Heading into the 2017 season, Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden was coming off a sophomore season in which he led the nation in interceptions with 8 and was named first-team All-ACC, as well as awarded the Jack Tatum trophy, an award that is given out yearly to the top collegiate defensive back. Most early mock drafts had him going in the first round of the 2018 draft, but McFadden’s season did not go as planned. After a 2017 season where McFadden collected a big zero interceptions, he found himself going seven rounds without being drafted. I could tell his stock had dropped. He was falling out of the first few rounds in mock drafts, and I’m sure his 4.67 40 yard dash at the combine did not help. But undrafted rookie free agent was a bit of a shocker to me.
[DESIMONE: Road to the Draft: GM Lynch breaks down 49ers scouting process] Making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent is tough. I’m speaking from experience. But if you go to the right situation at the right time, you increase your chances of making the 53-man roster. No more than two hours after the 2018 NFL Draft ended, it was reported that McFadden had signed with the San Francisco 49ers. At 6-foot-2, 204 pounds, with 32 ½ inch arms, McFadden fit the mold of other cornerbacks in the 49ers’ defensive back room.
But why did McFadden go undrafted? I took a look at the film to see if he had any glaring weaknesses, breaking down several games from 2017.
I’ll watch older films, but typically put more stock into the most recent film because athletes usually improve from year to year so I want to watch who the team is getting. The first game I turned on was Alabama. On two occasions McFadden’s lack of deep speed showed up. One of the nation’s top receivers, Calvin Ridley, ran a simple go route and McFadden just could not keep up. That happened twice in that game where he struggled to run stride for stride with an Alabama receiver.
In the game film I watched from 2017, getting beat deep wasn’t the norm. The first thing I look for in big press cornerbacks is their patience at the line of scrimmage. McFadden isn’t the fastest cornerback but his technique at the line of scrimmage tells me that he feels he’s fast enough to keep up with most receivers. That was something he greatly improved on from the 2016 season to 2017. Against Southern Mississippi, his patience at the line of scrimmage was on display three times. Twice where he stayed square, got hands on and was able to smother receivers to get pass break ups. And on another play where he didn’t create the space for the receiver which allowed him to blow up the tunnel screen.
McFadden’s aggression around the line of scrimmage allowed him to break up several short passes. One here that hit the ground. And another where he flashed a good hip flip and pass break up that ended with Derwin James getting an interception.
The interceptions were non-existent in 2017, but there was a notable difference in the way McFadden played the ball in the air. In the red-zone area against Florida, and in the open field against Boston College where he came down with a pass out of bounds.
He did get lost on one play that resulted in a touchdown, but in 2017 that didn’t seem to be a reoccurring theme. According to Oscar Aparicio of the Better Rivals Podcast, McFadden surrendered a whopping seven touchdowns in 2016. That number decreased to four in 2017, leaving room for improvement. I always say cornerbacks aren’t paid to tackle, but you would like to see good effort. There were some good and not so good attempts by McFadden. Against Bama he had an ugly whiff in the open field on “quarterback” Jalen Hurts but later returned the favor.
Other times McFadden showed his willingness to get dirty and get in the action on tackles on the big Alabama running backs.
After watching McFadden’s 2017 game film, I’m still unsure as to why he went undrafted.
The only thing really stands out to me is the lack of deep speed. I didn’t see McFadden give up bombs and more times than not he played well as a press man cornerback by challenging underneath passes and throws down the sideline. At 6-foot-2, I don’t expect him to be the most fluid of corners, but I thought he showed enough on film to challenge guys like Greg Mabin and Channing Stribling for the 5th and 6th cornerback spots.
I am interested to see how he does against the speedy receivers on the 49ers’ roster. If he can handle guys like Marquise Goodwin and rookie Dante Pettis downfield, there may be a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster for McFadden.
Media courtesy Getty Images/Icon Sportswire, Draft Breakdown