NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2020. This is the final entry in a 19-part series of scouting reports that ran throughout the offseason.
The First Look series concludes with Caleb Farley, who has already said he intends to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. The former Virginia Tech cornerback made that announcement last week, becoming the first high-profile prospect to opt out of the 2020 college season due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. He's been a trend-setter of sorts, as other top talents -- including a few I've studied in this series -- have announced opt-out decisions in the days since, and more are expected to follow suit. Farley was coming off a redshirt sophomore year in which he earned first-team All-ACC honors. Here's my scouting report.
Height, weight: 6-foot-2, 207 pounds (school measurements).
2019 statistics: 20 tackles (14 solo), four interceptions, 12 pass breakups.
Game tape watched: Duke (Sept. 27, 2019), Miami (Oct. 5, 2019), Wake Forest (Nov. 9, 2019).
What I liked: There is plenty to like about Farley. He has ideal size, speed and fluidity. He's at his best in press coverage. He mixes in a one- and two-hand jam, but will also patiently wait, react and attach to the hip of the receiver. He's very rarely out of phase when in press. He stays in perfect position down the field before naturally locating and playing the ball in the air. He has outstanding ball skills.
In off coverage, Farley has excellent route recognition and is quick to put his foot in the ground to drive on the ball. He has a quick, fluid pedal. He's very effective when he stays square and avoids opening his hips too early. He also has plenty of make-up speed to recover down the field. He's very aggressive versus the run, too. He works through blockers and is a sure, chest-up tackler in space. His overall toughness is outstanding.
Where he needs to improve: The only issues I noticed for Farley occurred when he was in off coverage. There are a few instances where he gets turned and allows wideouts to cross his face. This happened in the Miami game and he gave up a touchdown on the play. This is very correctable, though, and he's shown the ability to play effectively from this alignment. He does display a little bit of tightness when he gears down to work back downhill, but he still limits separation with his receiver.
Biggest takeaway: Farley is one of the better big cornerbacks I've evaluated over the last few years. The NFL has turned into a man coverage league, and he possesses the ability to go nose to nose (one of my podcast partner's favorite phrases) with the bigger, more physical wideouts. He wasn't asked to play inside or travel (he played solely on the left side), but I believe he has the tools to move around at the next level. Every NFL team is trying to find players with his size and skill set.
He reminds me of: I see a lot of similarities to Jimmy Smith when he was coming out of Colorado. Both guys are big, physical and instinctive. They're at their best in press coverage, and they can mirror and match all over the field. Smith was a more fluid mover, but I think Farley is more consistent and reliable. When healthy, Smith has been one of the premier players at his position, and I see a similar trajectory for Farley.