In a competitive 2022 NFL Draft cornerback class, Jermaine Waller isn’t a name that routinely comes up in conversation. The Virginia Tech prospect was once a part of one of the top cornerback duos in the nation with former teammate Caleb Farley. Does Waller possess a scouting report of a prospect being slept on in this 2022 NFL Draft class?
Jermaine Waller NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Virginia Tech
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 180 pounds
- Wingspan: 74 6/8″
- Arms: 31 1/8″
- Hand: 9″
Jermaine Waller Scouting Report
There is a red hot cornerback competition at the top of the 2022 NFL Draft class. Long considered the CB1 of this class, LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. faces a stiff challenge from the likes of Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, a duo of Washington cornerbacks, and my personal CB1 of the class, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr.
There is also decent depth from Round 2 onwards, which is where we found Waller and his scouting report that brims with potential but isn’t without concern. Currently considered a top-150 prospect, the Virginia Tech CB is likely an early Day 3 player who could sneak into the back end of Day 2 with impressive testing in the process.
We begin Waller’s scouting report with his size profile.
At 6’1″, the Virginia Tech CB possesses the requisite height to play outside in the NFL. More important than pure height, Waller has decent length for the position. His arms measured 31 1/8″ at the Shrine Bowl. However, you could argue that they appear bigger on tape. Waller puts this height/length profile to good use as a coverage corner in two ways.
Long and athletic, with impressive intelligence and versatility
First, Waller exhibits excellent ball skills at the catch point. He’s extremely adept at getting his arm to the ball or playing through his coverage assignment. His college productivity is no fluke. Second, he uses his arms well at the line of scrimmage to jab his receiver. Furthermore, he routinely uses his arm to feel for his man while squeezing him to the sideline.
In addition to ball skills, Waller brings an impressive athletic profile to his coverage ability. While he doesn’t possess elite long speed, he has the short-area speed to be sticky in both short and intermediate routes. A fluid athlete, Waller’s lateral agility, change of direction, and quick footwork allow him to be an irritant in man coverage.
Waller showcases impressive football intelligence. Some of his career interceptions are the result of him reading, reacting, and jumping the route. This intelligence is also apparent as a run defender where he displays the ability to diagnose, fight his way through traffic, and sniff out the ball carrier.
As a result of these elements of his scouting report, Waller presents as a versatile NFL Draft prospect. The Virginia Tech CB has experience both in the slot and as an outside cornerback and has the intelligence and skill set to make an impact at multiple alignments. Furthermore, he has experience playing both off and press-man coverage, as well as zone. Again, Waller has the intelligence to translate that experience as a scheme versatile NFL prospect.
Areas for improvement
While Waller has a scouting report that exudes potential, there are some potentially limiting factors. Thus, it feels unlikely that he will ascend any higher than late Day 2. These concerns are both athletic and technically based.
As mentioned above, Waller lacks elite long speed at the position. While he’s able to hang with any receiver in the short to intermediate areas, he’s unlikely to go toe to toe with speedier NFL wide receivers. Furthermore, his lack of long speed inhibits his ability to recover should he cede ground early in the route.
Although Waller is a willing tackler both against the run and in coverage, there are some concerns here. There were multiple examples of him resorting to shoelace tackles, with the all-too-frequent result of him allowing his man to wriggle free. Additionally, the Virginia Tech CB often takes more angles as an open-field tackler despite demonstrating a measured approach to the art.
At 180 pounds, Waller could seek to add some muscle weight before he heads to the NFL. His slight build sometimes results in him being outmuscled. Furthermore, he routinely struggled to disengage from bigger WR and TE blockers in the run game. Perhaps to compensate for his size, the Virginia Tech CB can be grabby, which will result in penalties at the next level.
