Martin Emerson’s production didn’t quite pop as much in 2021. Perhaps that’s why he’s fallen under the radar in the NFL Draft in some respects. But make no mistake: With his scouting report, Mississippi State CB Emerson deserves to be on your 2022 NFL Draft cornerback rankings. In fact, he may deserve to be closer to the top than you think.
Martin Emerson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Mississippi State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 200 pounds
Martin Emerson Scouting Report
The offensive revolution can’t go unopposed. Defensive coordinators will be up through the night trying to fend off explosive offensive attacks. But there’s no replacement for talent, and high-level talent can help change the outlook of an entire unit. Particularly at the cornerback position, if you can lock down one side and negate opposing receivers, you can restrict an offense’s flexibility.
True lockdown cornerbacks are in short supply nowadays. In fact, the term itself may have been over-used from the start. Nevertheless, you can get close to lockdown with several top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. And with Emerson, you can get that close. How does Emerson win, and where does he project at the next level?
Emerson’s athletic profile
Listed at 6’2″, 200 pounds, Emerson has imposing size and length for a cornerback. Often, athleticism can be a concern for larger corners, but Emerson doesn’t have that problem. The Mississippi State CB has great explosiveness, and he’s twitchy and sudden off the snap. He accelerates quickly using energetic strides and closes downhill in an instant.
Emerson’s explosiveness and closing speed are a central part of his game. The Mississippi State CB quickly recovers ground after breaks and clamps down on receivers. He also has good long speed for his size. He opens up his strides to cover more ground and sticks with faster receivers. With his athleticism and length, Emerson’s hard to get away from.
Beyond his burst, Emerson is a relatively efficient mover for his size. He’s able to sink his hips and accelerate quickly out of direction changes. He also has enough hip fluidity to snap out of his stance and stack direction changes. Emerson stays low in his stance and has great throttle control. He can gear up and down freely and uses fast feet to change gears and reset his base accordingly.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Emerson’s upside is enticing, but the Mississippi State CB isn’t a raw project. There’s a lot that’s already there, and that’s even more exciting. Most impressive is Emerson’s awareness and processing ability. He can communicate pre-snap and adapt based on motions. He has excellent awareness in zone, keeps his head on a swivel, and is able to recognize routes sneaking underneath.
Going further, Emerson anticipates and reacts quickly to breaks. He reads keys from receivers well, but also has the patience to wait until the moment they stem before making his move. With his fluidity, Emerson actively leverages his hips based on what kind of route he anticipates from his WR. He uses his fast feet and hips to keep plays ahead of him at all times and can quickly attack once plays take shape. He’s also good at using physicality at route stems to disrupt receivers and regain leverage.
Emerson has potential in press-man coverage as well. He has fast feet off the snap and is often patient enough to wait before extending. When it’s time, however, Emerson’s aggressive. He shoots his hands and targets the shoulder to disrupt receivers. At stems, he doesn’t panic. He has quick, methodical feet and can match receivers fairly well. At the catch point, Emerson is very competitive. His length and ball-tracking ability serve him well. He actively extends and attacks the ball in the air, always fighting until the end of the rep.
Run support is the cherry on top for Emerson. He has a combative mentality in that phase. He plays with great energy and hustles to the ball. He’s comfortable sifting through congestion and has shown he can establish half-man leverage against blocks on the outside. Moreover, Emerson can tackle in open space.
Areas for improvement
Being a 6’2″ cornerback, Emerson’s frame is a bit high-hipped and leggy. As a result, his transitions can afford to be a bit smoother. The Mississippi State CB has great athleticism and good fluidity for his size, but he does need some space to gather himself. He also gets caught flat-footed and can lose balance during direction changes. Furthermore, Emerson can be a little stiff cutting off stems and breaking back toward the ball.
Moving on, Emerson occasionally gets too grabby when receivers get a step on him. He sometimes aids his direction changes a bit too much with tugs and grabs. His physical style has its perks, but it could also cause him to be penalty-prone early on in his NFL career.
