New Bucs cornerback Zyon McCollum was one of the most talked about non-first-rounders of this year’s draft process. After a successful five-year career at Sam Houston State, McCollum put on an absolute show at the NFL Scouting Combine. McCollum’s athletic testing produced the greatest RAS score out of 1,923 cornerbacks tracked since 1987!

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.

Eye Placement

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.

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About the Author: Joshua Queipo

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WhatTheBuc
WhatTheBuc
2 months ago

He should contribute on our special teams until immediately. He looks like he needs work in press. He doesn’t get a good punch off the line. I’m thinking Bowles and staff can fix that.

WVBuc
WVBuc
2 months ago

It is surprising that he was still there in the 5th round, IMO. Professional leagues have drafted for potential more every decade. Looking for the physical specimen they can mold in their image. This has resulted in some monumental first round busts. But let this sink in a little more…the most athletic corner in the draft since Ronald Reagan was President just slid to the 5th round. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. That is two years more recent than there was a cornerback with this physical ability and it seems it stops in 1987 because such ratings weren’t as… Read more »

Spitfire
Spitfire
Reply to  WVBuc
2 months ago

That’s why the Draft is a crap shoot and a s**t show more often than not. Obviously he went to a small school for a reason but if you couldn’t find good players after round 3 then they would just stop the Draft there. Also, how many times did you hear Jon and Scott baffled by the picks teams made by selecting guys early that tested low. Nothing is a given, teams make smart moves and dumb moves and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m pretty confident the Bucs do their homework and trust their instincts but even… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  Spitfire
2 months ago

Every Draft we are subjected to people’s evaluations of players that are based, for the most part, on magazines off the rack, “Who the Hell is” Mel Kiper, 5 minute YouTube videos, TV analysts and Bill Parcel’s postman. Yet, after knowing virtually nothing else, folks make these definitive declarations about players as if they somehow know more than the NFL staffs. Who’s to say anyone is a “bust”, a “reach” or a “wasted pick”. It’s the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” from the peanut gallery that just cracks me up. Fact is, no one knows.

BucHarbour
BucHarbour
2 months ago

Looks like someone who, with proper coaching and technique refinement, can be an elite shutdown guy. Dude has very fast recovery and is quite fluid. Those are things that you just can’t teach and every corner needs to shutdown a receiver. I have a feeling that, in 2-3 years, this will turn out to be one of the biggest draft steals we’ve had. We’ll see.

Dude
Dude
Reply to  BucHarbour
2 months ago

I appreciate that, thanks for noticing!

BucHarbour
BucHarbour
Reply to  Dude
2 months ago

Now that there is funny!

surferdudes
surferdudes
2 months ago

I think this kid can compete from the get go. He’ll need to catch up to the speed of the NFL, but wasn’t he a five year starter? This kid has some football under his belt. I could see him starting as soon as next season when some of our DBs contracts are up.

seat26
seat26
2 months ago

Hopefully, he sticks and gives our secondary some competition. We may need him with all the injuries we seem to get in our secondary. Plus we have 3 guys that will be free agents next year.

Spitfire
Spitfire
2 months ago

sounds like he has the mental game coming along with his agility. You never know, with a little practice he may be able to keep up with anyone and be dangerous!