Carson Strong was one of college football’s most productive quarterbacks over the past couple of seasons. But he didn’t do it alone. He had help boosting his NFL Draft scouting report from several playmakers, one of whom was Nevada TE Cole Turner. Turner was a primary beneficiary of Nevada’s high-octane offense. But how does his game translate to the next level? That’s what Turner’s scouting report aims to explore.
Cole Turner NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Tight End
- School: Nevada
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’6 1/2″
- Weight: 249 pounds
- Wingspan: 79 1/4″
- Length: 33″
- Hand: 9 7/8″
Turner’s Combine/pro day results and athletic profile
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.76
- Bench Press: 17
- Broad Jump: 10′
- Vertical Jump: 27″
- Three-Cone: 7.06
- Short Shuttle: 4.41
Cole Turner Scouting Report
The Nevada offense of recent years may produce a surprising amount of NFL talent. Carson Strong is widely known as a notable QB1 candidate in the 2022 NFL Draft. Romeo Doubs, his top target, has great developmental potential and could break into the Day 2 range. But there’s also one more name to know, and that’s Turner.
If production were the most important factor in tight end evaluation, Turner would be near the top of the list. He was one of the most productive tight ends in college football over the past few seasons. However, despite being one of the top statistical performers at his position, he still often goes overlooked. What does Turner have to offer, and what should his draft range be?
Turner’s athletic profile
There’s a correlation between athleticism and success at the TE position. So naturally, athleticism is one of the first things you look for. Turner is one tight end in the 2022 NFL Draft who passes the requisite athletic threshold. The Nevada TE is a fluid athlete in space, and he covers lots of ground with long, efficient strides. He possesses decent long-track burst downfield and poses a challenge as a vertical or seam threat.
Turner has the athleticism to line up all across the field, whether in the slot, out wide, or in-line. He also has some vertical-leaping ability. He elevates well, and he can adjust his leverage in midair.
Turner’s elevation ability, combined with his size, makes him a lot to deal with in contested situations. Turner has the size and wingspan to reach difficult passes. His wide catch radius allows him to corral otherwise inaccurate passes.
Turner is mainly a vertical athlete, but he has shown the necessary lateral spryness to set up defensive backs with his releases and capitalize quickly. He is very much a work in progress there and doesn’t have elite potential as a separator. But Turner seems to have many of the requisite athletic traits.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Turner’s most eye-catching skill is his ability to use body control and contortion ability to haul in tough passes. He’s incredibly instinctive at the catch point, with great flexibility and feel in the open air. The Nevada TE has smooth body control, and he can quickly contort and adjust to corral low or high passes. He also has great ball-tracking ability. Although Turner occasionally loses track of the football, more often than not, he finds the ball and adjusts accordingly.
Turner’s plus traits at the catch point help him all over the field, but he translates especially well as a red-zone threat. The Nevada TE has the wingspan, body control, ball-tracking ability, and solid hands to be a weapon in shorter areas. And with his frame, he can box out defenders and make acrobatic catches in crowded spaces.
Although there are occasional focus drops on tape, Turner has good hands. He actively looks the ball in with his hands and has shown he can haul in tough catches amidst contact over the middle of the field. The Nevada TE can sit in open zones, secure catches, and fall forward. He also flashes good awareness of blind spots with his ability to sneak past linebackers and enter space.
Among other things, Turner flashes solid releases ahead of his stems. He has the capacity to stagger his feet and cut inside. He’s also not a liability as a blocker. You don’t want to ask him to do too much, but he’s proven he can be assignment-sound.
Areas for improvement
Turner often gets advertised as an elite athlete. He’s a good athlete — let’s not get it twisted — but he doesn’t show off the same WR-like ability that other prospects have shown in the past. He’s not an elite separator and rounds off his breaks a lot. Furthermore, Turner is not an overly sudden or detailed route runner. He can be lackadaisical, as he rotates back on many in-breaking routes.
Expanding on Turner’s route running, the Nevada TE doesn’t have great short-area burst off the line and doesn’t explode out of breaks. He doesn’t have high-level hip sink and is more of an upright, vertical threat. His strides are long and looming in the open field, and he can’t always chop his feet at breaks or break at sharp angles. Turner’s feet aren’t fast or precise, and his moving style after the catch is somewhat lumbering.
