The Blue Mamba
What I call "the dirty secret" of the NFL draft is that a large percentage of these draft prospects that we get excited about and that get hyped up each year will ultimately not produce very much for their respective teams. It is true that once in a while a team will land a Cooper Kupp in the 3rd round. What makes Kupp so valuable from a competitive balance standpoint is that he's the exception to the rule. Several other 3rd round WRs from Kupp's draft might as well have been UDFAs, because they quickly washed out of the league.
If I put a 3rd round draft grade on a CB (which is a relatively high grade) and if we assume that the grade is accurate (yes, a very shaky assumption, but just accept it for the sake of discussion), then let's be honest, there's still a less than 50% chance that CB will ever become a starter. The "3rd round 33%" rule strikes again.
Not every position group is the same. If you draft a guard or center in the 3rd round, that player better be a starter. I think it is very reasonable to try to find a good starting nickel CB to play in the slot in the 3rd or 4th round. Same with positions like ILB, S or a shifty slot WR. Getting a quality EDGE, LT, QB, outside WR and outside CB is far more challenging in the middle rounds. The best prospects at those positions tend to get snapped up early.
To illustrate, let's look at each of the CBs drafted in the 3rd and 4th rounds in the 2018 draft (I chose this draft, because those players just finished their 4 year rookie contracts). Isaac Yiadom was a late 3rd round pick by the Broncos. I liked him as a prospect. He was inconsistent in Denver and after 2 seasons was traded to the NYG for a future 7th round pick. He continued to disappoint in New York. He's still in the NFL, but is a backup level player.
Nick Nelson was selected one slot before Brian Allen. He was a well regarded CB from Wisconsin, but he had a knee injury at his Pro Day workout. Nelson failed to make the team his 2nd year and was put on PS. Promoted later in the season, he got hurt and went on IR. He was waived and didn't last into year 3 and is now out of the NFL.
Anthony Averett played at Alabama. I believe I had a 4th round grade on him, some experts saw him as an underrated prospect and a good value pick. He was a backup with the Ravens until Marcus Peters tore his ACL last year. Averett had a 56.3 PFF grade, ranking 92nd out of 116. He signed a $4.5 mill contract in the offseason to join the Raiders, essentially the same as his UDFA college teammate, Levi Wallace.
Taron Johnson is one of the better CBs out of this group. He was a small school player (Weber State) who was supposedly too slow (4.5 sec 40 time) and small. Lance Zierlein gave him a round 5 to 6 grade. A backup early in his career, Johnson was horrible in pass coverage over the first half of his 3rd season, then started to play really well in the 2nd half of that year and into the playoffs. He took a step forward with a solid 2021 and the Bills rewarded the nickel CB with a new contract at $8 million per year.
Avonte Maddox is another nickel slot CB who has done fine. He got a similar 2nd contract from the Eagles and had a 72.8 PF grade last season.
A Day 3 CB I liked in that draft was Parry Nickerson, a 6th round pick. He bounced around on 5 teams and didn't make an impression, currently on a future contract with the Vikings.
Two of the best non 1st round CBs from that draft weren't drafted at all. Darious Williams and JC Jackson were both UDFAs. Williams got a 3 year contract with a $10 million salary. Jackson got a 5 year contract with a $16.5 million salary and has 25 career INTs. Lance Zierlein had a 5th to 6th rd grade on Jackson, but thought that he had developmental potential to become an NFL starter.
Cincinnati CB, Coby Bryant has a 6.20 draft grade from Lance Zierlein. This is exactly the same grade that David Long (3rd rd Rams 2019, pick 79 overall) got from LZ. Same grade as Jourdan Lewis (3rd round Cowboys 2017, 92nd overall). I thought both Long and Lewis were solid prospects. Long had a 58.8 PFF grade last season and has yet to establish himself as a quality starter. Lewis has been in the NFL for 5 seasons and is about an average nickel DB. He had a 61.4 PFF grade in 2021, ranking 67th out of 116 CBs. Maybe an okay outcome for a 3rd round pick, but not a home run.
If Coby Bryant became a Ram, the press would have a field day due to his name. I can't imagine the kind of pressure he would feel to have to live up to the legacy of Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. It would be unfair, because Bryant's not projected to be the same type of player as his college teammate at Cincinnati, Sauce Gardner, who might be a top 10 or even a top 5 pick in the draft. If Bryant gets drafted in the 3rd round and becomes another David Long, Jourdan Lewis or Taron Johnson, what would be just fine for his draft slot. He'd probably be above average compared with his peer group.
