After his 2018 season, Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo was penciled in as a first-round NFL Draft prospect. Now, however, after a down 2019 campaign and an opt-out in 2020, Adebo’s stock is in limbo. It’s been a while since Adebo has played quality football, and many have forgotten the kind of upside he provides. Having said that, let’s take a closer look at Adebo’s skill set. What made him so productive in 2018? What went wrong? And where should Adebo expect to go in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Paulson Adebo NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Stanford
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 198 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Paulson Adebo Scouting Report
Positives: Three-year starter at Stanford who decided to opt-out last season. Performed brilliantly as a redshirt freshman, leading the nation with 24 pass breakups. Tall, long corner who flashed the ability to shut down opponents in the past. Physical, battles opponents and beats down receivers to defend the throw. Uses his size as an advantage, effectively times his pass defenses, and possesses a closing burst. Quick to read and anticipate, displays good recognition in zone, and has a nice move to the throw. Gives effort defending the run and wraps up tackling.
Negatives: Slow getting his head back around and struggles making plays with his back to the ball. Beaten deep often in 2019. Struggled at times early in 2019 and was pummeled by Gabe Davis of Central Florida.
Analysis: Adebo was a highly-considered prospect after his brilliant redshirt freshman season, but he played somewhat erratic football the next two years. He’s a level-headed personality with a large upside who needs to get his game back on track and consistently play at a high level.
Paulson Adebo Player Profile
His full name is Saiid Paulson Adebo, but he’s most commonly known as “Paulson”. That was the name he took on when he was breaking defensive records at Stanford. His recruiting profile, however, looks much different.
As a recruit, he was listed as Saiid Adebo, and he was also an athlete with multiple position designations. Adebo played both wide receiver and defensive back for Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Texas. There, he built a reputation for himself as a high-upside college prospect.
By his senior season, Adebo was a four-star recruit on ESPN’s board. He was also the 58th ranked recruit in the nation and broke the top ten at the WR position.
Adebo had interest from several prestigious Power Five programs. He received offers from teams like LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. After originally committing to Notre Dame, Adebo switched his commitment to Stanford, when the Cardinal presented him with an offer late in the process.
Paulson Adebo’s career as a Stanford cornerback
After playing both defensive back and wide receiver in high school, the Stanford football staff chose to switch Adebo to CB full-time. As a result of the transition, Adebo redshirted his first season. In 2018, he came back as a redshirt freshman and was expected to start with a year of acclimation under his belt.
Adebo not only started but thrived. In his first year of college football, the Stanford cornerback paced the conference with his production, amassing 64 total tackles, 4 interceptions, 17 pass deflections, and a forced fumble. He broke the school record for total pass breakups at Stanford and was given first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a true freshman, a rarity even among highly-rated recruits.
Adebo’s regression and eventual opt-out
Expectations were extremely high for Adebo in 2019. That, among other factors, may have played a role in the disappointment that followed. Adebo still produced well enough, logging 4 interceptions and 10 deflections. He also earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors from the coaches once again.
Nevertheless, Adebo found his stock dropping after his redshirt sophomore season. He hadn’t been as consistent on the field, and an undisclosed season-ending injury suffered after nine games further complicated his outlook.
Adebo chose to return for his redshirt junior season after seeing his stock decline. However, 2020 would prove to provide little for Adebo as well. The Pac-12 fall season was initially canceled. When it was eventually reinstated, Adebo chose to remain off the field. He reaffirmed his desire to opt-out and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft in October, leaving more questions than answers as he turned the page to his next chapter.
Analyzing Paulson Adebo’s NFL Draft profile
Although Paulson Adebo’s NFL Draft stock has taken a hit since his redshirt freshman season, there are some things to like on his tape. He is a tall, long CB who covers short ranges relatively quickly with long strides and good initial explosiveness.
With this explosiveness, he’s also able to break on balls and deflect passes by using his length in conjunction with that burst. In addition, Adebo has very good open-field speed. Adebo’s pro day testing confirmed his athleticism. He logged a 4.45 40-yard dash, a 36.5-inch vertical, and a 121-inch broad jump.
As evidenced by Adebo’s production, his ball skills are exceptional. As a former WR, he clearly has an instinct for impacting the ball. His length, while not elite, provides the foundation for that production, as he’s able to clog passing lanes and be proactive in pass defense.
There were some times when Adebo simply found himself in position to make a play on a bad throw. However, his flashes show that he has the capacity to make plays and erode successes for an offense. The Stanford cornerback also has some instinct and route recognition ability, and he can use this to break on passes in the short and intermediate ranges with his closing linear burst.
Beyond his coverage capabilities, Adebo also has some utility against the run. He could stand to fill out his frame a bit more.
Still, with his length, he can fight against opposing blockers, and when he’s free, he has the speed and pace to reach the backfield quickly. Additionally, at the contact point, he’s a willing tackler, and he shows the ability to wrap up with his frame.
What are the concerns with Paulson Adebo?
As good as Adebo’s size and speed combination are, the Stanford cornerback’s athletic profile isn’t perfect. Although he shows glimpses of lateral hip fluidity, his hips are alarmingly stiff when sliding back toward in-breaking routes.
Adebo may be able to streamline his movement more by cleaning up his footwork. However, as it stands, he’s often late when caving back in on in-breaking routes. His lack of vertical fluidity makes him easily susceptible to quick double-moves.
Another factor that hurts Adebo’s performance against double-moves is his lack of twitch. He’s not a very sudden CB, and when he tries to play beyond his capacity for speed, his balance can suffer.
He too often bites on fake direction changes by receivers and this can open up easy conversions for opposing offenses. Without the twitch and hip fluidity necessary to recover quickly, Adebo doesn’t commonly have a chance to bail himself out.
Simply put, when he doesn’t have to change directions, Adebo has the speed and length to do his part. He can also flip his hips vertically well enough if he just has to run and chase afterward. However, when he needs to change directions, things fall apart fairly quickly, and he lacks consistency in that area. That’s a red flag for an aspiring NFL cornerback, and it’s something Adebo will have to work on if he wants to be an eventual starter.
Paulson Adebo’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Paulson Adebo is an incredibly interesting evaluation. Two years ago, he was a borderline first-round prospect. Yet, his 2019 season, while also productive, highlighted some major concerns in Adebo’s game.
In addition, because he opted out in 2020, Adebo didn’t get a chance to establish a more endearing final impression for himself. Now, he heads into the NFL Draft on a downward trend. Meanwhile, other high-upside corners like Greg Newsome II and Kelvin Joseph rocket up the board.
The Stanford cornerback has undeniable physical upside. He’s big and fast, and as explained before, I don’t think his hip fluidity issues are unfixable. His footwork could be more brisk and sudden, and his agility numbers allude to untapped upside. If he can fuse that into his game, it may help him transition his hips with a similar suddenness. There are traits to mold, but Adebo’s faults are conducive to big plays.
Which teams best fit Adebo’s skill set?
From a raw physical standpoint, Adebo could become a scheme-diverse cornerback if he can work to be more sudden and fluid as a mover. However, for now, Adebo projects best into more zone-heavy schemes.
There, he can utilize his straight-line explosiveness, length, and instincts, to a greater degree. His length also gives him some utility in press-man concepts. Although he needs to improve his physicality and balance there as well.
Going off of that, teams that best account for Adebo’s skillset early on include the New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks.
However, NFL defenses have to be flexible with their coverage schemes in the modern NFL. Thus, Adebo will have to develop to fulfill that need. In the middle rounds, he’s a good high-upside sleeper. But Adebo has more work to do if he is to become a full-time starter.
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