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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated / Casey Sapio

Zo Huddle –West Coast Sleepers Come Draft Day – Cam Bynum

Franchise Sports Media

The Zo Huddle loves two seasons: Football season and draft season. With the 2021 NFL Draft coming close, the Zo Huddle continues to unveil the top sleeper prospects out west in his eyes…


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Cal Bears

And now we head to Strawberry Canyon in the Bay Area for our latest west coast sleeper.

To be honest, this cornerback deserves better praise than what he is getting. I have read countless national publications that don’t even list this battle-tested cover corner in its top 15 for the 2021 cornerback class. I’ve read others that gravitate toward whoever played on the east coast (particularly the Southeastern Conference), but I guess didn’t stay up late to watch him thwart numerous pass-heavy teams in the Pac-12.

If these people are looking down on his competition or his skill set, know he help transform a once-struggling Cal Golden Bear secondary unit that will soon produce its third NFL member of “The Takers.” One 2020 first-rounder, Brandon Aiyuk, had one of his worst games against this CB, while another first-rounder, Justin Herbert, didn’t throw past 225 yards with this corner in the Cal lineup.

Here now is the next Zo Huddle West Coast sleeper:




Hometown: Corona (Calif.)

High School: Corona (Calif.) Centennial

Star ranking: Three-star (The 80th best prospect in California per 247Sports and was listed as the nation’s 77th best cornerback prospect for the 2016 class)

Height/Weight: 6-feet, 197-pounds

No. of seasons playing collegiately: Four (opted back into the 2020 season after the Pac-12 was approved to resume play through Coronavirus)

Personal accolades: Four-year starter, two-time captain, earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors in truncated 2020 season, earned Second Team honors twice in Cal career, won the university’s Bob Simmons Award which honors the Most Valuable Freshman, started in 42 consecutive games, and won 2019 RedBox Bowl with Cal.


Before he was a Golden Bear…


There was a time when Bynum was 5-foot-9 and was timed at 4.8 in the 40-yard dash.

There was also a period when the only Power Five universities that offered Bynum were Boston College and Cal.

But after a stellar career at renowned Cali power Centennial in the Inland Empire where his Husky teams went 27-4, Bynum never got complacent following his commitment to Cal. He continuously kept perfecting his backpedal, footwork, football IQ, and instincts…culminating in him helping transform a once-struggling Cal defense.




Ball skills: Again, Bynum played in 42 games. Nearly 70% of those games saw him swipe the football from the sky. Bynum not only denied third and longs but end zone opportunities like one play against North Texas in 2019, where he displays excellent eyes and times his hand placement.

The 2017 season was when the nation began to take notice of a maligned Cal secondary. In this clip against Washington State, Bynum shows his ball skills inside the red zone:



Outside of his 28 career pass breakups, Bynum collected six career interceptions. Six picks in a span of 42 games are more of an indicator that opposing quarterbacks hesitated to throw to his side. But when they did, Bynum used his eyes, a proper flip of the hips and hands to seal the takeaway. This pick against a future Indianapolis Colt named Jacob Eason is a prime example of the said traits:



Here is a close up version of how he plays the pass in the 2019 contest while covering 6-foot-2 target Hunter Bryant:



Again, Bynum was rarely tested. But when he was tested, he was rarely beat.

Hips/feet combo: Hours of putting in ladder, cone, and other feet shuffling work contributes to Bynum’s footwork in this regard. Again, Aiyuk of Arizona State had a rather forgetful solo performance in 2019 against Bynum (held to two catches that night). This play is a reason why:





Bynum is disciplined enough to keep his feet in check, stayed squared on Aiyuk, and then squeezed the gap between him and himself. Strong, quick feet after the brief freeze-up helped contribute to this incomplete throw.

Here’s another key play versus Aiyuk. The ball isn’t thrown toward Bynum, but you see the CB discipline from staying squared and displaying strong feet:




Bynum is not one to lose his footing when in coverage. Hip-wise, Bynum knows when to flip his hips and take the proper angles toward the football. His change-of-direction game and feet are major pluses.

Man coverage success: Bynum had mixed results when playing man. Sometimes he was beaten when trying to press at the line of scrimmage. But other times, he did enough to force the incompletion or opposing quarterbacks to throw away from him.

Outside of staying low and trusting his feet, Bynum is highly skilled at staying on the pocket of a receiver…almost as if he is secretly a wallet.

But I have seen receivers at USC and Stanford who had the strength/height advantage get the better end of Bynum. Receivers like Michael Pittman II of USC (now with the Colts) and recently, Michael Wilson of Stanford have beaten Bynum for touchdowns. But that is the shortlist.

The long list is the number of receivers who struggled against Bynum. Along with the 2020 49ers first-round wideout, Johnny Johnson III and Mycah Pittman of Oregon struggled to go against Bynum. While Isaiah Hodgins did beat Bynum on a red-zone score, the Buffalo Bills 2020 sixth-round selection never went past 36 receiving yards in three games against Bynum and Cal.

Zone coverage success:  This is the area where Bynum has proven to thrive. He’s cerebral enough to pick up crossing routes and maintain his coverage area before squeezing the gap between him and the intended receiver. He is not one to play confused. This 2017 clip against North Carolina exemplifies this. He shows no confusion but instead patience:




Bynum understands his assignments on the football field regardless of what coverage Cal threw. His coverage success when playing zone made him a hard CB to test on Saturdays.

