Following their most successful season ever, UTSA could have more players selected to the NFL in one year than in the entire history of the program. Cornerback Tariq Woolen projects to be one of their top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. The former wide receiver has attracted attention with his incredible athletic profile, but does he have the skills to pay the bills in the NFL? Woolen’s scouting report is brimming with potential.
Tariq Woolen NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: UTSA
- Current Year: Redshirt senior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 205 pounds
Tariq Woolen Scouting Report
In their young history, UTSA has only had two players drafted to the NFL via the annual selection event. Tight end David Morgan II was a sixth-round pick in 2016. Two years later, the New Orleans Saints traded up to select defensive end Marcus Davenport in Round 1. This year, UTSA could have as many as three prospects make the leap to the NFL.
Running back Sincere McCormick has attracted significant attention as one of the best in the business. As he’s paved the way for McCormick, offensive lineman Spencer Burford has earned a Senior Bowl invite. However, it’s UTSA cornerback Woolen who is drawing the most intrigue from NFL Draft scouts. While he won’t ascend Davenport’s lofty selection, he could be the first of this year’s trio to hear his name called.
Woolen’s scouting report shines a light on why he’s drawing such intrigue. The former wide receiver has only played his new position for two years. Yet, his athletic profile is exceptional, and in an era where NFL teams will bet on athletic upside and coach up the technical element, there are not many better athletes to work with.
At 6’4″ and 205 pounds, Woolen is a tall, physical cornerback whose size makes him a tantalizing prospect on the outside at the NFL level. Although that size is important, the UTSA cornerback is blessed with other exceptional measurements. Reportedly, he has 33 1/4-inch arms with a 78 3/8-inch wingspan.
A rare physical specimen
Woolen is a rare physical specimen in that regard. But that’s not even the most exciting element of his scouting report. From that frame, he has a reported 4.34 laser-timed 40-yard dash and an 11’5″ broad jump. Those are eye-watering testing numbers for a player of his size. The word “freak” shouldn’t be bandied around freely when describing athletes, but that is exactly what Woolen is.
Although NFL teams are willing to bet on athletic traits, there has to be some evidence that there is a modicum of technical ability to develop. Not only is that evident in Woolen, but he’s also demonstrated some progress in that regard already. As a wide receiver turned cornerback with only two years of experience, there is, of course, room for improvement, which we’ll get to shortly. However, there’s been a clear development thus far.
Woolen demonstrates some physicality and technical prowess at the point of attack. In press coverage, he uses his length to jab at the point of the snap and demonstrates good all-around hand usage in this phase. His footwork has also improved, allowing him to mirror receivers and not give up easy separation on release. He routinely uses his long arm to feel for the receiver throughout the route.
Naturally, his speed allows him to maintain sticky coverage throughout the route. However, Woolen also showcases more than pure speed. The UTSA cornerback has a fluidity of movement. Once again, his footwork as he transitions from backpedal to run has taken strides as he has become a more experienced cornerback.
Woolen combines size, speed, and physicality
The physicality demonstrated on release is evident elsewhere in Woolen’s game. At the catch point, he is capable of using his size and frame to outmuscle his opponent. Here, his length also comes into play, as he is able to get his arm around and make a play on the ball. Woolen has also shown a propensity to use his physicality against the run, laying a heavy hit when meeting his opponent with clear contact.
Despite his relatively inexperienced defensive career, Woolen has also showcased some versatility. He has been aligned as an outside cornerback on both sides of the formation. Additionally, he’s seen some reps in the slot, and he’s even been aligned as a single-high safety. With his size and athletic profile, there is potential that Woolen could transition to that latter role at the next level.
Areas for improvement
In studying Woolen for his scouting report, it’s easy to understand the excitement about the UTSA cornerback. His athletic upside is through the roof, and his development in the short time since making the switch to cornerback has been impressive. The Senior Bowl will allow him to solidify and even skyrocket his NFL Draft stock, with an early Day 3 selection easily attainable.
However, he still needs to take a leap to be considered a starter at the NFL level. There are both technical and mental improvements that need to take place. I’d be willing to bet that he can make those improvements, but they serve as a limiting factor on Woolen’s scouting report.
