When discussing the top cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft, it would be foolish not to include Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes. The true junior has been one of the most productive, ball-hawking, defensive backs in college football for the past two years. With another solid season of production and progression, Forbes boasts a scouting report that should earn him early-round recognition next April.
Emmanuel Forbes NFL draft profile
A former wide receiver and cornerback for Grenada High School, Forbes tallied eight interceptions with two returned for touchdowns in his senior season alone. Although he started low on some recruiting sites, Forbes ended his high school career as a four-star prospect and the 13th cornerback in the 2020 class. While attracting significant attention, the CB stayed committed to Mississippi State since Feb. 2019.
Forbes showcased his exceptional ball skills immediately as a true freshman. Snagging an interception in his college debut, Forbes tallied five interceptions in 2020, with three returned for touchdowns. The Mississippi State CB set program records for interception touchdowns and interception return yards in a season. Meanwhile, he earned Freshman All-SEC accolades in addition to being named to the AP All-Bowl team.
Although his 2021 statistics weren’t as gaudy, Forbes continued to provide a devastating presence in the Mississippi State backfield. Playing across from now-Cleveland Brown Martin Emerson, Forbes tallied 59 tackles that included five tackles for loss, three interceptions, four pass breakups, and a first career forced fumble. Forbes now heads into the season Mississippi State’s top CB and one of the top cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Mississippi State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’0″, 180 pounds
Forbes’ scouting report
Heading into his junior season, Forbes already boasts more production than some cornerbacks have in their entire career. While pure statistics can be misleading, the Mississippi State CB has a scouting report that backs up those numbers with translatable talent. While there are some areas where he can improve this fall, let’s start by looking at the strengths of Forbes’ scouting report.
At 6’0″ and 180 pounds, Forbes might not have the most physically imposing frame in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Nevertheless, he possesses decent height for the position.
Forbes oftentimes showcases that he can be more physical than his slender frame would suggest. The Mississippi State CB has been able to contend at the catch point against even the tallest of opponents.
He is aided in this ability by two key components of his scouting report. While not possessing a measurement as of yet, it’s clear from studying tape that Forbes is blessed with impressive arm length. This length has multiple benefits. As it relates to his coverage ability at the catch point, he’s able to get his hands to the ball when it would be out of reach for some cornerbacks. Meanwhile, he’s able to use his length to get his hands on his opponent early in press coverage.
The second component that aids his ability to contend at the catch point is impressive vertical athleticism. Reportedly, Forbes logged a 44″ vertical jump while at high school. Frankly, that is insane.
For reference, Tariq Woolen posted the highest vertical jump at the 2022 NFL Combine with an impressive 42″ leap. The Mississippi State CB’s ability to jump for the ball is incredible, and one interception in games studied was a result of this sheer vertical athleticism.
This is just one part of an overall enticing athletic profile. While Forbes doesn’t possess elite speed, he’s a long strider who covers a large amount of ground. He’s covered some of the more explosive receivers at the college level — Kayshon Boutte, Jameson Williams, and John Metchie III in games studied — and they haven’t been able to fly past him. Additionally, Forbes’s scouting report reveals an impressively quick backpedal. Meanwhile, he has the hip fluidity to transition seamlessly from backpedal to run.
They say “slow feet don’t eat,” and Forbes has been feasting on SEC WRs for the past two years. His combination of speed, quickness, and fluidity allows him to regularly act upon his impressive football instincts. As a former wide receiver, Forbes appears to possess a good understanding of route concepts. Combining intelligence and athleticism has allowed him to click and close with devastating ability to undercut the pass. The Mississippi State CB also showcases excellent ball-tracking ability to make a play on the ball.
Finalizing the strengths element of his scouting report, Forbes is a willing contributor in multiple phases of the game. Against the run, he uses his length to attempt to shed blocks and try and take down the ball carrier. There are times when Forbes demonstrates a real violence in his hands, visibly shocking his blocker. Meanwhile, his ability to eat up ground has seen him used to attack the QB, with a notable success against Devin Leary last fall.
Forbes’ areas for improvement
While Forbes has an impressive scouting report thus far, there are areas of improvement for the Mississippi State CB to focus on this fall. If he continues to develop in these areas, it should only enhance his 2023 NFL Draft stock.
While praising Forbes’ fortitude against the run, that is probably his biggest area for development. In the games studied, there were several examples of missed tackles while working in space. There was a combination of issues ranging from incorrect angles, mistiming of the tackle, and some suboptimal technique demonstrated. Cleaning up this area of his game will be key to enhancing Forbes’ stock.
While he demonstrates good football intelligence on the whole, there’s development potential here too. In the games studied, Forbes routinely failed to navigate traffic well. There were several examples of the Mississippi State CB colliding with teammates. This with evidence both against the run and in coverage.
From a technical perspective, as it relates to coverage, Forbes could be more mindful of giving up the inside to a receiver. While he’s showcased the ability to force his man to the outside using a combination of length and physicality, there were several instances of Forbes allowing his receiver to get inside and make a play on the ball.
Current draft projection for Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes
While it’s early in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, it looks like we’re in for another excellent cornerback class. There are some early headline names, while others — like Cam Smith and Antonio Johnson — are already building up a head of steam. At this moment, Mississippi State CB Forbes isn’t a name that is routinely included with the upper echelon.
It’s about time that changed. With his combination of fluidity, intelligence, and elite ball skills, Forbes should be one of the top cornerbacks in college football this fall. His scouting report boasts schematic versatility which only adds to his NFL draft value. It would be a surprise if he falls outside of the early Day 2 area at this point. The potential is even higher.