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Packers Prospect Primer: Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley

Without back surgery this offseason, he might have been CB1 in the class. Caleb Farley provides size, speed, playmaking, and profiles as the best zone corner in the draft. If he falls, the Packers could pounce.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Miami
Caleb Farley offers the potential to be what Kevin King’s physical tools never manifested.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our series on the Green Bay Packers draft. This is aimed at getting you ready for the 2021 class before Brian Gutkunst and Co. make selections. We take a look at the kinds of players the Packers tend to like at positions of need. That way you’re ready when they make a pick.

Brian Gutekunst won’t hesitate to move up for a player he covets in the first round. In fact, in every draft he’s helmed for the Packers as general manager, he’s given up picks to go up and get his guy. If Caleb Farley, the 6-foot-2, 207-pound star cornerback from Virginia Tech starts to fall because of a second back surgery, he may well be the latest target for Green Bay.

If not for the injury, Farley projects as the likely CB1 in this draft class. With it, Daniel Jeremiah suggested Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain would likely go ahead of him, and his NFL Media colleague Lance Zierlein recently mocked Farley at 30, with the Packers passing on him to draft Georgia’s Tyson Campbell. Given the fit in Joe Berry’s assumed zone-heavy scheme, it’s hard to imagine the Packers passing on this kind of talent.

Farley opted out of the 2020 season after a star-making 2019 in which he earned a 90.5 coverage grade, including a 91.9 grade in zone. When quarterbacks targeted him, Farley allowed a 26.8 passer rating in coverage, utilizing his combination of size, explosiveness, and ball skills. He blocks out the sun the way shutdown cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and Jalen Ramsey do. The easiest way to think about Farley comes from my pre-draft comparison: The most likely outcome is Kyle Fuller (a Vic Fangio-scheme cornerback), but he could be Jalen Ramsey (who shined for Berry and Brandon Staley in that same Fangio scheme last year).

Here’s a closer look at his game

Pros

  • Big, physical corner
  • Wants to get up and challenge you at the LOS
  • Will tackle in space
  • He’s so big, he blocks out the sun vs. WRs
  • Walled off the WR for an interception vs. Miami on an underthrow — WR never had a chance at it
  • Blew up a WR screen vs. ND by just being too explosive downhill for the slot WR to block
  • Doesn’t panic with his back turned
  • Undercut a ball in the end zone vs. Miami where he reacted late to the ball but had his eyes on the WR and broke when he broke. Great play
  • Will have to go to a zone heavy team like the Chargers/Broncos/49ers/Packers
  • Long speed to run with receivers down the field
  • His size and length consistently shows up at the catch point
  • Farley ran with Chase Claypool consistently
  • Flashes that click-and-close explosiveness to drive on the ball
  • Fights through the catch point
  • Elite make-up speed

Cons

  • Grabby at the top of routes and will have to get rid of that tendency in the NFL or it’s DPI all day
  • Not twitched up like you’d want a man cover to be
  • Failed to find the ball on a fade vs. Miami and got called for DPI
  • A little high in his pedal
  • Not an exceedingly fluid mover
  • Hip stiffness prevents him from turning with fluidity
  • Beat for a TD vs. the Miami on a double move
  • For all that size, does not work aggressively to get off blocks
  • Chase Claypool got him on a double move, the only thing he gave up all game
  • Got called for a very soft DPI vs. ND late in the game but because he’s so physical, that’s gonna happen sometimes, almost by accident

Summary

Farley is a massive, physical CB with excellent ball skills and a competitive spirit. He’s not an elite mover changing directions, but as a straight line COD player, he’s more than good enough, showing explosive downhill burst to close and break on the ball. He makes up for some of that stiffness with outstanding recovery speed. He consistently blankets WRs down the field. He’s good enough in man that most WRs won’t give him problems except for the ultra-elite route runners of the world, but they give everyone problems. You want Farley against guys like DeAndre Hopkins, who want to play bully ball, or straight-line speed guys. He’s also an X-factor against move tight ends with his size profile. He’s not going to be for everyone. But the zone-heavy teams will love him and he has a chance to be a Pro Bowl caliber CB.

He’s a top-15 talent who could fall with the back questions. If he gets cleared by teams—and he claims the medicals will be good coming out of surgery— he should still have a competitive market, but it’s such a good cornerback draft, anything is possible. If he falls into the 20’s (and teams get the green light on the medicals), he makes sense as the next trade-up move for Gutey.

Farley with Jaire Alexander and the Packers’ safety duo provides the potential to be the best secondary in football in a hurry.