From a technical standpoint, he needs to ensure he gets his head around in coverage. Woolen does a good job of using his length to feel for the receiver, but he rarely gets his head back around to get eyes on the quarterback. As a result, he leaves plays on the field. This may also result in penalties, given his physicality at the catch point.
Although Woolen is a former wide receiver, there were also several opportunities for interceptions on tape that simply slipped through his fingers. One of the biggest concerns, rightly or wrongly, from some analysts is his lack of college production. A more concentrated approach at the catch point could eliminate those concerns. While Woolen showcases physicality against the run, clear improvements are needed as a tackler. There are too many examples on film of him whiffing on tackles, thanks to either an inability to wrap up or because he took the wrong angle.
Tariq Woolen Player Profile
In the talent-rich state of Texas, it can be difficult to differentiate yourself at the high school level. However, Fort Worth native Woolen had no difficulty doing just that. While his athletic profile might be attracting attention in the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, it helped him to stand out as a multi-sport star at Arlington Heights High School.
As a junior, Woolen was an All-District basketball standout. During his time in school, he ran track, setting impressive times in the 100m and 200m. He also competed in 100m, 200m, and 400m relays. That athletic ability translated to the football field, where his play as a wide receiver helped Arlington to an 11-1 record and the state playoffs in 2015.
Although his overall production wasn’t necessarily eye-catching, Woolen still contributed 536 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Furthermore, he averaged an impressive 17.3 yards per catch, earning first-team All-District 7-5A honors. As a result of his Arlington career, Woolen earned three-star recruiting recognition as a top-150 player in the state.
While he was highly rated, Woolen wasn’t heavily recruited. His early FBS options consisted of Texas State, North Texas, Houston, and UTSA, with some smaller school attention smattered among those offers. He committed to UTSA in December 2016, and despite a late offer from Baylor, he signed with the Roadrunners as part of a then-program best 2017 recruiting class.
Woolen’s career at UTSA
Despite being one of the showcase pieces of the 2017 UTSA recruiting class, Woolen didn’t see the field as a freshman. While maintaining a redshirt year, he did earn a place on the Conference USA honor roll. After a year on the sidelines, he was ready to hit the field as a redshirt freshman in 2018.
Woolen made it worth the wait for Roadrunners fans. In his debut against Arizona State, he snagged 3 catches for 51 yards. The tall, speedy pass catcher had multiple games with more than 1 reception during the 2018 season. He ended the year on a high with his first career touchdown, a 15-yard grab against North Texas.
There was an expectation that Woolen would kick on as a redshirt sophomore in 2019. Once again, he had several games with multiple catches. However, in total, he snagged just 9 catches for 105 yards at 11.7 yards per catch. Furthermore, he failed to reel in a touchdown. Towards the end of the year, he made a switch to cornerback that would alter the course of his career.
Making the move to cornerback unlocks NFL Draft potential for Woolen
Woolen’s move to cornerback became permanent in 2020. In the season opener against Texas State, he showcased his physical demeanor at the position with 5 tackles and a sack. In a game against Stephen F. Austin, where he suffered a hairline fracture in his forearm, he tallied 4 pass breakups. Woolen snagged his first career interception against Middle Tennessee State. Despite playing with a cast, he tallied 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception in seven starts, finishing the year with 6 tackles against Louisiana.
Woolen carried the momentum from UTSA’s bowl game performance into his redshirt senior season. He logged a pass breakup in each of the first three games of the season, including against a Power Five opponent in Illinois. He secured a crucial INT against UNLV that continued the Roadrunners’ winning record in a historic season for the program. Although he missed time with a hand injury, Woolen returned to face Western Kentucky, logging 2 pass breakups as UTSA won their first Conference USA Championship.
From Texas high school wide receiver to a conference-winning cornerback, it’s been quite the journey for Woolen. Nevertheless, it isn’t over yet. His combination of incredible athletic ability and untapped defensive back potential earned him an invite to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Woolen will be one of the most hotly anticipated participants, and he’s set to improve his 2022 NFL Draft stock at the premier all-star game.