Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is a guy that has kind of fallen by the wayside because of the depth of this draft, but someone that will likely still go in the first round. I contend that he may be the 2nd or 3rd CB off the board.
When you turn on the film and study him, you’ll realize that he is extremely refined as a CB. That shouldn’t be surprising, as he has played in 29 games at Alabama under the tutelage of one of the best defensive back coaches and systems ever. Nick Saban’s expertise has always been defensive backs, and he makes sure his coaches are well versed in his mechanics and techniques, and those coaches execute their jobs well.
Humphrey has prototypical size and speed that defensive coordinators want. He is 6′ 2/8″, 197 pounds and blazed a 4.41 40 yd dash at the combine.
Humphrey played in a diverse scheme that asks its defenders to play multiple coverages, techniques, and responsibilities, and that is very valuable at the next level. Sometimes he was in tight man where he was asked to mirror some of the best WRs in the country, including likely first round pick John Ross. Look at how smoothly Humphrey ‘man turns’ with Ross and carries the speedster up the sideline. Humphrey squeezes Ross to the sideline, leaving very little room outside, and the safety help deep eliminates the deep shot.
In this game, Humphrey followed Ross all over the field at critical times.
He is a big time player because he plays with an abundance of confidence and competitiveness. On this play, Ross tries selling a stutter release where he wants to release outside, but Humphrey stuns him with a perfectly placed right handed punch, preventing the release. It was a run play, so that strike wasn’t as significant, but look at the fight and chippiness that he brings to the secondary. That is the kind of thing that coaches love.
In Humphrey you have a corner who displays the skills to play the position, but also the competitiveness, the ability to set the tone from a position that isn’t usually known for it.
A skill that very good cornerbacks possess that I have noticed in Humphrey is the ability to use angles and finesse to cut off routes. He will not be a top flight man cover corner at the next level, but he is more than competent. He has the ability to disrupt routes at the line of scrimmage or at the catch point. On the following play, that technique is so subtle, but it is crucial in forcing the incompletion and ultimately fourth down. Humphrey is in man coverage to the boundary. On the snap he transitions and gets into the hip pocket of the wide receiver. As the receiver gears down and plants and drives to the inside, Humphrey flips his hips but stays in the hip pocket. As he plasters the receiver, he is also restricting him from crossing his face. Humphrey knows the ball will be coming in hot on the timing route, so he immediately gets his eyes to the ball and makes a play at the catch point. Fortunately for the quarterback, the ball is not on target — Humphrey may have had a better beat on the ball than the receiver.
Humphrey got his hands on 18 passes over the course of his career, most of which were in the short to intermediate range. But he has made his fair share of plays in critical situations, much like the 3rd down stop shown above. He does it again in a big situation, on the big stage. With Clemson up three to start the fourth quarter and the Tigers with the ball at the 40 yard line, Humphrey shuts Watson down. Take a look:
When you look at his game and attempt to project where he will fit at the next level, I would have to say a zone scheme. This type of scheme will allow him to utilize his very good mental processing. Humphrey displays some of the best ‘zone eyes’ in this draft. He shows a remarkable ability to read keep the receiver in his peripheral during his drop while analyzing route combinations and the progress of the quarterback’s drop. Humphrey, when in off zone or pattern matching coverage, doesn’t take the low hanging fruit often. On this play, Texas A&M tries running a high/low on him. Alabama is pattern matching, bracketing two WRs with three defenders to both sides of the field. Based on the routes run, the defense matches. Humphrey is on the bottom of the screen, and he will have any out breaking route. The safety will carry any vertical, and the inside linebacker along the hash carries any crossing routes.
During the receivers’ release phase the stacked WR breaks to the sideline. Humphrey is of course ‘Saban Shuffling’. As the receiver runs the speed out, Humphrey has his eyes on the drop of the QB. He notices that the QB hits the top of the drop and isn’t prepared to throw the speed out to the receiver, so he continues slowly drifting deep.
The QB checks the safety, hits his back foot, and throws to the deep out.
Humphrey plants and drives deep, making the interception.
