2019 NFL Draft: A pair of Central Michigan cornerbacks flying well under the radar


Over the past five years, an average of 31 cornerbacks are selected in the NFL Draft. Elite level players from premier programs see their names called early as in Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech), Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Jalen Ramsey (Florida State), Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State), Marlon Humphrey (Alabama) among many others. Though many other cornerback prospects from Power 5 programs have their names littered throughout the rest of the draft, Group of Five programs still have solid ground to stand on. AJ Bouye (UCF), William Jackson III (Houston), Trumaine Johnson (Montana), Byron Jones (Connecticut), Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) and plenty of others headline the strong former non-Power 5 conference cornerback class currently in the NFL.

A pair of Central Michigan all-conference cornerbacks fit the mold as the next non-Power 5 headliners in the league.  Xavier Crawford, Oregon State transfer, sought out Central Michigan to spend one of his last couple years of playing eligibility. Sean Bunting, a two-year starter, earned the Chippewas’ defensive MVP award. Both will participate on Monday at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis after forgoing their final seasons of collegiate eligibility.

Crawford received his degree from Oregon State in June of 2018 before playing his final year of college football in Mount Pleasant. In his lone season, Crawford was named to the all-MAC first team as he finished tied for first in the conference with 12 pass breakups (one interception on the season, versus Kentucky). In his time at Oregon State, Crawford sat out his true freshman season and then managed to start all 12 games in his collegiate season debut. During that season, he made 70 stops with 10 passes defended receiving honorable mention all-conference honors.

Central Michigan Athletics

Poised for a promising season, Crawford stepped on the field only five times in 2017 before being sidelined with a season-ending back injury. Not only did Crawford have a breakout 2018, he rejuvenated his collegiate career returning from an injury that jeopardized it.

Crawford does an excellent job at diagnosing route patterns and reacting with anticipation. He has the lower body fluidity to react to quick movements at all areas of the field. Crawford shows the dynamic lower body to move and turn with ease adjusting to sharp cuts in the middle of the field but also flipping his hips and running vertically.

His overall ball arrival anticipation needs some fine tuning but he shows a theme of causing disruption at the catch point thanks to his length and determination. He will leave some unfinished plays on the field despite showing the recovery speed and agility to keep his matchup contained. However, his reaction to the delivery of the ball may leave some dissatisfied when the receiver comes down with the football.

Crawford’s thin frame can be concerning when projecting him to the next level but his intelligence, lower body quickness and fluidity and positioning provide enough potential to function as a Day 3 flier with tools to work with. His ability to turn and run and flip his hips with ease cannot be stated enough.

Bunting joined Crawford and two other Chippewa defenders, DL Michael Danna and DL Malik Fountain, on the first team All-MAC team after posting 37 tackles (26 solo), with five pass breakups and two interceptions. Starting 11 of 12 games in his final season, Bunting found himself in the starting lineup 25 times over his three-year career (38 games).

The more physical of the two, Bunting shines in press coverage while on the boundary. He fires his hands quickly into the chest of the receiver off the snap sending a jolt of fear before the integrity of the route is run. Bunting times his punch well with aggression but stays balanced enough to react after the contact is landed. He’ll occasionally get too juiced up and over pursue his punch leaving him in a catch-up situation.

Similar to Crawford, Bunting shows attractive lower body fluidity to turn and run with speedy receivers. His twitchy lower body can mirror receivers that accentuate short area quickness skills. Bunting shows tremendous control staying on task and glued to receivers thanks to clean lower body movements and consistent physicality throughout routes.

Despite the expectation of measuring well below 200 pounds in Indianapolis, Bunting’s physicality at the line of scrimmage and throughout the catch point, doesn’t match the scale. Bunting has the route recognition and anticipation to bail on the receiver and make a play on the ball with above average hands. His ball skills rank near the top of the draft class showing the ability to high point the football displaying a catch radius to snag the ball at a wide range (nine career interceptions).

Allissa Rusco, Central Michigan Athletics

Bunting’s physical demeanor is appreciated but could take a step back and develop patience, especially off the snap. His punch does damage but he can over pursue off the snap which instantly puts him at a disadvantage. Fine tuning his overall technique in press coverage along with consistency in the run game will take patience from a coaching staff. Though, Bunting’s ball skills and smooth lower body movements in coverage will pave way for decision makers to take a potential gamble on the fourth-year junior on Day 2 of the draft.

Despite Central Michigan’s dismal 1-11 season in John Bonamego’s final year, the Chippewas featured two dynamic cornerbacks in its backyard with NFL futures. Bunting and Crawford are expecting to be the third and fourth defensive backs selected out of Central Michigan since 1985 (Kavon Frazier in 2016; Jim Bowman in 1985).

Photo Credit: Cody Scanlan, Central Michigan Life

Christian Page is a scout and writer for Cover1.net. His scouting experience dates back to 2015. Christian has a background of radio along with collegiate athletic department experience and corporate marketing.