Perhaps the best pure cover corner in the entire draft, Jourdan Lewis has had a variety of NFL Draft speculation thrown his way. The best way to understand everything is that he is a first round talent trapped inside a fourth/ fifth round body frame. However, despite many detractors, I remain very high on his potential.
As a three year starter at Michigan, Lewis tallied six interceptions, one sack, and forty-two passes defended (twenty-four in the last two seasons: most in the nation), as he anchored this top ranked secondary. Currently projected anywhere from rounds 1-4 depending on what source you use, let’s look at what makes Lewis so polarizing to scouts.
Lewis is a highly competitive, ELITE man-to-man defender with quick feet and excellent lateral movement. He is always in the hip pocket of opposing receiver, forcing quarterbacks to complete passes in tight windows. When the ball is thrown, Lewis’ ball skills make completing a catch even more difficult as is active hands prevent any fluid entrance for the ball. We’ve all seen the play, but let’s watch once more:
What Lewis cannot afford to do at the next level is get caught with his head in the backfield as often. When this happens, Lewis tends to grab at the top of receivers’ routes (penalized fourteen times over his career including eight pass interference calls) and he cannot expect to:
1) Have success against NFL quarterbacks and receivers if he gets his eyes stuck in the backfield. Veterans will exploit this immediately.
2) Get away with grabbing receivers because officials call these plays tighter. Why you ask? The NFL favors offense; offense is exciting; exciting sells tickets; the NFL is a business.
Aside from coverage, Lewis is a willing tackler and plays much larger than his frame suggests. His pure instincts and high football IQ allow him to play aggressively. However, at times he is overly aggressive (especially on running backs) which causes missed tackles. Moreover, bigger receivers will make it more difficult for Lewis to disengage and make these plays. At the NFL level, if he is quick to disengage and commits to breaking down longer before a tackle, this pressure will eliminate bad plays for him in the backfield. This isn't a glaring problem and should be somewhat of an “easy fix.”
What isn’t an easy fix are his size and speed. Arguments against point to Florida State’s Nyqwan Murray’s touchdown over Lewis in the Orange Bowl as the smoking gun. However, I feel this play is a product of more than Lewis just being short. Lewis was unable to locate the ball because he was late turning his head around and by the time he was capable of making play, Murray had the touchdown. It was unfortunate because this is was the last impression for NFL scouts and it was one of the most inconsistent performances of Lewis’ during his last two years at Michigan.
As far as an NFL comparison goes, look no further than the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
According to Pro Football Focus, Malcolm Butler was the second best cornerback in the NFL last season. A former undrafted free agent, here are Butler’s Pro Day results compared to Jourdan Lewis’ Pro Day:
- Height - 5’9.6
- Weight - 187 lbs.
- 40-yard dash - 4.62
- 3-cone drill - 7.20
- Height - 5’10.0
- Weight - 188 lbs.
- 40-yard dash - 4.47
- 3-cone drill - 6.88
No one could have predicted Butler would develop into the player he is today, but these same oversights are why I believe Jourdan Lewis will become an impact player in the NFL. Like Butler, he plays bigger than his listing and rarely makes mistakes; excellent at covering shifty receivers, Lewis can virtually eliminate any slot threat and still blanket outside receivers. Combine these skills with his mental strength and passion to compete, his success should come as no surprise.
“But what happens when he covers Julio Jones?”
Name one person on planet Earth who can cover Julio Jones. Richard Sherman? No. Deion Sanders? No. ANY corner in this draft? No. So let’s stop this exaggerated criticism of Lewis’ height because no one in this draft can cover Julio Jones. Yes, larger receivers will be more difficult for Lewis, especially in the red zone, but to render him “ineffective” against them is extremely myopic.
Lewis’ intangibles and skill set must not be undervalued because he is undersized. Butler set the current precedent and I believe Lewis is the next evolution of shorter corners.
Prediction: Jourdan Lewis is a better version of Malcolm Butler (when he entered the draft) and although he lacks ideal NFL size and speed, he compensates for it because of his skill and IQ. However, many teams will be worried because of his physical traits so he will fall from the first round and I believe will be drafted in the second round, no later than the Philadelphia Eagles at pick 43.
As the legal process is ongoing, I did not comment on the domestic violence charges brought against Lewis in which he pleaded not guilty. Most sources do not see these accusations in the same realm as the Joe Mixon situation and expect the charges to be dropped.
In what round will Jourdan Lewis be drafted?
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