Recovery speed: Here’s an area of concern for NFL teams. When Bynum was beaten, he didn’t have enough speed to catch up.

Cal had the benefit of having two future NFL safeties in Jaylinn Hawkins (Atlanta Falcons) and Ashtyn Davis (N.Y Jets) over the top. I think a key for Bynum heading into the league is that he’ll need to be backed by stellar safety play to make his pro transition less difficult.

Tackling ability: We often get caught up scrutinizing a CB’s coverage ability. Still, we can’t look past their willingness to step up and eliminate the run…and Bynum was strong in that category.

He channels an inner strong safety or linebacker when he has a lane to crash into the ball carrier. He has the competitive toughness to square up on an RB and sends his shoulder pads into the ball carrier:





Ability/willingness to be coached: There aren’t many awards for most coachable players. But Bynum gets the recognition here.

Not once have I seen Bynum argue with a coach, but instead had the willingness and desire to work and aim to be better. When you’re named captain two years in a row, it shows your teammates and coaches think that highly of your work ethic.

Also, Cal’s secondary unit didn’t improve by one person or by accident. From Gerald Alexander’s coaching (before he joined the Miami Dolphins staff) to the off-the-field work, Bynum and “The Takers” help spearhead a much-improved unit. Key moments that involved Bynum and “The Takers” include:

Going 17 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown pass (broken in the third quarter of the 2019 North Texas game).

Only three opponents producing two 100-yard receivers out of 42 games against Bynum and Cal (only a 7.1% success rate).

Only one 200-yard receiver allowed between 2017 to 2020, and that was during Bynum’s and head coach Justin Wilcox’s first season together (UCLA’s Jordan Lasley had 227 yards in a 2017 contest).

Lastly, despite playing just four games, no opposing receiver went past the century mark against Cal in 2020.

Closest comparison – A.J Bouye, Carolina Panthers: Bouye is another 6-foot cornerback who has shown to do his best work in zone schemes. Though coming into the league, the University of Central Florida (UCF) standout was lauded for his field smarts and knack for delivering the blow in run support.


Current Draft projection: Early sixth round to seventh round


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Cal Bears

Zo’s most potential suitors: San Francisco, Atlanta, Carolina, Dallas, Miami, New York Jets, New England

49ers: While S.F. has resigned K’Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson to new deals, both are in their early 30’s and are only on one-year deals. Jason Verrett is also expected to return but on a similar one-year contract. He, too, is in his 30s. The Niners need to get younger here. This could be an ideal spot for Bynum.

Falcons: This secondary struggled immensely in 2020, helping lead to Dan Quinn’s firing. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees is bringing in a 3-4 scheme that calls on nickel packages. Bynum played in a 3-4 at Cal. And with Hawkins already in the ATL, Bynum could thrive here.

Panthers: Carolina defensive coordinator Phil Snow sometimes likes throwing three deep safeties on the field. He’s not much of a Cover 0 guy. Ideal for Bynum. Here’s another reason why the relationship between Snow and Bynum can work: Snow is a Bay Area guy – having graduated from Cal State Hayward, coaching high school DB’s at Berkeley High than at Laney College, and also…coaching at Cal from 1987-1991.

Cowboys: Dallas surrendered 34 aerial touchdowns last season. With that number, an overhaul of the secondary is needed. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has employed athletic or smart DB’s in his years with Seattle and Atlanta. Plus, think about it: Bynum walked into a Cal defense that was allowing one too many passing touchdowns before he became a starter yet helped change the fortunes. Maybe the Cowboys can allow Bynum to work his field magic.

Dolphins: Yes, the G.A connection helps here. I’m additionally aware that CB isn’t a dire draft or offseason need for the ‘Fins. However, heading to South Beach can potentially be a win-win for Bynum: Reconnecting with G.A and learning from Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard plus one of the league’s best press coverage CB’s in Bryon Jones.

Jets: Why not have a repairing of Bynum and Ashtyn Davis? New head coach Robert Saleh is reconstructing the defense. Gang Green also has to deal with Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills twice a year. The defensive backfield needs refining.

New England: The Patriots’ starting CB’s are officially both in the double-digit mark for career seasons in the league. Head coach Bill Belichick has always liked getting cerebral, workaholic players even on defense. He could love Bynum’s intelligence and work ethic. Plus, as we’ve seen the past two decades, underdog players have thrived in Foxboro.




Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Cal Rivals

NFL teams are reliant on athletic cornerbacks who are turnover machines. I get that. But teams with high intellect, strong work ethic players can still win you any game. And Cal won 21 games in four seasons, with Bynum representing that type of player.

To reiterate – Bynum played in a pass-friendly Pac-12. And he emerged as a top lockdown CB in this conference. He’s the same CB who forced first-rounder Aiyuk into a terrible night. But there’s more…

Hunter Bryant, before he became a Detroit Lions tight end, was limited to four catches for 40 yards going against Bynum and Cal. And the INT Bynum had that evening was intended for Bryant.

Davis Mills of Stanford, who is rising on draft boards, had no 300-yard outing versus Bynum and the Bears and had his QB rating below 72 in the two Big Game meetings.

Herbert, before he became the Chargers’ franchise QB, had two of his worst statistical games against Bynum and Cal as Herbert often looked in a different direction going against him.


Memo to NFL teams: Don’t sleep on grinders and sharp, gridiron minds like Cam Bynum.

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Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Zo on Twitter: @LJ_Reyna

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