t. McCollum keeps his eyes on Kelly the entire time, keeps his hips open as the receiver hits the top of his route, and is easily able to breakdown to prevent separation.
On this second clip, McCollum is now lined up at the bottom of the screen.
Again, McCollum is lined up in off-man coverage. As the ball is snapped his receiver is running a shallow cross. McCollum immediately starts matching the route laterally while closing the vertical space between the two players. All the while he continues to watch Kelly. As Kelly begins to throw the ball, McCollum is now running downhill to meet the receiver and disrupt the pass at the catch-point.
Footwork And Hip Fluidity
McCollum’s athleticism allows him to stay locked-in on receivers even under difficult circumstances as evidenced on this next play where he is lined up at the bottom of the screen.
This is the first play where we see McCollum lined up in a press position. As the ball is snapped his receiver immediately tries to throw McCollum of with a stutter step. He hopes he can gain inside leverage by getting McCollum to turn his hips to the outside. While McCollum’s first step is to open to the sideline, he is immediately able to close back up and square his hips to the receiver. Even though the receiver gets the inside release he was hoping for, he was unable to create any separation and McCollum is completely in-phase with him.
As they move towards the top of the route and the receiver breaks in McCollum is running in lockstep and gives no additional cushion. As the quarterback throws the ball McCollum is in perfect position to undercut the route ever so slightly to break up the pass.
The positive end result of this play would have never been possible without McCollum’s agile feet and fluid hips allowing him to stay in-phase with his receiver despite a very good release.
Athletic Testing In Action
As I said at the top of this article, McCollum’s athletic testing is elite. But what does that look like when it is harnessed properly on the field? Let’s look at an example. One of the best combine drills to determine functional athleticism for a cornerback is the three-cone drill. This helps to show how quickly a player can change direction. This is especially important for corners as they are often required to change direction in order to keep up with a receiver as he makes breaks in his route. This next play will show you that drill in a game setting.
Once again McCollum is lined up in a press position. As the ball is snapped his receiver gets a clean release to the inside as if he is going to run another shallow cross. However, before the receiver gets to the inside hash, he snaps off his route. For many corners, reacting to this would have left them overrunning the route. But our guy McCollum looks like a mirror image of the receiver, snapping off his momentum in time!
McCollum will require time to develop to become a quality NFL starter. However, he has a base set of traits and a physical profile that make him a really fun bet for the Bucs on Day 3 of the draft.