Our Scouting Report Series continues where we break down the top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. Today, we are talking about one of the top CB prospects in the entire draft. Before you go on, be sure to check out any of our previous scouting reports you might have missed!

QB RB WR TE OL EDGE IDL LB CB S
Justin Fields N/A Ja’Marr Chase N/A Penei Sewell N/A N/A N/A Patrick Surtain II N/A
Zach Wilson   DeVonta Smith              
Trey Lance                

Measurables and Numbers 

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 197 pounds

A look at Caleb Farley’s College Performance

Caleb Farley was a 3-star recruit from Maiden High School in Maiden, North Carolina.  He was ranked as the #32 ATH and #9 recruit in the state.  He played QB for his high school, throwing for 1,776 yards and 21 TDs while rushing for 2,574 yards and 37 TDs in his senior season.  Following a lack of interest in his throwing ability, he committed to Virginia Tech as a WR.  

Farley endured a lot of adversity early in his college career, losing his mother to cancer and tearing his ACL both early in his freshman year.  He could have easily folded, but Farley battled back and was ready to go in 2018 as a redshirt freshman when he was asked to change positions to cornerback.  He did so and recorded 2 interceptions and 7 deflections during the season.  There was a lack of consistency during the season, but major flashes of talent.

In 2019, Farley took a major leap forward, allowing completions on less than 50% of the passes that targeted him.  He intercepted 4 passes and 12 deflections en route to being named to the All-ACC team.  A back injury ended his season a couple of games early, but Farley had already put his name on the college football map.

Farley became the first player to opt-out of the 2020 college football season amidst concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and declared his intention to enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

Current Draft Projection

PFF – 13th overall/CB1

Daniel Jeremiah – 5th overall/CB1

The Draft Network – 10th overall/CB1

Strengths

Athleticism

Cornerbacks that are as big as Farley are rarely as athletic as he is.  He demonstrates incredible closing speed, explosiveness, and athleticism.  His footwork is smooth, his hips are fluid, and he has the top-end speed to carry routes vertically against fast receivers.  He is big enough and physical enough to bully X receivers but still fast enough to run with Z receivers.

Coverage

Farey is in his element in press-man coverage.  He is very physical with receivers at the line and highly successful at disrupting the timing between the receiver and the quarterback, often erasing a receiver from the play entirely.  Once through the press interaction, Farley is sticky in man coverage, matching receiver routes without allowing a throwing window to open.  In 2019 he allowed 1 or fewer catches in 7 of 10 games.  In his 2 seasons at Virginia Tech, he was targeted 104 and had 17 pass breakups and 6 interceptions.  That’s a PBU + INT rate of 22%.  

He demonstrated an ability to play zone coverage in college but wasn’t often asked to do so and is less confident in that area (more on that in a moment).

Catch Point

Farley was recruited by Virginia Tech as a wide receiver and you can see why at the catch point.  He has great hands and uses his body effectively to shield receivers away from the ball.  Simply put, a 50/50 ball thrown in Farley’s direction isn’t a 50/50 ball.

Weaknesses

Zone Coverage

Farley is capable of playing zone coverage and has some high-quality reps on tape.  In fact, his zone coverage grade was 91.0 in 2019.  So why is it listed as a weakness?  Because he often displays uncertainty in zone coverage spacing and lacks the spatial awareness to truly thrive in a zone scheme.  His athleticism allowed him to mask those issues at the collegiate level, but he will have to process things quicker in the NFL.  These limitations are purely mental, as he displays the ability to drive down on receivers from off-ball coverage alignments and break up passes.  His lack of instincts in zone coverage are certainly due to his lack of playing time at the position (he has only played 23 games at corner).  Given more reps in zone, I fully expect Farley to thrive.

Run Defense

Farley is an alpha in coverage but softens immensely in the run game.  Given his physicality with receivers at the line of scrimmage, you would expect him to shed blocks better than he does.  He is often taken easily out of the play once engaged in a block.  He misses far too many tackles on running backs for a player of his physicality.  

Injury History

Farley missed the 2017 season with an ACL injury.  In 2018 he was asked to change positions and did so with great success.  He has shown elite athleticism since the ACL injury, but in 2019 had back surgery and no one has seen him on a football field since.  Assuming his medicals check out by draft time (as I’m sure they will) the big question that remains is whether he will continue to sustain injuries at the next level.  

Summary

Caleb Farley is an outstanding CB prospect with a ton of upside.  He is the highest upside cornerback in the draft but could go after Patrick Surtain II due to his injury history.  The biggest hole in his game is his ability in the run game, but he has the size and physicality to be a capable run defender.  With only 23 games under his belt, Farley’s upside is nearly limitless.

Best Fits

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles cornerback room has been barren for a long time.  Farley could represent a running mate for Darius Slay in the short term and a replacement in the long term.  The selection of Farley would immediately give the Eagles the best cornerback group that they have had in recent memory.  Additionally, the Eagles are expected to transition to a Cover 2 scheme under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, making Caleb Farley an ideal fit as a corner who would be allowed to primarily play press coverage.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas’ defense was a disaster in 2020.  Their run defense was 31st in the NFL and their pass defense was 11th in yards allowed despite ranking 2nd in passing attempts.  The Cowboys have needs all over the defense but perhaps none of them are more important than cornerback.

New York Giants

James Bradberry had a great season in New York but Darnay Holmes and Isaac Yiadom struggled.  The Giants have built a pretty stout run defense, but have glaring holes on the back end of their defense.  Farley is the type of physical player that should excite old school GM Dave Gettleman.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers would love to upgrade at QB, but if the QBs are off the board at #12 it is because some very talented defensive players are getting pushed down the board. Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett aren’t getting any younger, and Farley could plug into the secondary right away in 2021.