Playing cornerback brings the old dance adage to mind. Ginger Rogers was more impressive than Fred Astaire because she did everything he did, but backward and in heels. As the evolution of passing concepts and wide receiver skill sets continues, NFL defenses will need to have depth across the board of corners who can match up against elite athletes and play multiple zone concepts … while moving backward. Is LSU CB Mekhi Garner that player?
If all goes well, Garner will hear his name called during the NFL Draft. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about Garner and his skill set is his scouting report.
Mekhi Garner NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: LSU
- Year: Fifth-Year Senior
Garner took a pathway to the NFL Draft that had several stops along the way. After playing high school football at Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas, he spent his true freshman season at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. He then quickly transferred to Louisiana, where he spent his sophomore season in 2019.
That year, Garner made only two appearances. He finished the campaign with four tackles. His redshirt sophomore year in 2020 was also at Louisiana. This is where he finally began to show out — three years since leaving high school.
In 2020, Garner came up huge at cornerback for Louisiana, playing in all 11 games and earning eight starts. He was named honorable mention All-Sun Belt after recording 27 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, three interceptions (tied for second most on the team), and seven pass breakups (also second).
In 2021, as a junior, Garner played his final season at Louisiana. He appeared in 13 games, starting 11, and was named third-team All-Sun Belt as a defensive back. He recorded 31 tackles to go along with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He also had eight pass breakups and forced a fumble.
For his final collegiate campaign, Garner took his talents to LSU. He was the full-time starter at cornerback in all 13 games during the regular season. He opted not to play in the Citrus Bowl and finished the year with 43 tackles and a team-best eight pass breakups.
Mekhi Garner Scouting Report
Strengths: Super-sized cornerback who may ultimately move to safety. Keeps the action in front of him, stays with receivers on crossing patterns, and has a burst to the ball. Fluid transitioning off the line with opponents, engages receivers throughout the route, and works well with safeties. Fires upfield and gives effort defending the run. Strong tackler who brings opponents down at the point.
Weaknesses: Too large to play cornerback. Cannot stay on the receiver’s hip out of breaks. Lacks deep speed. Chided in the past for not playing with a sense of urgency.
Overall: Garner has flashed tremendous ability the past two seasons at two different schools — first Louisiana, then LSU. He lacks speed and is probably too big to play cornerback, though a creative defensive coordinator could use him as a zone safety if Garner is willing to make football a priority.
Mekhi Garner Combine Measurements and Results
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 212 pounds
- Arm: 32 1/4″
- Hand: 10 1/8″
- Bench Press: 12 reps
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.55
Mekhi Garner Current Draft Projection
According to Tony Pauline’s Big Board, Garner translates best as a safety at the next level. As such, he is graded by Pauline as a sixth-round prospect. He is Pauline’s 15th-best available safety and 195th-best available player overall. As Pauline said, beyond Brian Branch, the safety market is not looking too great in this draft class.
For Garner, his Relative Athletic Score of 8.97 is considered “great.” He tested as a cornerback with elite size for the position. But his speed, explosion, and agility scores are all average or worse. It is when switching his position to safety, that his athletic profile becomes more compelling. His overall score jumps to 9.33.
For speed, Garner goes from a low average to the higher end of the average range as a safety. His agility goes from poor to average. For explosion, his scores go from great to elite. Most notably, in the speed scores, his 10-yard burst goes from great to elite. It is no surprise Pauline projects him as a safety at the next level. His having played corner should be seen as a positive for versatility.
Based on his position versatility, and the value in that, Garner could see himself selected in the middle to late rounds of the draft. Of course, that is all dependent on how the board falls. I think teams like Tampa Bay or San Francisco could make the move to draft him around the 150s. Both teams have a need in their secondary and need to get younger.
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