With the 79th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the LA Rams selected cornerback David Long, Jr. out of Michigan. The 5’11, 187 lb defensive back had played two full seasons for the Wolverines, recording 37 tackles, three interceptions, and 12 passes defended over 24 college games.
But Long took his resume to another level at the combine, running an insane 6.45 in the three-cone drill — 0.25 faster than second-place among the cornerbacks. Chase Stuart at Football Perspective took it a step further, citing that based on Long’s height and weight, he ran 0.52 seconds faster than expected and that was the largest difference of any prospect in the entire draft.
As you can imagine, heavier players fare much worse in the 3-cone drill, and taller players have a slight advantage, too. Here was the best-fit formula from the 2019 combine:
Expected 3-Cone Drill = 7.4183 – 0.0287 * Height (Inches) + 0.0081 * Weight (Pounds)
Michigan defensive back David Long, who posted the fastest (but not the best) time in he dominated in the short shuttle, finishing in 6.45 seconds, the fastest time in the drill. Given his dimensions — 71 inches, 196 pounds — he’d be expected to complete the drill in 6.97 seconds. Therefore, Ford finished the drill in 0.52 seconds better than expected, the best adjusted performance in this drill.
Long also tied for the eighth-fastest 40 and fifth-highest vertical among corners at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, with respectable numbers on the broad jump and bench reps. His 3.97 short shuttle was also first. It’s plenty comparable to many of the athletic draftees that Les Snead selected earlier this month.
However, two seasons into his career, Long has only played in 225 defensive snaps. Jamel Dean, a cornerback who was selected by the Buccaneers 15 picks after the Rams took Long, has played in 1,078 snaps over 27 career games and has become a solid outside corner for the reigning defending champs. Dean has dealt with injuries in both years but seems to be a third round steal for Tampa Bay.
Now is Long’s chance to try and catch up to Dean and any other corners picked two years ago.
With Troy Hill signing in Cleveland to join the Browns, there is a clear opening at cornerback and no clear player to replace him. The team kept Donte Deayon again but he’s yet to earn a full-time role anywhere on the 53-man roster and is now 27 years old. Snead drafted Robert Rochell in the fourth round, but he remains an unknown for at least a few more months.
The only other clear competitor to work in the slot — or on the outside if Darious Williams or Jalen Ramsey ever need to slide into the nickel — would be Terrell Burgess. Drafted in 2020 as a safety, Burgess was known to have the versatility to compete at corner.
The clear frontrunner should be Long, but will that still be the case in August?
Will David Long Jr win the third cornerback job?
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