2019 NFL Draft: The Real CB1 May Not Be Who You Think

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Greedy Williams
GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 06: LSU Tigers cornerback Greedy Williams (29) defends Florida Gators wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (89) during the game between the LSU Tigers and the Florida Gators on October 6, 2018 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field in Gainesville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What was once thought to be an obvious choice has become more complicated than many expected. Entering the 2018 College football season, LSU cornerback Greedy Williams looked to lead the pack compared to the other corners in the class. Fast forward to the end of the regular season and I sit here reflecting on what many thought was/is an obvious choice.

“Who is the top cornerback in this class?”

If you asked me this question at the beginning of the season the sure fired answer would have been Williams, but now I’m not so sure. With the even greater emergence of Washington corner Byron Murphy, it has made many begin to re-ask the question above.

To try and settle this debate that will be had over the next couple months leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, I go trait by trait to figure out who is better.

Byron Murphy or Greedy Williams: Who Is The Real CB1

Zone Coverage

Let’s start off with Murphy here. In the above video, it shows just how great Murphy’s instincts are. When in zone coverage you need to have great instincts in order to react fast once the ball is thrown. Here Murphy stays with his man then flips his hips on a dime and has a pass breakup. He keeps his eyes glued to the quarterback and once he sees the trigger is pulled, he fires to the ball.

Being a twitchy and quick-footed cornerback allows Murphy to manipulate quarterbacks with last minute movements in zone. He has great anticipation to react on balls in the air and great instincts to see receiver enter and exit his given zone. Williams, on the other hand, has shown good awareness in zone coverage during his time at LSU. However, Williams isn’t asked to play much zone coverage at LSU. In the little spirts you do see a corner who has the necessary speed and athleticism to make plays on the ball at the last second.

Winner: Murphy

Man Coverage

While Murphy has better zone awareness and overall coverage ability, man coverage is where Williams shines. Here you see Williams true ability. In press man, Williams has the speed to run hip to hip with defenders. He then can read the receivers eyes and turns to locate the ball and make the interception.

Here Williams shows instincts in man coverage with the pass breakup. He can stick his hand in there at the last second in order to disrupt the pass. Great finish in the play by Williams.

As said in the tweet, Murphy can make a great play on the ball because of his backpedal and great eyes. Murphy constantly shows this ability in both zone and man coverage. He is patent enough in his backpedal to let the receiver break on his route. He has the change of direction and movement skills needed to break on the receiver or ball in the air. This, of course, allows him to make plays like the above one.

Again, Williams ability to shut down receivers one on one is evident on tape. Above he shows great ability to completely take away the slant route. Combining his arm strength to stop the receivers inside break with his closing burst on the ball makes him a nightmare in man coverage.

Clearly Williams strong suit, he shows the speed needed to run downfield with receivers, coupled with the ball skills to make any last-minute adjustment with the ball in the air. With the ball in the air, Williams is often able to read the receivers eyes and have great click and close to make a last-second play.  Murphy isn’t too shabby in this area as well though.  He

Winner: Williams

Processing/Tracking

This is an area where both corners excel.

The plays from the above film demonstrate Murphy’s high processing rate. In the first play, Murphy recognizes pre-snap that it is a screen (pointing towards great film study on his part) and jumps the receiver to make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage. On the second play, Murphy opens his hips towards the quarterback allowing him to turn and run with the receiver. Keeping his eyes on the quarterback he sees the short throw to the flat and breaks quickly on the play. This quick recognition allows him to come up and make the tackle. The third play in the video shows Murphy’s great click and close ability in coverage. Murphy’s receiver runs a hitch route, he quickly recognizes this and closes on the receiver fast to prevent any yards after the catch.

Here, Williams looks to be in zone coverage and keeps his eyes on the quarterback. Once the ball is released for the quarterback’s hands Williams is quick to react and comes up with the pick-six.

The first thing you notice on this play is William’s feet and hips. He does a good job of keeping his hips square while the receiver attempts to get around him. Meanwhile, Williams feet stay under his body and allow for a smooth hip flip to open his body toward the receiver. Williams eyes instantly go back to the quarterback to watch him. From there he simply tracks the ball in the air and attacks it to make the interception and gain yards after the catch.

This one is close. Both corners have shown great ball skills and the ability to track the ball in the air. Their natural habit for pass breakups or interceptions is evident because of this. Being too hard to decide at the moment it looks to be a tie for this category. Downfield Murphy has struggled to locate the ball quickly, which is something Williams excels at. Williams looks to be still learning the mental processing side of his game in zone coverage.

Winner: Tie

Hip Fluidity

I literally have no words to describe how fluid Murphy is. First off, it is important to not just how easy it is for Murphy to flip his hips and make a play on the ball, most corners can’t make a play like this. As shown above, Murphy’s extremely loose hips allow him to change directions at an unbelievable speed and make plays like the one above.

Murphy’s ability to flip his hips on a dime allows him the necessary mobility to flip the hips, turn, and make a play on the ball no matter what coverage he is in.

Also, with fluid hips, Williams has shown great ability to flip his hips and run downfield with receivers. His loose hips also allow for smooth transitions, opening his hips towards the sideline, then back to the quarterback to locate the ball.

However, despite all that I give Murphy the advantage here. His hips allow the ability to shut down receivers on his side of the field, sometimes regardless if they are his man or not. He simply demonstrates the hip flexibility that is rarely seen in corners coming out of college.

Winner: Murphy

Technique

Williams technique can be lacking at times. He has been known to lose focus at the top of reps, often resulting in the receiver gaining separation. Furthermore leading to inconstantly play through the whistle and laziness in coverage. Outside of that Williams does a good job keeping his body in line with the receivers, allowing him to make last-minute plays on the ball. He constantly keeps his feet under him and has loose hips to change directions easy and fast.

Murphy, on the other hand, is super smooth through routes. With fast, agile feet and extremely loose hips, he can change direction on a dime. His attention to detail in routes and closing burst seem to put him ahead of others in this class.

Winner: Murphy

Last Word

At the end of the day, both corners are true playmakers who can impact the game on all three levels of the field. Much of the decision on who you favor will come down to the defensive scheme. Teams with a zone heavy scheme will favor Murphy while those with heavy man coverage schemes might favor Williams.

Currently, both look to be top 10 to top 15 locks. While Murphy may have the slight edge as the top corner in some people’s book, Williams is not that far behind and should make for a really interesting debate as draft day comes closer and closer.

Murphy finishes with a win in three out of the five categories listed above. While many of them were extremely close, including one ending in a tie, Murphy was able to edge out the win over Williams.

It is important to note that Williams is a great corner as well and will likely be rewarded with that by a top ten draft pick. His man coverage skills put him above many others in the class. He demonstrates great ball skills and recognition of routes. Also can process the field extremely well and track the ball in the air well combined with great click and close ability.

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