Waller’s Player Profile
While Waller has a scouting report that reveals some alluring aspects as an NFL Draft cornerback prospect, the ball-hawking playmaker actually began his football journey picking on cornerbacks rather than picking off quarterbacks. Growing up in Washington, DC, the Virginia Tech CB spent his freshman and sophomore season playing under center for Archbishop Carroll High School.
Despite throwing for 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns, Waller knew at a young age that his football career was destined for the defensive backfield. He wanted to play cornerback, and upon his transfer to Avalon High School for his junior season, his wish was granted. Not only was it granted, but he also made an immediate impression on Avalon coach Tyree Spinner.
“You see some guys on Sundays who don’t have the ability to do that,” Spiller told media on his reaction to Waller executing a Cover 2 drill to perfection. “At that moment, that play was a sign that ‘Ok, this kid is special.'” Spiller also praised Waller’s natural instincts and athletic ability.
The athletic ability was evidenced by a 36.5-inch vertical jump and 4.5-second 40-yard dash during high school testing. The playmaking ability was evident with 6 interceptions during his junior season. A three-star recruit, Waller committed to Virginia Tech before his senior season, citing the program’s record of developing NFL-caliber cornerbacks.
Waller’s career at Virginia Tech
While the statistics might not indicate an immediate impact at the college level, Waller made 12 appearances for Virginia Tech as a freshman despite only having played the position for two seasons. He made his first of 7 tackles on the season against FSU and forced a fumble against Pitt. The Hokies CB flashed his ball skills with a pass breakup against Marshall.
Alongside Farley in 2019, Waller emerged as a promising playmaker at the cornerback position. It was a season of firsts when the Virginia Tech CB secured his first interception in the season opener against Boston College. His performance resulted in his first start against Old Dominion where he logged his first tackle for loss. Other standout games came against Miami (FL), where he snagged 2 interceptions, and Pitt where he tallied 3 pass breakups.
Waller ended his sophomore campaign with 46 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 10 pass breakups. An ascending star, the Virginia Tech CB headed into 2020 with big expectations. However, after playing through a foot injury in 2019 that required offseason surgery, his junior campaign didn’t see the same level of success.
Waller made just two starts in 2020. In those two games, he tallied 10 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pass breakup. Most of those statistics came from the Hokies’ third game of the season against North Carolina. Despite the disappointment of the season, he’d return in 2021 with the Tar Heels once again facing Waller’s wrath.
Waller’s NFL Draft ascension
In one of the early shocks of the 2021 college football season, Waller and the Virginia Tech defense shocked and suffocated Sam Howell in the season opener. The senior cornerback secured an interception in the win. It wouldn’t be the last. In the next game against Middle Tennessee State, the Virginia Tech CB snagged another.
One game later, against West Virginia, Waller added his third interception in three games. A first career pick-six later in the year against Notre Dame ensured that Waller headed to the 2022 NFL Draft with a career-high 4 interceptions in one season. Furthermore, he tallied 46 tackles and 5 pass breakups.
As a result of his performances through his senior season, the Virginia Tech CB earned an invite to the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl. While in Las Vegas for one of the premier all-star games in the NFL Draft cycle, Waller showcased some of the coverage skills that have earned him attention in this class.
While he won’t ascend to the level of his former teammate Farley, Waller has the potential to ensure that Virginia Tech has another CB heading to the NFL via the draft. Ahead of the NFL Combine, Waller has a top-150 grade from three of Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analysts.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Jermaine Waller
Positives: Tall, physical cornerback with an aggressive style. Mixes it up with opponents, shows good route recognition in zone, and effectively diagnoses plays. Fluid flipping his hips in transition, competes, and shows a nice move to the pass. Fires upfield, bursts through blocks, and makes plays defending screen passes and running plays.
Negatives: Does not show great balance out of his plant. Slow getting his head back around and does a lot of face guarding.
Analysis: Waller is a developing corner who showed a lot of progress in his game last season and performed well during Shrine Bowl practices. Best facing the action, he would be a good fit as a dime back in a zone system.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.