Not many things in life have been more trustworthy than the Washington Huskies cornerback. Since 2013, we’ve seen Desmond Trufant, Marcus Peters, Sydney Jones, Kevin King, Jordan Miller, and Byron Murphy drafted from the Pacific Northwest. In 2017 and 2019, those draft picks came in twos. Here in the 2021 Draft, we should see that small trend continue.
Scouting cornerbacks in Washington’s defense is a bit different than other defensive schemes. In a world where more and more defenses are tightening throwing windows by running match-based zones, the Washington defense is a testament to coverage spacing and click-and-close ability. They also use trail technique man coverage at a far higher rate than most.
The hype surrounding Elijah Molden has been around for much longer than that of Keith Taylor. That is a bit surprising considering they are both rising seniors, and Keith Taylor is the much more desirably-framed cornerback at 6-foot-3 and a listed 196 pounds with arms for days. After all, that frame is what has South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu as highly touted as he is. Conversely, Molden is on the smaller end of the spectrum, coming in under 6-feet and lacking a defined top gear.
Who is the better Washington Huskies cornerback?
A tale of two types
This is absolutely a cop-out, but it depends on what you want, or most importantly, need. Molden may very well be able to cover on the outside at the next level, but he is best suited for the slot at the next level. Taylor has some really nice position flexibility. He can cover tight ends and doesn’t have much of an issue on the outside, but has also had reps of all types from the slot as well.
So let’s just break this down between man coverage and zone coverage, and we’ll let the reader decide which player they want on their favorite football team.
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He’s a very tricky evaluation in man coverage. The Washington defensive philosophy doesn’t necessarily put him in the best position to succeed. For his size, Molden is a physical player in the slot that would be better suited to stay square and mirror off defenders rather than allow receivers to get overtop him vertically to chase in trail.
His footwork and click-and-close ability when he has leverage over receivers is outstanding against out-breaking routes. He is able to easily plant and drive to the inside shoulder of receivers on quick outs and has a knack for getting his inside arm through to the football.
In-breaking routes are tougher to evaluate because Washington allows inside leverage so easily, even on third downs without interior zone defenders there to affect the quarterback’s decision-making. But that same click-and-close still exists.
I am not normally a fan of cornerbacks that are listed at 6-foot-3 and up. Far too often, they play with a stiffness that’s detrimental to their ability to mirror receivers in man coverage. Taylor is built differently. He possesses smooth transitioning hips and has the long speed to carry college receivers down the field, with the length to make quarterbacks think twice about throwing it up to their jump-ball receivers.
As a press corner, he’s had reps where receivers don’t even get into the development of their routes, and his ability to stay patient, side shuffle, and transition allows him to discourage throws underneath when supplemented by his absurd length. He doesn’t shy away from contact against tight ends and absolutely blankets them up the seam when deployed against them.
The only “knock” on him here is that he never truly had to go up against super shifty outside receiver types. Although for his size, he’s a good lateral athlete, it is still not lightning because of his long legs.
This is where he shines his brightest. Molden’s coverage spacing when mid-pointing high/low route concepts is outstanding, and his foot speed and fluidity allow him to bait quarterbacks into throwing passes to him as if he were invisible. His skillset appears easily translatable to a match-based zone scheme, giving him the versatility in the slot to do a lot of different things.
He’s also shown to be adept at spinning to the back half against motion and playing with good geometry as a safety. His instincts and ball skills will make him a fan favorite wherever he goes, and however he plays, because turnovers are sexy, and he gets them.
As an outside corner, Taylor would be a prime candidate in a Cover 3 heavy scheme due to his length. However, he shouldn’t simply be relegated to those duties, as his fluidity and adequate speed give him flexibility in his zone deployment. There aren’t many instances where communication was overly necessary for the Washington defense post-snap. With that being said, there could be a somewhat difficult transition in a match-based scheme for both these players, but because Taylor isn’t as shift, things could be more difficult for Taylor.
In a vacuum, who is the better corner?
I said I wasn’t going to answer, but I must admit I am a bit smitten by Taylor. He was a pleasant surprise after not knowing much about him prior to the film study. It’ll be interesting to see how these two look after the formal grading process closer to draft day, but right now, I must say, give me Taylor to be my CB2 on my NFL team.