I didn't realize, until recently, that the Texans are in the middle of what will be a six-year stretch without drafting a defensive player in the first round. The Texans won’t have a first round pick this year or next year, so it will 2022 before they get their next shot (barring another trade, of course).
The 2020 cornerback class is a lot stronger than last years. 32 corners we taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, but only one was taken in the first round. This year we will see a corner taken in the first five picks and possibly four corners go in the first round. Not only that, the second and third round should remain stacked with playmakers. These guys are longer, more developed, and better tacklers.
The top three corners are pretty set—Jeffrey Okudah from Ohio State, C.J. Henderson from LSU, and Trevon Diggs from Alabama. Those guys will be so gone off the board so quickly that it’s not even necessary to consider them for the Texans.
When evaluating corners in the NFL Combine, arm length is one of the biggest factors in how good a corner can be. In terms of metrics, an arm length of 30 inches is the Mendoza Line for corners. It’s like having nine inch hands for a QB; it’s an arbitrary thing that goes a long way in the evaluation process.
Kyle Dugger, CB - Lenoir-Rhyne
Height: 6-0 7/8
Weight: 217 pounds
Arm length: 32 7/8”
Wingspan: 78 4/8”
I heard Todd McShay rave about this kid on a podcast earlier this week. Dugger is one of these small school late bloomers that tore it up last year. Athletically, he will have to prove he is on par with the other players who have been in almost semi-professional gyms the past three or four years. Lenoir-Rhyne is a D-II school that auto-correct abhorred when I was writing this article. Dugger is already 23, which may not be too big of a concern for scouts.
If he runs a 4.40 40 yard dash, he’ll lock himself in as a end-of-Day One or early Day Two pick. If his intangibles and the bright light are a little much, he’ll slide due to a lack of confidence in his experience. He led the Senior Bowl in tackles, but a self-proclaimed “late bloomer” is picking up speed on the draft boards. I’m excited to see his story develop and watch him for at the Combine in comparison to better known talent.
Damon Arnette, CB - Ohio State
Height: 5-11 5/8
Weight: 195 pounds
Arm length: 30”
Wingspan: 74 4/8”
When your teammate at the same position is a top five prospect, it immediately spurs doubt that a player is not as good since they did not have to cover the best player. Jeff Okudah is likely a top-five pick and the number one corner off the board. Arnette can go anywhere in the draft, which is why the Combine is going to be so important for him.
Arnette didn’t fully live in Okudah’s shadow; he was a second-team All-Big Ten corner and played four strong years at Ohio State. He played in forty-seven games in college, which is an unbelievable feat, though there may be some tread off the tires.
With the quality he played, it’s hard to tell how well Arnette can stand alone. For the Texans, he’d be someone they’d be able to play immediately, but I would not expect to grow into an elite guy. He’d be a safe pick as of now, but a great Combine where he flexes his athleticism would be an important resume builder.
Cameron Dantzler, CB - Mississippi State
Height: 6-2 2/8”
Weight: 188 pounds
Arm length: 30 5/8”
Wingspan: 72 3/8”
Ask Matt Weston. When I fall in love with a player, I’ll harp on him to kingdom come. Dantzler is my early favorite for the Texans’ first selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Long, fast, plays man coverage, great film. Like most corners coming out of college, he’ll need to hit the weight room and get more aggressive at the point of attack. There is a LOT to work with in terms of technique and natural skill. His strengths fit the Texans’ secondary issues well, and he is a scheme gem. I’m trying not to start sweating, but I see him in Battle Red already. He’s SIX FOOT TWO.
Dantzler has to shine at the Combine because he missed three games and his bowl game this season due to injuries. He’s a big corner, but tackling, weight, and ball skills will be things he has to develop. The Combine is a great place to show ball skills and weight/power, so a strong performance here will bolster his positioning in the second round.
Troy Pride Jr., CB - Notre Dame
Height: 5-11 1/2”
Weight: 193 pounds
Arm length: 30 5/8”
Pride had a solid Senior Bowl where he recorded an interception on an errant throw. He has the height, weight, and speed you’re looking for, but the one thing that stands out is the speed. Pride ran track in college as the school’s best 200-meter dash runner. This kid can dash downfield with the best of them. He’s a South Carolina kid, so he’ll have close relationships with several of the players on the Texans’ roster. He didn’t rack up the big stats you’d like to see, but that may be a factor of his quality coverage.
Pride is going to look really good in the NFL Scouting Combine, but teams want to see how that relates onto the gridiron. When it’s Pride’s turn to step onto the field for the drills, he’ll be one that will be fun to watch.
From the analysts that’s out there, his football skills are not as developed as they should be. He’d be a project for any team and would best serve as a rotational corner and special teams guy.
Stanford Samuels III, CB - Florida State
Weight: 187 pounds
Arm length: 31 3/4”
Wingspan: 76 3/8”
He comes from a football family and was a five-star recruit coming out of high school in 2017. He recorded a healthy eight interceptions over his three years at Florida State. Long arms, experienced, and physical, Samuels has the build of a prototypical corner for the upcoming decade. Add about 10-12 pounds of core weight and he’ll be set.
Samuels has pretty awful tackling skills, but that won't be much of an issue at the Combine. What Samuels will need to crush are the deep coverage and jump ball drills that teams are desperate for. He needs to force teams to consider him as a lockdown corner against bigger guys. Though there is more film to be watched here, the Combine will need to show his play intelligence and potential. Samuels could be the biggest surprise of the group as he’s not highly rated, but physically he checks all the boxes with an A+.
As I did yesterday, here’s my Pre-Combine “Most likely to’s”
Most likely to be a Texan: Cameron Dantzler
Most likely to be taken first taken out of this group: Kyle Dugger
Most likely to be an All-Pro: Kyle Dugger
Most likely to fall on draft day: Damon Arnette
Most likely to be play in the XFL: Troy Pride Jr.