Marlon Humphrey had a rough end to his career at Alabama.
Granted, some of it was out of his control. (We can all agree that being tasked with guarding Mike Williams is out of one’s control, no?)
On Clemson’s second-to-final drive of the 2017 National Championship, Humphrey is actually in a good position to at least disrupt Deshaun Watson’s pass to Williams and, in fact, upon initial catch, Humphrey is able to dislodge said catch from Williams’ grasp. Alas, Williams is not of our world and he ended up catching the ball on its way to the ground.
This one play is a microcosm of Humphrey’s time at Alabama. He’s a legacy out of Hoover whose dad, Bobby, maintained every career rushing record in Tuscaloosa until Shaun Alexander caught fire. Humphrey’s immense talent is only matched by his inconsistency in man-to-man coverage. Still, most feel his upside is worthy of a Thursday evening pick.
Let it be said that for a true cornerback, Humphrey is physical. His closing speed is damn near off the charts and that can be attributed to his preternatural gifts that were honed in high school track and field. For weighing less than 200 pounds, Humphrey packs a wallop.
Any corner that plays for Nick Saban (Remember: Saban personally coaches the cornerbacks) has to be comfortable with playing on an island. The knock on Saban-coached corners is that his bump-and-run technique is not as ubiquitous at the professional level. That being said, bump-and-run is a “high risk, high reward” type of method in covering receivers.
For a better explanation, Saban speaks on playing the ball versus playing the man on his radio show back in 2009. Essentially, Saban’s corners are never wanting for physicality because that’s how Saban teaches them and, as previously mentioned, Humphrey is no exception.
Humphrey’s most complete game of 2016 might have been the first against USC.
Humphrey had what was viewed as the unenviable task of guarding JuJu Smith-Schuster to open up the Crimson Tide’s season against USC. Smith-Schuster’s 2015 season produced almost 1,500 yards and the conventional wisdom was that Humphrey was going to be the one to cover him in the game.
Well, Humphrey’s coverage limited Smith-Schuster to one catch for nine yards. Mind you, this was pre-Sam Darnold USC, so they hadn’t quite gotten their stuff together before their amazing run at the end of the season, but Humphrey more than did his work in this game.
Remember that physicality trait of his we were talking about earlier? Just watch the first play here and you’ll see a hapless Steven Mitchell, Jr. get trucked by Humphrey. What isn’t shown on the play is how Humphrey most likely shed Smith-Schuster’s downfield block and used his 4.41 speed to get the monster hit on Mitchell. He almost jarred the ball loose, too.
Later in the first half, Humphrey would get the first of the Tide defense’s 11 touchdowns in 2016. The play was made possible by Reuben Foster’s coverage across the middle. All Humphrey had to do was catch the deflection and weave in and out of traffic for an 18-yard pick six.
Another good game for Humphrey was against the Aggies last October.
Humphrey’s second interception of the season came against Texas A&M and it was very well played.
At this point in the game, Texas A&M had just gotten an Alabama turnover and was looking to capitalize immediately. The play is at the 02:15 mark and CBS color analyst Gary Danielson notes the zone coverage on Humphrey’s side of the ball, as A&M has two stacked receivers.
Humphrey vintage Ed Reeds the play by watching the Trevor Knight’s eyes the entire time and when he knows that it’s play action, he scoots back into coverage knowing he’s got help at safety and uses his speed to make the pick. It’s one of his best plays of the season.
It’s a tough position Humphrey is in going into Thursday evening, because anybody who watches him at his best knows that he’s a Top 15 talent. His speed, his physicality, his intelligence make him a no-brainer for any GM looking to shore up their secondary. Yet, you can turn on the Ole Miss, Arkansas or Clemson games from this year (incidentally, the only three teams that passed for more than 300 yards on the Tide defense in 2016) and you’ll see definitive holes in Humphrey’s game. Even against LSU, the lone pass over 20 yards for the Tigers’ offense was gotten off Humphrey.
For some reason, even with Humphrey’s top-end speed, receivers tend to get around him easily enough and he ends up out of position. It’s baffling, because you know that his ceiling is really high. Hopefully, he’s only scraping the surface of his potential, because if it’s met, he can be something special.
Best guess, is he’ll find his way in the first round of the draft, probably at the bottom half, though.