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2021 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defensive, Pt. 2

Some of the less-heralded names to look out for while prepping for the upcoming NFL Draft.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

With the 2021 NFL Draft approaching, it is prime season for mock drafts and big boards. While these are always a blast to come up with, every year there are prospects who get pigeonholed into rounds and rankings that are lower than where they should be.

Whether it be poor combines, a lack of exposure or scouts and pundits’ misinterpretation of where value lies, diamonds in the rough get overlooked every draft season.

With this piece, we’ll be looking at boundary corners, slot corners and safeties the New Orleans Saints should consider in the later rounds of the upcoming draft.

Slot- Rachad Wildgoose

Getting deep into the sleeper bag now, Rachad Wildgoose is a bit of a hidden gem. A man corner in a zone-heavy Wisconsin scheme the past few seasons, he hasn’t exactly been utilized properly.

But his quicks and shiftiness in man-to-man coverage for a man his size make him a very intriguing option at slot corner.

He basically split time at outside and slot corner in 2019, before barely playing at all in 2020. That versatility is a game-changer, especially considering he did well at both.

In man-to-man coverage in his college career, Wildgoose also allowed only 11 catches on 33 targets for 185 yards to go along with 10 forced incompletions.

And he has high-level reps against high-level competition, like the play below against Rondale Moore.

This is one of the shiftiest receivers in the country, and Wildgoose is able to turn quickly, stay in his hip pocket and break up the pass.

He had five PBUs in 2019, and allowed a mere 48.1% completion rate when targeted.

Whether it be inside or outside, the guy just gets his hands on the ball and is able to stick with a variety of different types of receivers.

Wildgoose’s main flaw is going to be his tackling. He missed nearly 24% of his tackle attempts in his college career.

That’s got to improve, no doubt — especially if he’s going to be a slot guy

But when it comes to pure coverage, you’re not going to find a guy projected to be Day three with a better skill set. And for that reason, I’d be cool with taking him in the third or fourth round to add a versatile coverage player to my secondary.

Boundary CB- Paulson Adebo

Ball skills for days. Paulson Adebo is one of the few corners who could probably play receiver if he really wanted to because he is a magnet to the football.

Before opting out of the 2020 season, he picked off a whopping eight passes and broke up 24 balls in the previous two seasons. And he led the country in 2018 with 19 PBUs.

He’s so good at playing the ball that he only got called for four penalties total in those two seasons, despite being targeted 129 times.

One of his best games came against Oregon, where he broke up four passes on nine targets, and came up huge at the end of the game.

He can be physical at the point of attack without getting too handsy.

And he can break on passes beautifully from outside leverage.

The latter is what makes him such an intriguing option for zone-heavy defenses. His instincts, ball skills and quickness out of breaks makes him a menace to quarterbacks trying to anticipate throws into tight windows.

And despite many critics questioning his fluidity in man coverage, he placed in the 91st percentile in the three-cone drill, with a nice 6.69 second time.

My main critique would be just how jumpy he can be on double moves. He’s going to have to improve his anticipation and perhaps dial back the aggressiveness at times, if he doesn’t want to get burnt too much in the league. But that is a coachable teaching point.

At the end of the day, he’s just a flat out playmaker in the passing game.

For the right zone scheme, I’d be comfortable taking him basically at any point in the second round.

S- Jamar Johnson

The primary attribute that comes to mind with Johnson is agility. His hips are as smooth as butter. And for a guy who plays in numerous positions around the secondary, that is quite the skill to have.

Whether it be at safety or in the slot, Johnson can sneak up on a pass at any time that the QB probably thought was a sure completion when he let it rip.

Take this throw from Justin Fields for example:

Johnson is playing the deep middle of the field and reads Fields’ eyes before breaking on the seam route.

Plays like this are littered all over his tape, as he is damn-near elite and flipping his hips and driving on passes.

He only allowed 11 completions on 23 targets, while breaking up four balls and picking off four passes in 2020. And the year before, he allowed a minimal 7.2 yards per reception.

A guy who is capable of defending from deep positioning like this, as well as man up slot receivers, is highly coveted in the league. And JJ is that type of guy.

He is naturally a finesse player, and tackling is definitely not his strong suit. He missed over 26% of his tackles in 2021, which is definitely a concern from a safety.

That is probably the only thing holding him back from being a first round talent, however, in my opinion.

So, if you’re looking for a coverage piece to shore up some deficiencies in your pass defense on the back-end, snatch up Jamar Johnson if he falls past the first round. He could be a real problem-solver.

What do you think of these prospects? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.