At least in the NFL, where the annual underwear olympics have made things like hand size, straight line speed, and height matter more than game film.
And that’s a problem — on paper — for former TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney.
One of the players that helped himself at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the 5’10”, 191 defensive back stuck in scouts’ minds for his speed (4.48”), strength (17 reps in the bench press, good for 7th best amongst DBs), and swagger, impressing on the field and in the interview room. Gladney has been a pro behind the mic, “I don’t think there’s any unanswered questions when it comes to me. I went to the combine and answered any and every question that a team could have about me,” and unafraid to confront questions on his height, or lack of it. He regularly points out his matchups with bigger receivers or highly rated ones, and while he will give up catches and yards, he has excelled at keeping guys out of the end zone. He is also one of the more proven ball-hawks available, with 30 deflections over the last two seasons — an absurd number for a collegiate corner — and five career interceptions, despite giving inches to the guy he was lined up against more often than not.
There are a lot of teams interested in Gladney, who says he has spoken with the Jets, Raiders, Ravens, Cowboys, Vikings, Packers, Saints, Falcons, Titans, Browns and Chiefs. Each of those teams could use help in their secondary, and with a combine grade of 6.4, he’s considered an early-career starter in the pros. As someone who improved each of his four collegiate seasons, it’s not a stretch to expect that upward trend will continue. Gladney also benefits from playing primarily in a man scheme over the last two seasons, but anyone that knows TCU Football and Gary Patterson knows that there isn’t a defensive formation or style that he hasn’t been schooled in since arriving in Fort Worth. He’s proven his intellect, athletic ability, and toughness — Gladney played in 50 games in four seasons, despite dealing with a handful of minor injuries, and excelled at the combine despite having a torn meniscus.
Scouts have universally praised the DB, but it generally comes with a caveat. Mel Kiper loves his tangibles, but worries about his physicality. “I like Gladney, but people think he gets a little handsy at times. But his coverage skills, his feet, his awareness, it wouldn’t shock me if he went in the late first round. But I think more second for him.” Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report, who slotted Gladney at 23 to the Raiders, said he “is a sticky defensive back with fluid hips, excellent quickness and stellar ball skills.” And ESPN’s Jeff Legwold adds “of all the cornerbacks on the board, Gladney might be the most competitive from the first snap to the last. He plays with an edge and made 42 starts with 28 passes defensed in his past two seasons. He will compete in man coverage from his first practice.”
All that to say, Jeff Gladney is a guy who is going to be a top 40 pick, and going to last in the league for a long time.
The NFL Draft begins Thursday evening with round one. Rounds two and three will take place Friday, and the final four rounds Saturday. All will take place virtually due to Coronavirus precautions.