Interview Feature with Corey Felton on Small School Cornerbacks

Overview: Corey Felton started off his football college career playing for William Penn University and Fort Hays State University before transferring to Virginia University of Lynchburg. He is a physical defensive back, who loves to tackle and excels at zone coverage.

Photo credit: Associated Press

I sat down with Corey as he shared with me his skillsets, what makes him stand out as a defensive back and his struggles he has to overcome as a smaller cornerback. He also asked Alex and I questions that he had as a cornerback trying to get an opportunity with a professional football team.

C: What skills and traits do you feel that you have that make you stand out from the rest of the cornerbacks?

CF: What skills that make me stand from other cornerbacks is the coverage package that I can bring. I like to switch it up at the line of scrimmage because I can play bump and run, cover 2 or 3, I’m pretty good at zone coverage, I flip my hips in coverage well for a short corner when in coverage. I can also display a high vertical when jumping to my highest peak with taller guys. My traits are the desire that I have to play the game when I step on the field. I feed off competition it’s something I enjoy because you have to play the best to be considered the best. I like to make key blocks rather special teams or defensive. I love to tackle and make good hits at the point of attack. I want to be that impact player on the team.

C: Joe Haden, Malcolm Butler, and Vontae Davis are just a few examples of cornerbacks in the league who under 6’0. How do you match up against the taller and more physical cornerbacks?

CF: Coming from a small school and small in statue you have to have all the tools at the cornerback position. So my physicality that I bring to my style of play to jam the bigger WR at the line of scrimmage or fighting for the ball in the air, and matching up against the big WR. The elite speed that I have to run step for step with the bigger WR or the smaller speedy ones. Also the FOOTBALL IQ and athleticism that make me a play maker that I am.

C: Any last word for scouts, coaches, and general managers, who have a concern with your size at your cornerback?

CF: Measurements and testing numbers are very valuable during evaluation and that’s always the case. But if a guy runs a fast 40, bench press high in bench reps, or jump a high vertical and long broad. Still give that guy a shot despite being a short cornerback. He just might come along with progress and become just the right prospect to fit your team defensive scheme or become the hero that everyone looked over.

CF: Why is there an issue when smaller cornerbacks are coming from a small school rather than a big universities?

C: I believe a big part could be the fact that player who go to a D1 University get more exposure compared to the players who go a D2, D3. Scouts, general managers, etc generally feel more comfortable with a smaller defensive back where they have more tape on and where they can truly see their weaknesses. They tend to look at cornerbacks who have done well against top defenses in college football. Which is fine, That is not to say that small school prospects are not equally talented. I believe scouts should be more opened minded when it comes to scouting and also not be scared to give a chance or at least a tryout to a cornerback who may be smaller height wise but goes to a smaller school. A good example of a cornerback who is talented and did not go to a big school nor was he drafted was Malcolm Butler who is 5’11 and played for West Alabama which is a D2 school who became a real gem for the Patriots.

AP: It all has to do with exposure. There are only so many scouts that NFL teams carry in their departments, and they can only go to so many schools to evaluate prospects. Usually, DI schools with more successful reputations are known to attract larger quantities of scouts. So essentially, it’s not necessarily an issue with cornerback talent, but with available of evaluators. Sometimes, smaller schools carry stigmas of lower talent in competition. Those players who get drafted or picked up from smaller schools – of which there are many! – usually have to find ways to stand out or capitalize on being branded as a “value” pick or a “depth” signing.

CF: How could an agent sell an undersize cornerback prospect during draft preparation to a scout, player personnel or GM?

C: My best advice is sell them on your strengths. Have the agent sell teams on what you do best and why teams would benefit from having a player such as yourself. Like you mentioned you love to tackle, your versatile in schemes and you are good at zone coverage which are all great traits to have as a cornerback and is a great asset to have as a player for a coach.

AP: When “selling” a smaller cornerback prospect, it comes down – or can come down – to a variety of factors. Creating a great highlight reel is important. Networking is equally so, and reputation of an agent, including track record of player success, can play an important role. It’s the same approach agent take for a bigger-school prospect, but they have to work harder to get tape watched and organize meets/work-outs.

CF: Does size matter at the cornerback position if he has the same off the chart testing number as the bigger cornerback prospect?

C: I personally think it depends on the scheme that an NFL teams’ defense is running. I’m in the belief that if you are a talented cornerback you deserve to be incorporated on a teams defense to the best of their ability. I think a lot of NFL teams want to copy and model the Seattle Seahawks type defense where they mostly have tall physical cornerbacks. If a cornerback has the same test numbers and posses the ideal talent that a team is looking for I don’t believe size should matter period.

AP: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In much the same respect, different teams have different needs and aim for guys that fit their bill. Measurements play a role in that. However, historically-speaking, height for a cornerback doesn’t necessarily translate to more success. For instance, many teams still run nickel packages and need shorter, shiftier backs to cover the slot receivers. Even on the edge, great cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden – who are both shorter players – even the odds by playing exceptional press coverage. So, while height plays a role, it’s certainly not the be-all, end-all. And if the numbers on the chart are similar to those of a taller prospect, it almost always depends on team need. During evaluation, if often comes down to intangibles as well – character, intellect, reaction-time.

Locker Room Update would like to thank Corey Felton for pitching this idea and taking the time to speak with us. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey as a professional football player.

Christa is a syndicated New York Jets beat writer and acts as the primary talent scout for Locker Room Update, where she interviews college football players from around the nation. You can follow her author page on Facebook here for the latest updates.

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