With the 153rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks selected cornerback Tariq Woolen out of UTSA. For all of the reasons discussed in my prior article, corner was a major need for Seattle that they have now addressed with the selections of Coby Bryant and now Woolen.
Prospect: Tariq Woolen
Games watched: 2021 Illinois, Western Kentucky regular season, Western Kentucky championship game
Measurables: 6 foot 4 – 205
- Woolen’s best attribute is his extreme athleticism. He has fantastic length and posted eye popping combine numbers running a 4.26 40 yard dash to go along with a 42 inch vertical. His Relative Athletic Score, which is a composite grade of the players testing numbers set to a scale of 0 to 10 (with the data dating back to 1987) is off the charts. Amongst corners Woolen had the 85th highest grade ever with a 9.99 40 yard dash and a 9.99 for his height. All of this shows on the film which is the most important. He has an explosive burst in and out of breaks and can stop on a dime and seamlessly come up and make a play.
- Woolen does a really good job of using his length to stack and shed blockers in the running game. He displays good football IQ when tackling players from behind as instead of going to clip their ankles or to wrap them up at their hips Woolen instead tries to punch the ball out with one hand and wrap them up with the other.
- In zone coverage, Woolen comfortably reads the eyes of the quarterback. He can be in a pedal gaining depth to take away the deep route and immediately come off of that to take away the checkdown once the quarterback turns to it. He does a good job of keeping his eyes in on the quarterback throughout the play rather than having them dart from spot to spot.
- Woolen uses his length throughout the route. He tries to stay in phase with the receiver by keeping one hand on them at all times to prevent separation at the stem. This shows on vertical routes the most as he keeps one hand on the hip of the receiver and then does a great job of timing his punch to dislodge the football as they are bringing the ball in over their shoulder.
- Woolen’s combination of elite speed and a rapid acceleration make him a fantastic cat blitzer and could accumulate multiple sacks a season in the NFL if utilized properly.
- Woolen has unreliable eye discipline against play action passes, as he will always take one to two steps down when it is shown rather than playing his assignment regardless of if it is zone or man first. This shows against routes too as Woolen will bite on double moves as well as overplaying his leverage based on the first step of the receiver.
- Woolen can get grabby throughout the route as a result of his physicality and desire to keep his hands on the receiver. He needs to work on getting his head around on deep balls rather than trying to time the punch as this is something that is going to result in multiple pass interference penalties on underthrown balls.
- Woolen has a tendency to overplay the route early in it. If the receiver takes one to two steps up the field Woolen will completely flip his hips allowing the receiver a clean and easy stem into the middle of the field. This is something that results in multiple yards of separation at the catch point.
- His feet have a tendency to cross over when trying to keep his eyes on the quarterback in zone coverage and keeping shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage. Woolen’s feet are inconsistent when in a press position as there are times, he brings them over the line of scrimmage off the snap which leads to him overcommitting to the press. There are also other times where he can flatfooted on press reps which makes it difficult for him to flip his hips and get up field with the receiver.
- On the majority of Woolen’s press snaps, rather than trying to get one hand on the receiver off of the snap he took a cold approach where he did not touch them and gave them a clean release off of the line.
Woolen is an okay scheme fit for this defense as he is better suited for a zone scheme that will allow him to use his athleticism and ability to read the quarterback to read and react to what is happening in front of him. With Hurtt having a stated desire to incorporate more man defense this year it is a bit difficult to envision him having a large presence in the cornerback rotation this season.
Woolen is an easy prospect to fall in love with because of his athletic gifts. In the last 35 years there have only been 84 corners to grade out better than him which makes him such an enticing player in its own right. He does have a lot of things he needs to clean up in his game to become a true starting corner for a team, however even if he never becomes a starter, which he will not be right off the bat, he will be a core special teams player.