Last night the bombshell dropped. Chris Harris Jr. wants a new contract or a new team. In light of that revelation John Elway enters the 2019 draft with a much bigger hole in the secondary than anyone anticipated. Heck it wasn’t two months ago that Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan had Broncos Country fighting to coin a new moniker for a rebuilt No Fly Zone.
Now that Denver is suddenly in the market for a cornerback, I thought I’d dig through my notes an reveal the player that most reminded me of Chris Harris Jr. He didn’t make any of my GIF Horse Big Board posts, but David Long of Michigan bears an uncanny resemblance to Strap.
Long was a 4 star recruit coming out of high school and played under Jim Harbaugh the length of his collegiate career. He broke out as a Sophomore in Defensive Coordinator Don Brown’s man-heavy scheme, notching 21 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups. Last year in Ann Arbor Long broke up eight passes, made 17 tackles and intercepted one pass. He earned first-team All-Big Ten in 2018.
-Elite lateral mobility.
-Isn’t the fastest corner, but he sure isn’t slow.
-Exceptional technique for press man.
-Loose hips to swivel and stay on the receivers hip.
-He’s quick to diagnose opposing pass patterns.
-He’ll play the run. Quick to attack the ball.
-Needs better technique to consistently bring down ball carriers at the next level.
-Shorter arms than you’d like.
-May need to get less physical in the pros to avoid flags.
-88 percent of his college snaps were at outside cornerback
-Played significantly more man coverage than zone.
What I’ve heard/read
A two-year starter at Michigan, Long was a bump-and-run right cornerback in Don Brown’s press-heavy scheme, getting physical at the line of scrimmage and riding the receiver throughout the route. His college production was underwhelming, but he wasn’t routinely challenged on tape. Long plays nose-to-nose in press with the lateral slide to match releases and attach himself to patterns, staying balanced with his punch and transition. While patient at the line, he tends to panic, grip and grab at the top of routes and can be manipulated by savvy receivers. Overall, Long needs to develop a more disciplined approach with his reads and contact downfield, but he is a composed athlete with hip fluidity and physical mentality, projecting best in the nickel.
Death, taxes and David Long sitting under a receiver’s chin waiting to jam and bully the release - all three are inevitable. He lacks height, length and makeup burst, but it is hard to find tape where those areas came back to haunt him very often. He’s patient from press, stays connected to routes underneath, but may have to adjust to off-man and prove he can withstand vertical challenges against taller targets. He’s not as long, loose or fast as teams like, but he’s a consistent cover man with the talent to find reps early in his career.
33. CB DAVID LONG, MICHIGAN Long allowed all of 18 catches on 595 coverage snaps in his entire college career at Michigan.
A two-year starter for Michigan, Long was a shutdown corner for the Wolverines. Rarely tested and even more infrequently beaten in coverage, Long dominates in press coverage and features superb pattern matching skills. While he doesn’t have ideal length, Long is savvy in zone coverage and clearly grasps spacing. Long offers the versatility to play outside or from the slot in a variety of techniques. Long has the upside to be a top-three corner early in his career and enjoy a productive career.
Why he fits
I’d much rather have a cornerback hit the pros needing to adjust to zone than man coverage. Long stood out to me as a player who could step in and adjust during his rookie year to the NFL and may prove to be a steal of the draft in the right scheme. He’s a better athlete than Harris was coming out but displays many of the same traits that makes the Broncos future Ring of Famer an elite nickel defender. He’s aggressive at the catch point and will fight with much bigger receivers, he’s fearless against the run, and his savvy is unmistakable.
Why he doesn’t
In most NFL schemes his size and length limitations may push him to the nickel, where he’s woefully inexperienced right now. It isn’t that he can’t do it. It’s that we just don’t know. Much like Harris, he’s also spent the majority of his career to date playing mostly man coverage so there will be some growing pains if he came to the Fangio defense where Cover 4 and 3 are the predominant coverage shells.
Most analysts seem to agree that Long is a 2nd or 3rd round pick and I’d like him a lot at 41. The big reason I didn’t place Long into my original big board were my concerns over his adjustment to Fangio’s D, and if he’d be a man without a home with Bryce Callahan on the roster. I still wonder if the Broncos will even consider him for these reasons. That said, I do think Long has a great chance to outperform his draft position and grow into a dominant NFL player. If Chris Harris Jr. isn’t in John Elway’s plans beyond 2019, I hope the long term plan includes this former Wolverine.