Coby Bryant's name might sound like a HOF superstar, but all he needs to be is the best Coby Bryant he can be, not try to be the next Kobe Bryant.
Combine: 6'1 3/8'' tall, 193 pounds, 30 5/8'' arms, 9 3/8'' hands, 73 5/8'' wingspan
4.54 sec (40 time), 1.59 sec (10 yard split), 17 bench reps.
Pro Day: 4.47 sec (40 time). He did other testing drills at his PD, but I couldn't find any info about the results, so if you know those numbers, please post them in the comments below.
23 years old. Younger brother of Christian Bryant, who was a 7th round pick by the Rams in 2014.
Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top DB in 2021. Team Captain in 2021.
Played outside CB to the field, on the opposite side of Gardner, who was the boundary CB.
Bonus senior in 2021 under covid rules. In 2021, had 11 PBUs, 3 INTs, 3 FF and 46 tackles.
2020 (10 games) 7 PBUs, 4 INTs, FF, 35 tackles
2019: 8 PBUs, INT, 54 tackles
Played 9 games with a cast on a fractured hand in 2018.
3 star recruit. Named after NBA legend, Kobe Bryant. Has a no nonsense type personality in interviews. Reports say people in Cincinnati's program rave about his high football character.
Widely considered to be one of the "losers" at the Combine for not having a fast 40 time and not being impressive in the on field drills. Chad Reuter said that Bryant was average in hip fluidity, pedal and change of direction in the drills and didn't look like a Day 2 prospect. In Reuter's recent mock draft, he has Bryant as a 4th round pick at slot 111 overall.
ESPN 77th (3rd rd)
CBSSports 159th (5th rd)
Tony Pauline 240th (6th to 7th rd)
Ian Cummings 113th (4th)
Oliver Hodgkinson 115th (4th)
PFF 150th (5th rd). Gave him 86.7 grade in 2021, ranking 18th out of 888 CBs.
Shane Hallam 127th (4th)
Brian Bosarge 77th (3rd)
Drafttek 80th (3rd)
Lance Zierlein 6.20 draft grade. Compared to PJ Williams (3rd round Saints 2015, FSU). LZ says he's a zone CB, instinctive with football IQ, leadership, catches like a WR, awareness, committed in run support. Lacks speed, average burst, sticky hips, has short arms.
Oliver Hodgkinson says he has ideal size and looks like an NFL CB, excellent diagnosis, attention to detail in opponent film study, reads routes, incredibly fast feet, extremely fluid, excellent backpedal, no wasted movement in transitions, has range. Doesn't routinely wrap up, gives up separation, stuck on blocks.
Very good composure. One of my favorite things about him is he doesn't panic and make unnecessary grabs when the ball is in the air or clumsily crash into the WR. He tracks both the pass and the WR well, adjusting his vector, then times his play on the ball properly. Not very susceptible to double moves. He's patient and settles, doesn't overreact. On one hand, this might be one reason he doesn't close as aggressively, but in the NFL I think it could also help him from getting burned over the top by better route runners. Less likely to commit penalties compared with other CBs.
Forces fumbles. Can punch ball out of runner's hands.
Very fast feet, like a typewriter, moving on "fast forward" compared to the other players on the field.
Made solid form tackle, head up and wrapped up.
As slot CB, stayed in hip pocket of WR and covered deep route. Stayed close, good COD against pivot route. Step for step with WR covering deep route. Closely covered Pickens of Georgia and prevented TD in EZ. On many plays, his effective play speed seems to be faster than his timed speed at the Combine.
Anticipates some routes and is already moving to cover it before WR comes out of the break. Got a pick six jumping on a short route before the ball left the QB's hand. Seems to have solid football IQ. Smartly covered TE in zone when the QB extended play outside of pocket.
Should be able to play both the outside CB and slot CB positions. Has ST experience in college.
Played through broken hand injury. Reliable leadership and football character.
Lacks closing burst to drive on route and close down cushion to make immediate tackle after catch. This can be dangerous in the NFL against YAC monsters.
