Zo Huddle
Photo credit: Getty Images

FSM Presents: Zo Huddle –West Coast Sleepers Come Draft Day – Nahshon Wright

Franchise Sports Media

 

 

The Zo Huddle loves two seasons: Football season and draft season. With the 2021 NFL Draft a month away, the Zo Huddle will unveil the top sleeper prospects out west in his eyes…

 

And now we’re heading to the “Beaver Dam” for one of the tallest, and now most intriguing, defensive backs for this 2021 class.

This Oregon State Beaver went from a towering afterthought on the recruiting trail to establishing himself as one of the hardest cornerbacks to throw against and recently, further established himself as a bona fide NFL sleeper with an eye-catching, social media trending Pro Day.

Time to unveil the Zo Huddle’s next West Coast sleeper:

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Rivals.com

NAHSHON WRIGHT  

Hometown: East Palo Alto (Calif.)

High School: Union City (Calif.) James Logan High

Junior College: Laney  

Star ranking: Unranked by recruiting services

Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 187-pounds

No. of seasons playing collegiately: Three (including his stint at Laney)

Personal accolades: Two-time All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection, All-Conference selection at Laney College, guided Laney to 2018 CCCAA State Championship. Was featured in Season Five of Last Chance U on Netflix.

 

Before he was a Beaver…

Wright went virtually unnoticed in the always talent-heavy Bay Area. Reportedly, he went un-offered and was unranked out of high school. He also lettered in basketball and track and field.

Wright went the junior college route and that decision culminated in a spike in his recruitment and winning state. Yet, Oregon State was his lone Power Five offer.

 

FIELD WORK

Ball skills consistency: Too often when scout evaluators examine cornerbacks (especially of a tall magnitude) the first thing scrutinized is size. But I’ll be different and go straight to Wright’s takeaway ability. In 16 starts, Wright managed to snatch five interceptions and break up six throws. He also caught a two-point conversion pick to seal the 2019 win over Arizona State. Oh, the list of quarterbacks he picked off in 2019 are all NFL names now: Anthony Gordon (Kansas City Chiefs, played collegiately at Washington State), Jacob Eason (Indianapolis Colts, Washington), and Cole McDonald (Arizona Cardinals, Hawaii). Below is his pick versus Eason, where he’s on an island with Jordan Chin for the ball:

 

 

 

Length versus tall receivers: Now we get into the size aspect. Wright, from a height standpoint, matches up extremely well at the line of scrimmage with wideouts near similar in stature. But here is what separates Wright from CB’s above 6-foot-3 entering the draft: He has a strong ability to sit and squeeze against routes given his frame. His lower body workouts clearly pay dividends there as Wright consistently knows how to squat, stay low then burst to the ball – all eliminating shorter routes. Wright emerged as one of the best Pac-12 CB’s in taking away the short throws…and he played in the Pac-12 North which is more pass-heavy.

Length versus smaller receivers: Most tall corners tend to lose control of their backpedal going against smaller targets. Wright, however, held his own against WR’s with a three to five-inch disadvantage against him. Oregon’s Johnny Johnson III and Wazzu’s Jamire Calvin are two WR’s under 6-foot-1 who struggled when being covered by Wright – catching no more than five balls and getting held out of the end zone during their 2020 games versus Wright and the Beavs. Speaking of Johnson III, Wright snatched an interception with the Oregon Duck as the intended receiver in the 2020 upset of the Pac-12 champs:

 

 

 

Understanding route recognition: In the truncated 2020 season, Wright didn’t play like someone who relied on height and talent alone. He showed a student of the game ability in reading and diagnosing routes. In watching back at his ’19 film, I felt Wright was the opposite: Showing more reliance on his said frame and athleticism. While he had more interceptions in 2019, he surrendered five total touchdowns in half of the games he started (10 games total). I noticed there that Wright was over-aggressive and bit on inside releases by receivers, then lacked the make-up speed to recover.

But constant film study and knowing how wideouts think showed quite the turnaround for him after that 10-game stretch: Allowing just one aerial touchdown on his side in his last 28 quarters of play in the Beaver uniform. One of his top plays of the ’20 season? Denying the Cal Golden Bears a red zone touchdown during a fourth-down gamble, which shows his hustle and calmness after briefly losing his receiver until closing in on the ball. Long story short, he times a lot of his big defensive plays.

