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Identifying sound tacklers at cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft

Based on what Bills HC Sean McDermott said last week, he wants his corners to be good tacklers.

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Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott recently comment on some specifics he looks for in his defensive backs. Yes, it’s “Lyin’ Season” — remember to always say with Buddy Nix drawl — but at this time of year, anything “football” related instead of #CoachSpeak is worth at least trying to unwrap.

“It’s nice to be out there and able to run but this is not track practice, this is football,” said McDermott. “So we’ve got to be able to be physical and tackle. That’s a big part of it for us and our identity – you guys have heard me say it before and you’ll continue to hear me say it – our identity on defense will be built around our corners and their tackling ability and how much our defensive line runs to the football. Those to me are big selling points for our defense.”

Sure some of that quote reads coachspeaky, but the emphasis on cornerbacks who are efficient tacklers is noteworthy. These comments were posted on the team’s official website. If we are to fully believe McDermott’s words, we can assume he and the rest of the Bills brass will be looking for sound tacklers in the 2017 draft. The corner and safety classes are incredibly deep, and Buffalo has needs at both spots.

In its 2017 Draft Pass — which can be purchased here — Pro Football Focus uses a signature stat called Tackling Efficiency, which basically just missed tackles per attempt.

Here are some standouts in the tackling department from the cornerback class:

  • Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore No Missed Tackles: Ranked 1st.
  • Miami’s Corn ElderTackling Efficiency: 20.0, Ranked 7th.
  • San Diego State’s Damontae KazeeTackling Efficiency 17.0. Ranked 10th.
  • USC’s Adoree Jackson — Tackling Efficiency:
  • West Virginia’s Rasul DouglasTackling Efficiency: 13.4, Ranked 21st among all cornerbacks in college football.
  • UCF’s Shaquill Griffin — Tackling Efficiency: 13.3. Ranked 22nd.
  • Washington’s Sidney Jones Tackling Efficiency: 11.0. Ranked 34th.
  • Clemson’s Cordrea TankersleyTackling Efficiency: 10.2. Ranked 42nd.

There are some potential fits here for the Bills. It’s believed that McDermott will want longer, rangier, ball-hawking corners to patrol the boundaries of his Cover 3-based system (Think Josh Norman).

Douglas is 6’2” with 32 3/8” arms and tied for the NCAA Division I lead with eight interceptions in 2016.

Tankersley is 6’1” with 32 1/4” arms had snagged nine interceptions in the past two seasons at Clemson.

Griffin is 6’0” with 32 3/8” arms and had six picks in his final three season at UCF, including four last year.

Though Lattimore doesn’t reach the 32” arm-length threshold, he has respectable size at 6’0” with 31 1/4” arms.

These are the disappointing cornerbacks in that area:

  • Florida’s Teez Tabor — Tackling Efficiency: 7.0. Ranked 91st.
  • Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis — Tackling Efficiency: 5.6. Ranked 120th.
  • Washington’s Kevin King — Tackling Efficiency: 5.4. Ranked 123rd.
  • Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton — Tackling Efficiency: 5.4. Ranked 123rd.
  • Colorado’s Ahkello Witherspoon — Tackling Efficiency: 4.0. Ranked 156th.

Size-wise, King and Witherspoon are seemingly ideal fits to play outside corner in McDermott’s Cover 3 system. King is 6’3” with 32” arms, and Witherspoon is a shade under 6’3” with 33” arms.

King intercepted six passes over his last three years in Washington, and while Witherspoon had just one pick in 2016, he was credited with an astounding 19 pass breakups.

Neither the tackling proficiency nor lack thereof are concrete indicators as to the corners Bills prefer (or don’t prefer) in this class. The same goes for height and arm length. But if you want to believe McDermott’s comment that tackling will be a must for his cornerbacks, the above figures should be very interesting.