2020 NFL Draft: TCU CB Jeff Gladney

  • Name (#): Jeff Gladney (#12)
  • Position: CB
  • College: TCU
  • Height: 5’10″
  • Weight: 191 lbs
  • 40-time: 4.48 sec
  • Length: 31 ⅞”
  • Career Statistics: 107 Solo Tackles, 39 Assisted Tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, 5 Int, 37 PD
  • Season Statistics: 24 Solo Tackles, 7 Assisted Tackles, 1.5 TFL, .5 Sack, 1 Int, 14 PD
  • Games played: 50
  • Games started: 44
  • Games watched: 2018 Ohio State, 2019 SMU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma
  • Prepared by Nathan Papandrea

Gladney’s motor mirror technique at the line of scrimmage is very strong. He shows good balance and ability to mirror the receiver during the release whether he is in press or soft press.

Watch him “motor” out by taking small, six-inch steps, then transition and break in-stride with the wide receiver. You can’t ask for any better coverage from a corner. The placement of this throw is the only reason it was completed.

One of the first things that stands out in Gladney’s film is his transitions. His transitions, especially when the receiver is simply releasing vertically inside or outside, are quick and decisive. Watch him maintain his leverage on the receiver via his motor steps then quickly open when the receiver gets into the drive phase of his route stem.

Below, he cuts off the outside release, so the wide receiver takes the ‘best release’ approach and cuts back inside him.

Gladney is a sticky corner who always seems to be in the hip pocket of the receiver.

According to Pro Football Focus, “over the past two years, he has forced tight coverage on 79.5% of his targets 10-plus yards downfield, which was the sixth-best rate and nearly 20 percentage points above the FBS average.” 

He reminds me of Tre’Davious White coming out of college in that he likes to choke or cut-off route stems as they progress down the field. Below, you will see him to the top of the screen in off coverage. Once the receiver commits to the post, he closes the cushion and cuts it off. Now watch the QB; see how that action by Gladney forced him to move on in his progressions. That’s textbook “taking away options” from the QB.

Savvy receivers may get him turned around, but his ability to recover by flipping his hips then getting back into phase is some of the best stuff in this class. The safety reels in the interception, but Gladney is right in the receiver’s basket to make a play if the ball were placed better. Also, note the excitement he shows for his teammate, who made one hell of a play.

Corners are going to get beat at times. That’s inevitable, but their ability to recover and make a play is a skill a player just has or doesn’t have. He gets stacked but keeps his head in the play. As the receiver brings his hands up, Gladney turns to find the ball and gets a piece of it.

Communication between the two levels of the defense is paramount, especially when a player is in a pattern matching defense like TCU or a zone-heavy scheme. This is a 3-over-2 coverage on 3rd-and-3, where the safety, linebacker, and Gladney are pattern-matching the two receivers. On the snap, anything short and inside, the linebacker will have. Anything short and outside, Gladney will take and pass anything vertically to the safety. Here, Gladney’s teammates call out #2 to the flats, so Gladney releases #1 and makes a play on the ball.

Later in the season, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer looks to Gladney’s side (top of screen) but quickly realizes that he is trapping the #2 to the flats again, so Brewer moves on in his progression.

When you have defenders who understand their 1/11th within a given coverage, players can play fast. Texas Christian runs a trap coverage with Gladney getting his hands on the #1 receiver, but he gets his eyes on the #2 receiver through to the quarterback. As that receiver heads to the flats, Gladney releases the #1 to the safety then closes in and sets the tone!

Everyone loves lock-down corners that can play man-to-man on every single play, but not many players can survive in that role nowadays. Beyond finding that unicorn, I value corners that can read routes or, more importantly, read route combinations. These quick, processing type corners like Gladney can read the routes of the man or the combination, THEN communicate to his teammates so that concepts can be shut down. The ball doesn’t go in Gladney’s direction, but watch him communicate and execute his job.

The New Boston, Texas native possesses fantastic awareness on crucial downs. Below, Gladney is completely aware of the 3rd-and-14 situation. He understands that he needs to take away high-read wide receiver Denzel Mims and force the quarterback to throw it short of the sticks so that he and his teammates can rally. That mental toughness and awareness of the down and distance and how the offense is going to attack you is something coaches will love. He spaced this high/low concept perfectly then came downhill and made a strong tackle to force 4th down. Offenses that attempt to run a lot of these ‘Smash’ concepts are going to regret wasting a down trying to attack Gladney.

He’s got a dog mentality. Gladney routinely mixes it up with opposing receivers. After serving a half-suspension against Oklahoma for a targeting penalty the week before, at times Gladney matched up versus CeeDee Lamb. Against Baylor, Gladney traveled with Mims for a majority of the game, and he never backed down from the fast-rising receiver. Look at this red zone pass deflection by Gladney on 3rd-and-7.

Gladney’s ball skills show a ton on tape. That’s not only a testament to his knack for making a play on the ball, but also his ability to read the wide receivers’ body language.

He has a good sense of when the receiver is leaning into a break, so he drives and makes a play on the ball or does whatever he can to affect the process of the catch. For example, take a look at this play, where he isn’t quite able to get the ball, so instead he hits the elbow and jars the ball loose.

While Gladney defends the deep ball well, teams know that every once in a while they can get him to bite on ‘sluggos.’

Overall, Gladney is a first-round talent. He shows that he has the ability to match up with big-time receivers and make plays in big moments. His ability to go toe-to-toe with receivers isn’t about his athleticism. It’s more thanks to his abilities from the shoulders up. He has a very quick processor and can read routes of weak route runners, cut their stem off, and get right into their hip pocket. In off coverage he’s quite possibly the best pattern matching corner in this draft because he diagnoses the combinations early and relays targets entering his teammates’ zones immediately. That’s why his value will be maximized in quarters coverage or pattern-matching systems like he played in at TCU.

At times, it seems like Gladney gets tunnel vision on his receiver, which can affect his ability to defend the run. He gets zoned in and the receiver will run him off or push-crack to the safety, and he will just follow, all while the running back is coming in his direction. He also has a tendency to stay covered up versus the run rather than working to disengage and go find the ball. But most of the time, he does maintain the outside-in leverage that is asked of him on runs and screens. Overall, he isn’t afraid to insert into the run game when he needs to be the force on the play.

His 3-cone drill at the combine scared a lot of folks, but as you saw earlier in some of these clips, his agility and overall change of direction skills didn’t look like a 4th-percentile athlete. Plus, it’s been reported that Gladney played the entire 2019 season and participated in the NFL Combine with a torn meniscus.

The film shows that he is a first-round talent, and his toughness, football intelligence, and physical skillet will translate early at the NFL level.