 

 

 

Footwork: Another strong skill of Wright. The tall CB has rapid-fire feet and with that, he’s able to immediately pounce on routes and throws. He’s not slow-footed and his combination of quick feet and field smarts makes him a threat to break up a pass or get the interception, hence why he was rarely tested by opposing QB’s for most of 2020.

Zone coverage work: Wright is strongest playing off the line and playing deep. In press coverage, he struggled with more physical wide receivers. Given that he’s below 190-pounds, he had the tendency to get out-muscled during press schemes.

Recovery speed: While he’s fast with his ten toes and heels, Wright lacks the make-up speed the moment he gets beat. He clearly thrives better when receivers and plays are right in front of him, not behind him. The 2019 Hawaii and Arizona State games are prime examples of Wright’s lack of recovery acceleration. He’ll play better when a single high safety is over his top.

 

 

Physicality/tackling ability: Another area where Wright has had his lapses. Because of his frame, he tends to lunge or awkwardly bend just to make tackles. He shows a habit of relying on uniform cloth grabbing to slow down ball carriers. He has got to be better at wrapping and rolling runners to the ground on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays.

Football attitude: Back to Wright’s strengths. This is a major one. Wright has the mindset of daring opponents to beat him and dares QB’s to test him. He won’t give handouts to opponents. He’s not one to get complacent either. Following a three-interception season, Wright became more of a student of the game and his better understanding of the route tree forced QB’s to throw opposite his side. But his biggest improvement? Going from surrendering five touchdowns in 2019 to allowing just one in a seven-game span. Proof he did something about his mistakes.

In going back to the ASU game of 2019, this game serves as a prime example of Wright’s attitude. In the first clip, he surrenders the late TD on a 4th and 8:

 

 

However, on the next play, Wright shakes off the late touchdown and seals the win over the Sun Devils by staying in track of his receiver and coming away with the final pick on the two-point conversion try:

 

 

Of course, we can’t leave here without mentioning his wild Pro Day, where he wowed the masked spectators with his 40-yard dash time (4.45 range), vertical jump, and overall intangibles. Further proof he’s not one to get lazy in the weight room or in conditioning drills.

Closest comparison – Ahkello Witherspoon, Seattle: Witherspoon was another tall, lanky cornerback with Northern California ties (grew up in Sacramento). Like Wright, he’s another 4.45 corner with a skyscraper frame who played Pac-12 ball. Witherspoon’s skills coming into the league eerily mirrors Wright’s…as he too was known for staying on top of routes, timed his jumps and breaks but also had struggles with tackling and battling physical WR’s.

 

Current Draft projection: Day three selection (Seventh round)

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Rivals.com

Zo’s most potential suitors: Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Carolina

Las Vegas: New Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley thrived with a tall Pac-12 cover corner before in Richard Sherman, who was a late-round pick. The Raiders already have one tall corner option in Trayvon Mullen. With safety help, Wright could thrive in Sin City with Bradley running the defense.

San Francisco: Witherspoon left via free agency and now Sherman is facing a nebulous future in the Bay…and could reunite with Bradley in Vegas or return to Seattle. If the 49ers want to add height on the defensive perimeter, this can be a good spot for Wright.

Seattle: The Seahawks still have a habit of loving their corners at 6-foot-2 or taller. They’ve added Witherspoon via rival SF, plus they have 6-foot-3 corner Tre Flowers still on the roster. Wright can blend in here and learn from both.

Carolina: The Panthers aren’t known for using corners past the 6-foot-1 mark. But towering targets named Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones still roam in the NFC South…and all three have a combined eight career 100-yard receiving games versus Carolina. It may be time to match height with height through Wright.

 

Overall: In the right scheme, Wright can thrive. Honestly, he was the most improved cover CB in the Pac-12 this past season. He has a knack for wanting to learn while accompanying that with his rare but freakish athleticism. That Pro Day performance solidified his case that he belongs on an NFL roster. And if he goes to a place with an established safety group and with a history of excelling with CB’s of or near his stature, he could surprise a lot of people.

 

 

Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         

 

Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Zo on Twitter: @LJ_Reyna

Join The Franchise on Social Media

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

YouTube