Typically off technique and didn't press at LOS. Tried to apply one handed jam and it was ineffective.
Doesn't always stay closely attached to the WR. Can get turned around the wrong way at the break point. Gives up too much cushion and separation on some underneath routes. Too much space given away on comeback route. Got lost against rub trying to stay with crossing route. Got beaten deep once. Doesn't have recovery speed to close gap if he loses contact with his man.
Not tall and has short arms. Nearly missed tackle with his hands around the waist of the WR after catch. WR goes over the top of him for long TD catch, not big and physical contesting at the catch point. Missed multiple tackles due to limited arm length. A bigger WR can push him off and create separation at the top of the route.
Dropped potential INT in his hands.
Played on very talented defense. I think their safety, Cook is a good pro prospect. Gardner was the more talented CB and they had other good players on the front 7, so Bryant was able to focus on a limited and defined role, protected by the players around him. If we analogized it to the Rams, Coby Bryant would be Darious Williams and Gardner would be Jalen Ramsey.
Not required to do much in run support. Gets stuck on run blocks, content to contain, doesn't attack downhill.
Lack of elite agility could hamper him in the slot and lack of elite length, speed and size could limit him as an outside CB. Doesn't have physicality or speed to be a good candidate to convert to safety. Possibly scheme limited, because he seems to be better suited for a zone team where he can look into the backfield and read the QB, not where he has to turn his back and run with the WR and press at the LOS. I see his best fit as being on a team that plays a high percentage of cover 2 and cover 4 zone looks.
I watched video of some of his pro day on field drills and I agree with what Reuter said after his Combine workout. His hips, pedal and transitions are very average, which is a problem. Bryant could have trouble playing tight coverage in the NFL that no amount of experience will ever overcome. Long was better at press coming out of Michigan and has better agility, while Rochell is a better athlete with superior length who projects to have a higher ceiling as an outside CB. So, if we put Bryant on the Rams depth chart, he might not be able to beat out Long for slot CB or Rochell for outside CB, and end up at best as the CB4. The Rams need CB depth in any event, so that's not the worst thing, but do the Rams really need to use a 3rd round pick on a potential 4th CB? Ideally, if I'm going to draft a position on Day 2, I'd want that player to be better than most of the guys already at that position on the roster. Bryant might end up as a jack of all trades, master of none CB who can backup multiple spots, but is never great at any one of them.
A common theme we've seen is players who stayed an extra year in college. Age and eligibility wise, Bryant should have been in the 2021 draft. It was a factor KA wrote about last year that made last year's draft so thin. If Bryant had been in last year's draft, I think there is a solid argument that Rochell should have been graded higher than Bryant and that is how LZ has them graded, with Rochell at 6.25 compared to 6.20 for Bryant. Rochell was drafted by the Rams late in the 4th round. In a sense, you could say the Rams already made their choice at CB for now. What would be the logic in the Rams drafting a lower graded player one round earlier than Rochell one year later?
Pro Comparison and Grade
Byron Murphy (Early 2nd round pick 2019 Cardinals, Washington), 4th round.
Murphy was 5'11'' tall, 190 pounds, 30 1/8'' arms, and ran 4.55 sec in the 40. LZ gave him a 1st round grade. Murphy has done his best work as a slot CB, but also has played as an outside CB. He had a 59.7 PFF grade last season and had 4 INTs. He really struggled as a rookie and has been an average player since then.
Bryant also reminds me of a player named Ross Cockrell, who played at Duke.
Cockrell: 6' tall, 191 pounds, 29 7/8'' arms, 73 3/4'' wingspan, rank 4.56 sec in 40 at Combine, then 4.44 sec at his pro day. He was a 4th round pick by the Bills in 2014, 109th overall (the Rams have slot 104 this year, late in the 3rd.) Cockrell was waived by the Bills after only one season. PFF graded him over 70 in several seasons over the course of his career, but he's also bounced around on different teams as a journeyman.
I think Bryant is a high floor and solid draft prospect, but I don't think he has a high ceiling. If you made a composite of all of the draft boards I listed above, I'd estimate that it comes out to a 4th round pick and I think the boards have it about right with this player.
What that translates to in terms of draft strategy is I see Coby Bryant as a better candidate for the 2nd Rams draft pick and not as much a top of the line BPA for the first Rams draft slot.