Overall, Turner has a fairly thin route tree. He doesn’t have the elite agility or hip sink to suggest high-level potential in that area. With his upright style, Turner can also be exposed to big hits out of breaks. His hands aren’t always strong enough to work through contact, and there are enough drops — both focus and contact — to note it.
Finally, Turner doesn’t project incredibly well as a blocker. As mentioned earlier, he’s not a liability. He can square up and use his length. But with his upright style and lighter frame, he can be outmuscled fairly easily.
His 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Turner has an intriguing combination of size and athleticism — enough that he can be a versatile piece in a modern NFL offense. He has the athleticism to get out into space and the size, length, and catching instincts to convert on opportunities and provide utility as a contested-catch threat.
There’s a definite role for Turner’s style in the NFL. But his ceiling might not be quite as high as other tight ends. Turner’s more of a vertical route runner. He can run seam routes, wheels, and drag routes, and he has experience with hitches. But Turner’s not as proficient with more detailed routes, and he can’t create space for himself consistently.
Nevertheless, while Turner can’t create space, he does create opportunities at the catch point with his vertical athleticism, body control, and wingspan. He also has the athleticism to be a decent run-after-catch threat on drags up the middle of the field.
Turner fits best as a move tight end in a scheme that grants him artificial separation with spacing and overlapping route concepts. He can be a versatile catcher with great utility up the seam, down the sideline, and in the red zone in such a scheme. Day 2 may be a bit too rich for Turner, but he’s a great addition early on Day 3.
Turner’s Player Profile
In the modern NFL, there’s a greater emphasis on finding tight ends with the skill set of wide receivers. Few tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft embody that archetype better than Turner, who was a WR in high school.
Flashback to 2017, in Clackamas, Oregon, when the 6’6″, 193-pound Turner was tearing up the opposition on rough grassy fields. Turner led the entire state of Oregon in receiving yards that year, amassing 1,325 yards and 20 touchdowns on 76 catches.
Turner dominated his high school competition and won a state championship. But that was still only good enough to earn him a three-star recruit billing in his class. Most of his interest was drawn from the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon State. But Nevada was the more compelling destination for Turner, and he joined the Wolf Pack in 2018.
Turner’s career at Nevada
Turner came to Nevada as a receiver and stayed there for a couple of years. Although he saw playing time as a true freshman, he had trouble getting onto the field consistently. Over the course of 2018 and 2019, Turner caught just 6 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.
By 2019, Turner had worked his way up to 225 pounds. After that season, a decision was made to officially switch him to tight end. He bulked up to 240 and began taking on a hybrid WR/TE role. It was a successful move that fully unearthed Turner’s raw talent.
In 2020, Turner broke out as one of the Wolf Pack’s top receiving options. He caught 49 passes for 605 yards and 9 touchdowns, earning All-Mountain West first-team honors. In 2021, he once again logged career highs in all categories. This time, the Nevada TE cruised to a season total of 62 catches, 677 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
After his career-defining senior campaign, Turner announced that he would opt out of the team’s bowl game against Western Michigan and start his preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Turner’s NFL Draft ascension
It’s easy to fall in love with the flash plays. Turner has some questions, but his acrobatic catches are adept at winning over evaluators. There’s a reason Turner has been so productive, too. The sheer volume of Nevada’s offense does play into it, but Turner was able to find success with consistency at various levels of the field. It’s why he ultimately earned an invite to the Senior Bowl — NFL scouts see him.
For now, the 2022 NFL Draft tight end group, while deep, lacks a consensus No. 1 player. Turner isn’t working with a head start, but he has the tools and the opportunity to work his way up.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Cole Turner
Positives: Nice-sized tight end who is dependable catching the ball. Tracks the pass in the air, possesses good eye/hand coordination, and extends to pull the ball from the air. Adjusts backwards to grab the errant throw, makes the difficult reception in all types of contorted positions, and takes a pounding, yet holds onto the ball. Shows great focus as well as concentration. Sells pass routes, gives effort blocking in space, and gets results.
Negatives: Rarely used as an in-line blocker. Plays faster than his 40 time, but he’s still not a downfield threat at the position.
Analysis: Turner was a consistent pass-catching target in the Nevada offense and showed development in his game the past two seasons. More of a move tight end to this point, he must improve his blocking, though his ability to catch the ball will surely help him see the field as a rookie.
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