Check out the full play here:
Corners in zone coverage are asked to process route combinations, react, and shut down passing lanes. Often that does not show in the box score, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. Humphrey works with current Buffalo Bill Reggie Ragland to the bottom of the screen. On 3rd and 4, Humphrey is in off coverage and plays cover 2. Watson half rolls to his right, looking for the receiver in the flats, but Humphrey takes it away and Watson retreats.
Having been coached up so well, his head is always in the game, always aware of the down and distance. He exhibits the mental toughness to make a play to get the defense off the field. That field awareness paired with his speed allows him to shut down quick slants and most in breaking routes.
Against the run he is a good player, very instinctive and unafraid of pulling linemen coming full steam at him. Marlon only missed six tackles in 2016, according to PFF.
He is a corner that leverages the ball well, plays outside in, and can occasionally lay a big hit!
Marlon Humphrey don’t care. pic.twitter.com/1PyhfgpAuv
— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) March 21, 2017
Where he struggled in 2016 was down the field. According to Pro Football Focus, of the 489 yards he allowed, 79.6% of those yards the ball traveled through the air. That means he was beat down the field quite often, to the tune of 16.3 yards/catch. But they weren’t plays where he was grossly out of position. In fact, it was just the opposite. For example, consider the national championship game, in which he was up against receiver Mike Williams. Williams got the best of him, but it was all above the shoulders, Williams’s specialty. The Alabama defense sends the inside linebacker and is in a single high look, so Watson takes the deep shot. Humphrey tracked the ball well, but Williams has the size, lean, and leaping ability to prevent Humphrey from elevating at the same time.
But Humphrey keeps his head in the play. Unable to go up and compete at the ‘high point,’ he attempts to make a play as Williams is coming down with it. As the ball is away from the frame of the big bodied receiver, Humphrey tries pushing the right hand away from the ball so Williams is unable to totally frame and look the ball in, and it works.
The ball comes loose, but the ball falls down into Williams’ lap. He shows off his concentration by bringing it in. A great play by Williams, but Humphrey did a great job all the way to the end. Check the play out.
His struggles down the field not only occurred against bigger receivers, but speedsters, too. On this play, Antonio Callaway beats Humphrey to the post. This play could be a circumstance of play call, as it appears that the the offense called the perfect route combination versus the pattern match coverage, but nonetheless, Humphrey was unable to make a play on the ball down the field.
The redshirt sophomore is susceptible to routes that have multiple breaks or changes in the route stem, such as this stutter fade. Humphrey displays a choppy backpedal during his read steps. He plants and drives, thinking that the receiver is going to break, but he stutters and releases to the back of the end zone for the easy touchdown. Bad read by the corner.
Possible Bills Fit:
There are many traits Humphrey possesses that make me believe that he would be a good fit in Buffalo’s revamped defense. The first is that he is very intelligent and smart in off coverage. He displays very good zone eyes: the ability to read the route combination with the depth of the drop by the quarterback. This bodes well if Sean McDermott wants to play cover 3, like he did in Carolina. This will allow McDermott and his staff to disguise their coverage and scheme trap coverages, which would allow a player like Humphrey to read the routes and jump them, creating turnovers. Humphrey is very sound technically at or near the line of scrimmage, with the ability to disrupt all types of wide receivers within the five yard box. McDermott utilizes a lot of the same techniques taught by the coaching staff at Alabama, which should bode well for Humphrey if he were to be drafted by Buffalo. Lastly, in zone defenses corners are counted on to be good tacklers because they are often force or secondary force players against the run. Humphrey doesn’t shy away from contact. He is quick to diagnose run/pass, get downhill, and stick his nose into the play. His competitive toughness, willingness to fight, scrap, and do whatever it takes attitude make me sure that Sean McDermott would love him.
His struggles down the field are concerning, especially if the Bills want to play cover 3. Being responsible for big NFL receivers in a deep third or in man situations could be a huge task. He shows the ability to remain in their hip pocket, but often they come down with the catch. His man cover skills are average the further down the field he gets. He is able to mirror releases near the line of scrimmage, then carry them through the short to intermediate areas. However, the more breaks there are in a route or when the play goes into scramble mode, his man is likely to come uncovered.
Overall Grade: 86.364-1st round