Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois – NFL Draft Player Profile

After a barren NFL Draft cycle last year where they had zero players selected to the NFL, the Illinois Fighting Illini could have multiple players hear their name called in Cleveland, including cornerback Nate Hobbs. Hobbs was originally an under-recruited high school prospect who has now matured into a pivotal part of the Illinois defense.

Nate Hobbs NFL Draft Player Profile

  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Illinois
  • Current Year: Senior
  • Height: 5’11 1/2″
  • Weight: 192 pounds

Tony Pauline’s Nate Hobbs Scouting Report

Positives: Tough, explosive cornerback with solid ball skills. Quick flipping his hips in transition off the line, displays a burst to the ball out of his plant, and plays heads-up football. Aggressive, mixes it up with receivers, and chases the action hard. Quickly recognizes assignments and stays on the receiver’s hip out of breaks. Throws his body around the field to make the tackle.

Negatives: Gets turned on occasion. Struggles in battles despite his size.

Analysis: After a terrific junior campaign, Hobbs was slightly disappointing last season, which likely knocked him out of consideration as a late-round pick. He possesses the size and ball skills to be used in man or zone coverage and the ability to line up in dime packages on Sundays.

Nate Hobbs Player Profile

A three-star recruit out of Louisville Male High School in Kentucky, Illinois was the only Power Five program to offer Hobbs a scholarship. He received a handful of smaller-school offers from local programs, committing to Western Kentucky early in the process. However, when Illinois came calling, the cornerback flipped his commitment with the goal of establishing himself in the Big Ten.

Hobbs’ ranking as the 176th cornerback in the class wasn’t entirely indicative of his athletic ability. An accomplished track and field star, he set impressive measurements in both the high jump and long jump. His high school coaches raved about his athletic ability, both on the track and on the football field.

The explosive jumping ability translated to the gridiron for Louisville Male. He received first-team All-State honors as a senior following a season where he demonstrated playmaking ability in all three phases of the game. Hobb’s 10 total touchdowns came by way of 5 receiving scores, 2 punt returns, 1 kickoff return, 1 pick six, and a fumble recovery returned for a score.

Hobbs’ college football career at Illinois

His versatility and ability to impact the game in multiple ways ensured that Hobbs would be an immediate contributor. The Illinois cornerback made his debut in the season opener against Ball State, and he would go on to make 10 starts as a true freshman. That alone is impressive, but moreover, Hobbs led the team in defensive snaps, in addition to amassing 48 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble.

The future appeared to be as bright as the Illinois uniforms for Hobbs. However, his path to the 2021 NFL Draft would contain a bump in the road at the start of 2018. Expected to be a leader of the defense in his sophomore season, Hobbs was suspended immediately prior to the season opener. Alongside several other teammates, he received a multiple-game suspension for violating team rules.

On his return to the field, Hobbs continued the impressive form from his freshman season. He snagged his first career interception against Rutgers, while also demonstrating versatility as the team’s punt returner. Rutgers, in fact, would prove to be a fruitful hunting ground for the young Illinois cornerback.

As a junior, he scooped up a fumble for a touchdown against the Scarlet Knights. Additionally, in his senior season, he secured another interception against Rutgers. The timely pick helped put Illinois in position for a game-winning field goal.

Although he lost three games to injury in the disrupted 2020 college football season, Hobbs still contributed 31 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and an interception as he earned third-team All-Big Ten honors from Phil Steele. The Illinois cornerback ended his career with 18 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, and 12.5 tackles for loss before declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Nate Hobbs’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft

Can Hobbs hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft? His versatility, size, and physicality suggest that he can be a contributor in the NFL. Players who can add value on special teams will always have interest, and he has been an important special teams piece since high school. Hobbs can contribute as a punt/kick returner. Furthermore, he did block an extra point attempt early in his career as a cornerback at Illinois.

Hobbs plays the cornerback position with physicality, showing willingness and ability to come downfield and make a tackle. His tackle for loss production also demonstrates his disruptive tendencies in the backfield. With this in mind, Hobbs could carve out a role as an outside cornerback with the right development. As a result, he could be a Day 3 selection — potentially in the sixth round.

Some teams with cornerback needs in the 2021 NFL Draft include the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, and the Green Bay Packers.

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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.

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