2016 was a historic year for Mountaineers in the NFL Draft. 5 players selected in the first 5 rounds, with Karl Joseph continuing the recent trend of Top 15 selections. Time to take a look at where some of our guys might land this year. This will be the first in a series of posts that’ll evaluate West Virginia’s NFL prospects on Size, Athleticism, and Positional Skills and then grade each on a scale of A to F. Let’s start with Rasul Douglas.
Douglas found himself at West Virginia by way of Nassau Community College, where he ranked 5th nationally in PBUs and earned NJCAA 1st team All-American honors. He struggled to establish himself during his first year in Morgantown, but exploded into the national conversation with a strong senior campaign that culminated with a 2nd team All-American nod. Most Mountaineer fans would agree that he’s one of the better corners we’ve had over the past few decades.
Rasul is a rangy 6’2 203, making him just about the prototypical size for a modern NFL corner. He’s well-built with long arms and legs, and uses his frame extremely well both at the line of scrimmage and in coverage downfield, which should serve him well in a league where things like Julio Jones exist.
Athletically, Douglas checks most of the boxes you’re looking for in a corner, but isn’t someone who you’d classify as a freak. His top end speed and explosiveness are just average (4.59 40, 33.5″ vertical, 10′ broad jump), but he’s strong and shows impressive body control when contesting passes. He may not be athletic enough to be a true lock-down in the mold of say, Patrick Peterson, but he’s no slouch either.
Coverage Skills: B+
Douglas led the country by intercepting 8 passes, and naturally has very good all-around cover skills. His greatest strength is the way he uses his frame. He excels at the line of scrimmage, using his length to knock receivers off their routes and disrupt timing. He also shows good play recognition, reads quarterbacks well, generally reacts well on the throw, and plays the ball very well. Here we see all four of those traits on one play:
Here again he reads the quarterback’s eyes, weaves his way through traffic, and beats his man to the ball:
However, he’s not an elite technician at this point. He sometimes seems to drift in coverage, and by his own admission at the Senior Bowl he needs to become more consistent on a play-to-play basis. This inconsistency occasionally gets him into trouble in man coverage, especially against quicker receivers who are able to exploit his relative lack of explosiveness. One play in particular that comes to mind is Miami’s first touchdown in the Russell Athletic Bowl:
Douglas was on an island there against true freshman Ahmonn Richards, and not only was he slow to break on the route (a simple 5-yard hitch), he allowed Richards to turn him inside-out and take it to the house for a game-changing touchdown.
Overall, Douglas is better in zone coverage than in man, and is definitely better when pressing than playing off the line. Whoever ends up picking him will definitely do so with that in mind.
Against the Run: B
Rasul is a willing participant in run support, which is nice, but he’s not always very effective. He finished with 70 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and a sack last year, so he’s clearly capable of getting people on the ground, but like in coverage, he’s just not always technically sound. He’ll wrap somebody up and put them down on one play and then throw a lazy shoulder the next. It’s something he’ll need to fix if he wants to play at the next level, but like I said, the desire is there.
One thing he actually does well though is get his hands on the football:
He’s forced at least one fumble per season going back to his JUCO days at Nassau, and can regularly be seen around the pile at the end of plays trying to get his paws in there. It may seem like a simple thing, but it does lend credence to his growing reputation as an opportunistic playmaker.
In case you forgot the scoring matrix that I use:
And on down to 0. Our boy went A+, B, B+, and B, which averages out to a cool 4.05/5. Not bad. Douglas only spent two years in Morgantown so I hesitate to place him in the pantheon of Mountaineer greats like Pac Man Jones, McKeesport Mike Logan, and Aaron Beasley, but I think his body of work over those 2 years was good enough to put him in the conversation with Daryl Worley as the best cornerback we’ve seen don the Old Gold and Blue over the past decade.
Douglas’ skill set and positional value likely means he’ll be the first Mountaineer off the board this May. He had a great senior season, a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, and I can’t imagine that his combine performance did anything to drastically alter his stock. If anything it probably confirmed what scouts already thought about him: he’s an instinctive playmaker with prototypical size who probably lacks the elite athleticism necessary to be a true lock-down corner. However, it’s hard not to appreciate the similarities between Rasul’s size and measurables and someone like Richard Sherman’s, and people seem to think he could thrive in a similar scheme. I’d be surprised if he lasted past the 3rd, and wouldn’t put it passed someone like Seattle (58) or Atlanta (63) to jump on him late in the second.