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2019 NFL Draft profile: CB Amani Oruwariye offers man-coverage experience and athleticism

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Get to know one of the cornerbacks that will likely be high on the Lions’ draft board.

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have been hurting at the cornerback position for a while now and should be focused on improving the unit, whether it’s adding someone to challenge for the starting spot opposite of Slay or at the nickel spot. There are plenty of names for the Lions to consider in the NFL Draft that fit Patricia’s heavy man-coverage scheme. One name that will be very high on the Lions’ board and one that can contribute immediately is Penn State cornerback, Amani Oruwariye.

Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State

6-foot-1 34, 204 pounds

2015 stats: 4 games | 1 solo tackle | 5 total | 1 PD
2016 stats: 10 games | 13 solo tackles | 23 total | 1 INT (1 TD) | 1 PD
2017 stats: 11 games | 19 solo tackles | 28 total | 4 INT | 7 PD
2018 stats: 13 games | 39 solo tackles | 50 total | 3 INT | 11 PD

Current draft projection: Second round

Background

Team profile page

A three-star recruit out of Tampa, FL, Oruwariye received a multitude of offers from Power-5 schools, but nothing from the big schools in his home state. He would go on to enroll with the Nittany Lions after flipping from his commitment to Vanderbilt and graduated in December 2018 with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Strengths

  • Great length with desired size, fluidity and athleticism for the position.
  • Mirrors well and is very sticky in man-coverage. High IQ in zone; trusts instincts in zone is quick to make plays on the ball.
  • Never flat-footed in coverage; feet are extremely quick and always moving.
  • Closing speed is spectacular. Plants foot into the ground and closes in an instant in off-man. Also can recover quickly after getting beat early.
  • Physical at the top of routes and at the catch point; able to disrupt routes often.
  • Very good ball skills and has made some highlight reel INTs.
  • Technique in press is raw, but does a nice job of stymieing WRs when he does manage to get his hands on receivers early.

Weaknesses

  • Tackling form needs a ton of work. Rarely wraps up and lowers head too often in run support. Is physical, but doesn’t stack and shed well enough.
  • Occasionally prone to taking some wasted steps and giving too much room at the top of stems and on in-breaking routes.
  • Could use some extra work on technique in press-man.
  • Had some down moments during Senior Bowl week which may have some scrambling to go back to the tape. Struggled finding the ball and was beat on more than a few occasions.

Games watched: 2017 vs. Michigan, 2018 vs. Pittsburgh, 2018 vs. Iowa

Overview and Projection

The Lions’ defense ran man-coverage nearly 50 percent of the time last year (fifth-most), compared to around 30 percent of the time in 2017. That’s a pretty huge difference, but not a surprise as Patricia’s defenses have been notorious for their heavy use of man-coverage looks. This didn’t exactly match up with the strengths of some players in the Lions’ secondary, and you saw plenty of struggles throughout the year.

If the front office decides to draft a cornerback early in the draft, then you can expect them to have players with man-coverage experience higher on their board than others. Some key traits to look for here are physicality, fluidity (can they transition smoothly?), enough speed to not get burned (4.55 speed or better is a good benchmark) and the ability to mirror WRs and stick to them like glue. Most of these traits are not something that you can teach. You either have it or you don’t. Amani Oruwariye has all of these.

Oruwariye should be high on the Lions board, and if he somehow manages to make it to their second round pick, I’m not sure there are many, if any prospects that I’m going to consider over him, as I believe he is a perfect fit for Patricia’s defense and one that can step in on Day 1 as a starter.