One of the most intriguing players in the NFL Draft stands at just 5-foot-10, 190 pounds. He’s not the imposing, lengthy phenom. He’s not the elite athlete that teams seek out in their chess pieces, either. But nevertheless, Washington cornerback Elijah Molden brings a ton of versatility to the 2021 NFL Draft stage. He just brings it differently.
Elijah Molden NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Washington
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 190 pounds
It was clear from as early as high school that Elijah Molden could play football. The son of former NFL defensive back Alex Molden played running back and cornerback at West Linn High School and produced at both positions. He ran for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns at over 10 yards per carry in 2015. That same season, he also logged an interception and two pass deflections.
The next year, Molden added three more interceptions to his career total, and he was starting to gain steam as a cornerback prospect on the recruiting trail. His 4.51 40-yard dash and 37-inch vertical helped accelerate matters. Molden earned a four-star prospect designation in the 2017 class and had offers from teams like Oregon, California, USC, Stanford, and Notre Dame.
Despite the widespread interest, including interest from his hometown team, Molden chose to go across the border and sign with the Washington Huskies. There, he took the next step on his journey to the NFL. And it was a big one.
Elijah Molden’s career as a Washington cornerback
Washington was eager to use Molden’s talents on the back end. The 2017 signee played in eight games as a college football true freshman. During this time, he managed to earn 19 total tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass deflection.
In 2018, Molden returned as a rotational defender and special teams contributor. However, he also saw glimpses of additional action on the defensive side of the ball. Molden appeared in every game for the Huskies, logging 29 total tackles, five pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Elijah Molden’s breakout 2019 campaign
Molden’s growth in 2018 gave way to an extended role in 2019, and he soon became a full-time starter on defense. The results of Molden’s ascension were swift and fortuitous. The Washington cornerback started all thirteen games for the team in 2019, amassing 79 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 12 pass deflections, and three forced fumbles. The feisty defender flew around the field each week, and his efforts earned him first-team All-Pac-12 recognition.
Molden could have opted out to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft in 2020. However, when the Pac-12 announced it would proceed with a truncated fall season, Molden chose to return as a senior and battle with his teammates. He again stood out, producing 26 total tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, and a pass deflection in four games. Molden was again awarded a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.
On December 2, it was announced that Molden would attend the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. And on December 21, the Washington cornerback officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Elijah Molden’s 2021 NFL Draft profile
Elijah Molden is a baller, all the way. There are some limitations in his game — as we’ll get to shortly — but he just plays the game of football so well. He has a few foundational traits around which he molds his game, most notably his instincts and quick processing ability.
Molden is a smart player who sees things with impressive quickness. He can diagnose plays preemptively with his awareness of alignments and motions, and he also has the quick reaction ability to divert course mid-play. Molden’s processing enables him to remain one step ahead. The Washington cornerback also does a great job reading the quarterback’s eyes to decipher intent.
Strictly in coverage, Molden also brings a good amount of appeal. He’s undersized at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds. However, he still has good ball skills, and he’s very proactive as a playmaker overall. Molden offers impressive fluidity when flipping his hips, and he also has good explosiveness and speed, which allows him to stay in hip pockets downfield.
Additionally, in zone coverage, Molden’s instincts enable him to use his positioning to freeze quarterbacks. He also has the click-and-close ability to make plays on short and intermediate routes.
What are the possible limitations for Elijah Molden?
Molden is a solid, consistent player in his role, and he has rare instincts at the cornerback position. That said, his size will limit him in the NFL. He’s not very long or dense, and although he brings the requisite playmaking ability at the catch point, his length and slight frame limit his capacity to win against larger receivers.
Against the run game, it’s the same deal. Molden brings inspiring physicality and want-to, as well as good tackling ability. However, with his size, there are times when he’s limited in his ability to win.
Aside from his size, there are few holes in Molden’s game. I wouldn’t say he’s an elite athlete, but he still has good speed, great closing burst, and exceptional fluidity. Although his lacking frame may prevent him from being a consistent contributor on the boundary, he has the instincts, motor, and athletic traits to be an excellent slot cornerback. Additionally, with his awareness of positioning, patience, and eye discipline in zone, I’d feel comfortable playing him at safety as well.
Elijah Molden’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
The issue with Molden isn’t whether or not he can play. He can. The issue is how teams will value his skill set. His situational upside is somewhat limited with his size, but he still has the requisite athleticism to compound his instincts. And conversely, his upside as a versatile slot/safety hybrid is very enticing.
Tony Pauline has Molden ranked as a Round 3 prospect and a Top-100 player. I’m inclined to have him near that range as well. His size may bump him down below other high-upside defensive backs, but his instincts are top-tier, and teams are bound to be drawn to his encoded playmaking capacity.
Teams for which Molden provides especially high value
In Round 2 or Round 3, aspiring playoff teams who need help in the slot and at safety will likely benefit most from Molden’s early production potential. Organizations like the Bills, Browns, Broncos, Raiders, and Washington Football Team stand out as potential fits. However, Molden’s pallet of traits is one that should draw widespread interest. Where he goes depends on how much teams are willing to spend and if they can overlook his size.
My advice? Don’t get too fixated on his measurements. Yes, Molden isn’t the size/speed mismatch that garners more value in the modern NFL. But he’s still a smart, versatile player who provides a lot of utility for defensive coordinators. At the right price, in a scheme that effectively utilizes his unique talents, Molden can be a productive NFL player.