In coverage, Emerson sometimes gets baited into opening his hips too early, delaying his response to receiver sits. At times, he gives too much cushion on breaks, and while he has good long speed, he can be a hair late in response. While Emerson is good in press, his extensions don’t always have synergy with his base. He at times leans and loses leverage.
Among other things, Emerson sometimes goes too low and whiffs on tackles. He can overshoot angles coming into the box. Additionally, while Emerson has good physicality in run defense, he can struggle to deconstruct blocks, particularly against tight ends.
Emerson’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Emerson’s 2021 production will lead some to believe that he regressed from 2020. Yet, he was just as strong. In fact, the Bulldogs CB improved some facets of his game. His long 6’2″ frame remains, as does his penchant for making plays at the catch point. However, Emerson has improved his footwork and efficiency of motion, and it’s yielded impressive results.
Emerson is going to draw looks as a zone coverage cornerback first. He has the length, closing speed, eye discipline, and reactionary quickness to thrive there. However, he shows promise in man coverage as well. Emerson might not have elite hip fluidity, but he still has enough looseness in his hips to stack direction changes, stay leveraged against receivers, and snap into pursuit. And at the line, the Mississippi State CB has the footwork, proactive physicality, and precision to project well in press.
Provided Emerson tests well, he looks like a given to go Day 2 — potentially in the top 50. Yet, he’s good enough that some teams could value him with Round 1 capital if he fits their scheme. Since he’s not flawless in press, Emerson may project better in zone schemes early on. But with time to gain more consistency and adjust to the NFL game, he can be a multifaceted, impact starting cornerback.
Emerson’s Player Profile
Stars matter in high school recruiting. They’re not the be-all, end-all, of course. But stars do matter. They’re a reflection of how a prospect’s talent, production, and potential are perceived by scouts and evaluators. But players who receive lower star ratings often have a desire to prove their doubters wrong. That’s exactly what Emerson did.
You probably wouldn’t expect Emerson to break out as a top defensive playmaker in the SEC as a true sophomore. He was just a three-star recruit in the 2019 class and the 66th overall player at his position. Several schools, including Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Ole Miss, and Louisville, pegged him as a diamond in the rough. But it was the Mississippi State Bulldogs who would ultimately earn his services.
Emerson’s career at Mississippi State
Emerson scoffed at his star rating and quickly earned starting reps for the Bulldogs. He started five games in his true freshman season, collecting 31 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble. His freshman showing put him first in line for a full-time starting role in 2020 — and he didn’t come close to disappointing.
Emerson was the Bulldogs’ best defensive player in 2020, amassing 72 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 11 pass breakups. He fielded second-team All-SEC honors for his play and came into 2021 as one of the best returning defenders in the conference.
Emerson’s 2021 season wasn’t quite as well-received, but the Mississippi State CB still had a solid outing. He registered 49 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 3 deflections, making his presence known in the run game as much as it was against the pass. His teammate Emmanuel Forbes got All-SEC recognition instead, but Emerson often discouraged quarterbacks from throwing his way altogether.
Emerson’s NFL Draft ascension
It’s hard not to like Emerson’s play style. The Mississippi State CB is actively competitive in just about every area. He’s physical and tenacious in press, proactive at the catch point, and aggressive in run support. His hot motor is great to see at the CB position, but he isn’t reckless, either. Emerson has great discipline with his footwork and hips, and his athleticism-length combo affords him tremendous upside.
Emerson has exciting potential as a starting boundary cornerback at the next level. His explosiveness, length, and processing ability make him tailor-made for zone schemes. Nevertheless, Emerson has enough fluidity, physicality, and efficiency of motion to translate in man coverage as well.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Martin Emerson
Positives: Large, physical defensive back who is best facing the action. Displays good awareness, mixes it up with opponents throughout the route, and tracks the pass in the air. Effectively times pass defenses, has a burst to the ball out of his plant, and physically beats down opponents to knock away the throw. Gives effort defending the run.
Negatives: Struggles staying on the receiver’s hip out of breaks. Possesses marginal quickness. Often beaten downfield due to poor speed.
Analysis: Emerson is a physical corner with speed and quickness limitations. He plays heads-up football and would be best in a zone system, and he could possibly move inside to safety.
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