1. Thakarius Keyes, CB, Tulane
Thakarius Keyes is a lengthy, 6-foot-1 cornerback coming out of Tulane as a fourth-year senior. The term “hidden gem” gets thrown around a lot, but Keyes is the definition with practically no buzz as of right now.
Part of that may have to do with this being a deep cornerback class and part of it due to the fact that he played for a small school in Tulane.
Keyes mostly lined up on the left side covering the Y-receiver, but he is a fluid athlete capable of covering smaller, quicker guys and should be able to get kicked inside and play the nickel at times as well.
Press-man coverage is Keyes’ greatest strength. His crips footwork and quick hips allow him to shadow receivers through their breaks and his length coupled with solid ball skills allow him to disrupt passes.
One thing he does need to improve upon when it comes to press coverage is his jab at the line. He has the length and size advantage over a lot of receivers and should use it to get them off balance at the start of their route.
Another con to his game is that he is over-aggressive at times when covering downfield. In the college game, the referees give a lot more leeway than they do in the NFL, so this will be a problem if not cleaned up at the next level.
With the trade of Gareon Conley, it’s clear defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wants cornerbacks who are willing to hit, and Keyes is more than willing. His tackling form is textbook and he doesn’t shy away from contact, though he does need to get better at taking on blocks.
Tulane barely ran any zone looks, so Keyes is untested in that regard. Guenther runs a lot of zone, so that would be another cause for concern. Keyes has closing speed, quick hips, awareness, and can tackle, so there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to perform in a zone at the end of the day.
Thakarius Keyes will be participating in the NFL Combine and with a solid performance there, he may become more of a gem than a “hidden” gem.
NFL Comparison: Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers