Shaun Jolly is the 2021 NFL Draft’s best-kept secret. He was one of the nation’s true lockdown cornerbacks last year. Playing at Appalachian State, it’s understandable for people to be slow getting around to his tape, but I’m here to tell you that Jolly is a legitimate NFL prospect.
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After just one year as a starter, I already feel confident saying that Jolly should be a second-day selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a Top-10 cornerback prospect, and a name you should absolutely know for the coming season. So who is Jolly, what does he excel at, and where can he improve before he takes the next step in his career?[sv slug=mocksim]
Who is Shaun Jolly
Not a heavily recruited prospect, Jolly was a consensus two-star cornerback. He was superbly productive as a junior in high school, but this led to teams completely avoiding him in his senior season. He committed to App State and redshirted as a freshman though the talent was obvious as he “was often on the travel roster as a possible fourth cornerback.”
Jolly became a full-time starter in his sophomore year, and he dominated. Jolly registered 45 tackles, 3.5 for loss, five interceptions, two of which he returned for a touchdown, eight pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. His dominance last year led to attention in the Sun Belt conference as he was named First Team All-Conference.
The first thing that stuck out to me on tape was Jolly’s natural explosiveness. The ability to close on breaking routes is important for an NFL cornerback, and that ability makes Jolly a threat to jump any route. He’s a strong athlete altogether possessing the requisite long speed to carry receivers deep. He’s fluid in his hips, making him a threat in man coverage and not easily shaken off, and his back-pedal is clean and concise. Jolly’s biggest calling card is likely his ball skills. Five interceptions and eight pass deflections in one year is an impressive feat for any level of football. Finally, he’s a very willing and able tackler. He doesn’t hit with much force, but he breaks down well and isn’t easily avoided.
Listed at just 5’9 and 175 pounds, there’s a chance that Jolly might be too small for the NFL’s liking. The league may decide that he’s too small to be successful on the outside and confine him to the slot for the majority of his career. Playing at App State, people will also question Jolly’s level of competition. Jolly has yet to line up across from a receiver that I view as a Top-100 player in either the 2020 or 2021 class. This will be a knock on him throughout the draft process.
Shaun Jolly NFL Draft prediction
Jolly is the top non-FBS defender in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a strong athlete who was one of the most productive cornerbacks in the nation last year, regardless of competition level. In just one season starting, he showed flashes of elite cornerback play and will look to cement himself as one of the nation’s truly elite cornerbacks this season.
Despite lacking ideal size, I believe Jolly has the ability to play on the boundary in the NFL. However, if the NFL decides to relegate him to the slot for his career, I still believe he can thrive. Expect Jolly to have another shutdown this season, and if he does, to be selected as high as the top 50 in the 2021 NFL Draft.