In this four-part series, I'm using my context-based data models to evaluate some of the top draft prospects at four key positions -- edge rusher, quarterback, cornerback and wide receiver -- while providing a pro comparison and ideal team fit for each.
- The goal for the comps: showing some of the strengths, weaknesses and unknown résumé aspects for each prospect, while offering a perspective to approximate how team analytics departments might view the player's potential NFL impact.
- The goal for the team fits: maximizing the draftee's 2023 win share, factoring in what we know about each team's personnel, coaches and strategy right now. And of course, as much as possible, I'm aiming to present realistic matches, ones that could actually come to fruition on draft day.
Let's continue the series with some hyped cover men ...
PRO COMPARISON: Jaire Alexander
Computer vision shows that Witherspoon's change-of-direction speed ranks in the top 10 percent of all DB prospects in my 10-year sample, which means he is elite at not slowing down when tracking balls and running to meet would-be pass catchers. This aligns with the sparkling figures Pro Football Focus attributed to the consensus All-American last season, including the lowest FBS passer rating allowed in coverage (25.3) and PFF's highest coverage grade (92.5). Witherspoon's tracked field movement and ability to find angles that allow him to stop passes are similar to those of Alexander, who, according to PFF, has given up just 12 touchdowns as the primary defender in his five NFL seasons. Witherspoon tied for the second-highest forced incompletion rate in the Power Five last season -- 29.0 percent, per PFF -- and was one of just six corners in the Power Five to record at least three interceptions without allowing a touchdown.
TEAM FIT: Detroit Lions
In the wake of Detroit's trade of Jeff Okudah to Atlanta, the Lions' defense earns the biggest uptick in win share when the No. 6 overall pick is used on Witherspoon. Frankly, a LOT of teams would hugely benefit from the addition of this Illinois cover man (SEE: Chicago, Las Vegas and Minnesota, among many others), but Detroit gave up the second-most passing yards per play last season (7.5) and ranked 30th on third down. The Lions significantly overhauled the secondary in free agency, signing Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Add in this young perimeter chess piece, and Detroit's back end is beyond stout.
PRO COMPARISON: Stephon Gilmore
It was challenging to come up with a Gonzalez comp for two main reasons ... First, the smooth 6-1, 197-pounder has markers for lots of upside in both man and zone coverages (usually one indexes markedly higher). Second, his center of gravity and change-of-direction speed grade out very well in computer vision, but those traits tend to point to certain player comps that would only tell part of Gonzalez's story. That said, Gilmore's computer-vision metrics are close to those of Gonzalez, and they've treated the similarly sized cover man pretty darned well: According to computer vision, Gilmore has ranked among the top seven CBs in four of the past five seasons when it comes to his percentage rates of stopping opponents from earning first downs and touchdowns. Gonzalez, who spent his first two seasons at Colorado, ranks second in the Pac-12 since 2020 with 22 forced incompletions.
TEAM FIT: Washington Commanders
The Commanders ranked 28th in the NFL with just nine interceptions last season. Gonzalez had four on his own last year at Oregon. With how much talent Washington has on its defensive front, opposing quarterbacks are bound to be under duress. Consequently, a playmaking upgrade on the back end could go a long way toward increasing takeaways (and, inherently, wins).
PRO COMPARISON: Xavier Rhodes
My models that are based on computer vision profile Porter as the most likely cornerback in this class to be "above average or elite" in press-man coverage. This is driven by the long CB's ability to cause disruptive contact at the college level. (Yes, there is a difference between contact and disruptive contact.) Porter posted the highest forced incompletion rate (40.0 percent) of any Power Five corner since Pro Football Focus started tracking the metric in 2014. Another juicy PFF tidbit: Porter was the only player to allow one or fewer pass plays of 15-plus yards while also forcing 10-plus completions. Computer-vision metrics tracking body mechanics show physicality and coverage traits comparable to those of Rhodes.
TEAM FIT: New England Patriots
While New England finished last season at eighth in passing yards per attempt allowed, the Patriots' defense ranked 21st on third down and 22nd in the red zone. Porter's physicality would be a real help in those latter two areas. Las Vegas and Washington also stick out as strong fits, with both teams having selections in Porter's potential draft range.
PRO COMPARISON: James Bradberry
Maybe the comp needs additional context: Bradberry with certain traits -- like speed -- a bit boosted. Which is kind of a huge compliment, given that Bradberry just earned second-team All-Pro honors last season. At 6-foot and 197 pounds, Banks isn't quite as big as Bradberry (6-1, 212), but he's not far off. And according to computer vision, the two corners have similar movement patterns and centers of gravity. By PFF's count, Bradberry led the NFL with 21 forced incompletions last season. Meanwhile, Banks forced 13 incompletions -- 24th in the FBS, per PFF -- and allowed just a 43.3 percent completion rate in coverage.
TEAM FIT: Minnesota Vikings
New Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores has his work cut out for him. Minnesota's pass defense was a disaster in 2022, ranking 30th in passing yards per play (7.32). Flores would be well-suited to draw the best out of Banks, who offers stellar speed (4.35-second 40-yard dash) and experience in many different coverages.
PRO COMPARISON: Trevon Diggs
OK, OK -- before you say I'm insane, let's address the elephant in the room. I am fully aware that Diggs weighed 205 pounds at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, while Forbes checked in at just 166 pounds during this year's event. Both corners stand 6-1, but that's a massive difference in density. Still, the players have one game-changing thing in common: elite ballhawking ability. In his first three NFL seasons, Diggs has intercepted 17 passes. In 2021, he led the NFL with 11 INTs and two pick-sixes. Over three seasons at Mississippi State, Forbes had 14 interceptions, including an NCAA-record six(!) pick-sixes. In man coverage last year, Forbes allowed a 20 percent completion rate (per PFF), the lowest figure among FBS corners. I asked a lot of front office execs about this slender defender, and they all agreed that Diggs -- or at least a skinner Diggs -- is a fair comp. One exec also mentioned Asante Samuel Sr., who racked up 51 interceptions and six pick-sixes during his fine NFL career.
TEAM FIT: Buffalo Bills
I need to say somewhere that Jacksonville pops up as a potential fit for nearly corner on this list, but Buffalo is the match here for a few reasons. First of all, Forbes projects as a nice fit in Buffalo's nickel-heavy scheme. The system allows for more one-on-one coverage outside, which would give Forbes an opportunity to do what he does best -- quickly identifying and jumping routes -- while he assimilates to the NFL game. Furthermore, with Buffalo's strong front, a back-end ballhawk could really do some damage. And with the Bills' experienced secondary -- headlined by cornerback Tre'Davious White and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer -- Forbes would be properly supported by savvy vets. This is the ideal way to ease a rookie into the NFL, especially a smaller-framed player who might need some time to adapt to the Sunday game.