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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: CB Brandon Stephens

  • The Draft Network
  • April 4, 2021
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Brandon Stephens began his college career at UCLA where he was a running back and buried on the depth chart. He was a graduate transfer in 2019 and took his talents to SMU where he moved from running back to cornerback during preseason camp and immediately became a starter for the Mustangs, a position he held for his final two seasons. It’s remarkable how quickly Stephens was able to claim a starting role and earn the trust of his coaches. From a physical traits perspective, Stephens offers an exciting package of size, length, and athleticism. There aren’t any roles on the field he isn’t physically capable of filling in terms of coverage techniques and alignments. The key for Stephens is gaining more time on task at cornerback so that the nuances of the position and mental side of the game become more natural to him. As it stands, he lacks comfort mirroring routes and being consistent with his spacing and anticipation in zone. With that said, he has flashed the ability to be disruptive at the catch point and is always willing to be physical. His competitive toughness and aggressiveness as a tackler shine on tape. Stephens is very much a developmental option that should be a quality special teams contributor early on, but his career will be defined by how he continues to progress and learn the cornerback position. The encouraging part of his projection is that he isn’t lacking anything when it comes to size, athleticism, and toughness. 

Ideal Role: Developmental depth, special teams.

Scheme Fit: Any.


Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: East Carolina (2020), Memphis (2020), Temple (2020)  

Best Game Studied: Temple (2020)  

Worst Game Studied: East Carolina (2020) 

Man Coverage Skills: Stephens’ blend of size, length, and athleticism is a nice foundation to build upon, but he’s still very much a work in progress in man coverage. His newness to the position becomes evident with his lack of route anticipation, understanding of route depth, angles, and staying leveraged in his pedal to help him transition more cleanly. The physical traits are clearly evident, but so is his lack of comfort mirroring routes. He is grabby and lacks athletic confidence. 

Zone Coverage Skills: SMU collectively had its share of spacing issues in zone coverage which didn’t help a player like Stephens who is new to the position. His best moments do come when he can stay leveraged, cue the backfield, and close. As routes elongate and zones must be squeezed, the unsure tendencies show up. 

Ball Skills: Stephens started 23 games at corner for SMU and logged 23 pass breakups and one interception. He is best when playing forward on the football and is able to disrupt at the catch point. His ball skills with his back to the football are not to the same level.

Tackling: Stephens is an aggressive and physical tackler. With that said, he must learn to play more under control and get himself in better positions to finish. He is more than willing, it's just a matter of coming to balance and being consistent with his technique. 

Versatility: From a physical traits standpoint, Stephens is fully capable in every coverage technique. He has the size and length to play in the face of receivers in press and the athletic profile to survive in off-man. The key for Stephens is more time on task to develop comfort. 

Competitive Toughness: Stephens’ competitive spirit shines on the football field. He quickly transitioned from running back and became a starting cornerback for SMU in a matter of months. He’s physical in every aspect of the game, even to a fault. 

Functional Athleticism: Stephens is an excellent athlete but his newness to playing cornerback doesn’t always allow it to shine. His ability to click and close and open his stride reveals terrific athleticism, but he is still developing his confidence at the position. 

Football IQ: On one hand, it’s impressive how quickly Stephens made the transition to corner from running back and became a starter for SMU. On the other hand, it’s evident that he’s still a work in progress and expectations must be tempered. 

Run Defending: Stephens is a willing and active participant as a run defender. He confidently triggers and fits the run. The key for Stephens is becoming a more controlled tackler to reduce his whiffs. 

Length: Stephens has above average length which helps create a larger margin for error. His long arms lead to disruption at the catch point when he triggers downhill and he’s aggressive when doing so. The area that I want to see his length show up more is playing off contact and finishing tackles outside of his frame. 

Prospect Comparison: Jack Toch (2017 NFL Draft, Minnesota Vikings) 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 70.50/100

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