South Alabama cornerback Tyrell Pearson has been fighting against size concerns ever since he started playing the game of football. After having a productive career at Mesa Community College and getting honorable mention as an All-American with 8 interceptions as a sophomore, Pearson had a productive junior year for the Jaguars at South Alabama. His senior year was not what he wanted but nevertheless, showcased ability in helping the Jaguars in a win over Western Kentucky with two late game interceptions.
For the NFL, Pearson showcases ability as a cover corner with ball skills to cause turnovers. He does not show much that would suggest he can really be a benefit against the running game at the next level, but for teams interested in someone who is purely going to help in the slot, Pearson has an intriguing skill set that could stick on an NFL roster. Pearson has a chance to go in the seventh round of the draft, but is more likely going to go undrafted and have to try to make a roster as a tryout player. Nevertheless, he may end up being a difficult player to cut if he can hold up in man coverage against NFL competition.
Vitals & Build
According to Pearson, he is 5’8” 160lbs and size is always going to be working against him. He has great feet, body control and burst. His long speed is good. His overall strength is underwhelming. Pearson still appears to be able to add a little bit of weight to his frame and get stronger, but for the most part, he is what he is.
Pearson will use every bit of himself when he can to try to put opponents on the ground. By nature of his size, he tends to throw himself at the opponent and lunge a little too much, opting to go with his shoulder. Much of what he does is based in survival and while he will show some decent pop at times, his overall technique as a tackler is lacking.
He will do a good job of breaking down in space when he does not already have momentum going to the target and is smart in that he uses the sideline whenever he possibly can. On the move, he tends to work like a missile or he will try to go for the strip. Either because he does not trust his strength or lacks the strength, he does not really wrap up much at this point. Pearson is a get them down in whatever way he can type player.
Pearson will give what he can in run support, but that is not really his game. He is smart in using everything he can at his disposal, which can mean simply delaying the opponent long enough for teammates to get there, using the sideline or just hanging on until help arrives.
Pearson is quick and can get around blockers, so he has the ability to knife into the play at times and just try to trip the opponent or help teammates by trying to rip the ball out while teammates are taking the ball carrier to the ground.
This is Pearson’s game. Whether lined up right on them or playing off man, this is where he is comfortable. He mirrors well, he is able to react and adjust quickly when opponents make moves, and when the ball goes up, he is extremely aggressive to go after it.
Whatever Pearson lacks in size as a cover corner, he makes up for by simply constantly being in the way. He has done a good job of playing in the hip pocket and staying with them. It is difficult for opponents to get much separation against him because he does react so well to their movements and has good recovery ability. There are certainly examples where opponents get the best of him in coverage, but they are not common.
Height looks like a natural issue for him, but he does time his leaps well and for as small as he is, shows decent length in what he does possess. There have been situations where he jumps up on and over receivers to get after the football.
Pearson has good ball skills. He is extremely confident in what he can do and not afraid to take chances to do it. To his credit, he has not been wrong all that often and tends to get it right when he sees it. Pearson breaks on the ball well, has shown the ability to undercut opponents for interceptions. He is also aggressive trying to rip out the football because he does not want to have to then put the receiver on the ground after he catches it.
And when he does get the ball in his hands, he does have the speed and quickness to make a big play, potentially scoring. His quickness and speed combined with that size is a pain for offensive players to try to catch.
Pearson is going to sink or swim as a depth corner. Nickel or dime, playing in the slot is where he will make a living. His ability to mirror and his quickness make him ideal for covering slot receivers who cause problems for linebackers or bigger defensive backs. While he is great for dealing with small receivers, he could be a pain for bigger slot receivers trying to get quick plays. Pearson will have to prove that he will not simply get overwhelmed by physicality at the point of attack, but he is dangerous in his ability to be so quick and jump on the football.
The upside for Pearson is limited in that it is difficult to imagine a situation where he is ever anything better than a good nickel defender. Nevertheless, there is value in that position and while his size will always work against him, that position has an increased value due to the amount of teams that like to spread out and use smaller, quicker weapons.
Pearson’s game is similar to that of Nickell Robey of the Buffalo Bills. Robey went undrafted after declaring for the NFL Draft after his junior year at USC, but got an opportunity and made the most of it with the Bills. Both players are small in stature but have quickness and speed to play in the slot. The likelihood is that Pearson will also find himself undrafted and have to make the most of a tryout in a NFL camp.
Tyrell Pearson has the skillset to potentially contribute as a slot corner in an NFL that is using a lot of smaller, quicker receivers. Pearson is not going to give much as a run defender and is really only going to be able to have a big impact in passing situations, but he does cover well and he does have good ball skills. He is also going to have to find a way to contribute on special teams to keep a roster spot. Pearson is likely going to go undrafted, but there is a chance he could get snagged in the seventh round of the draft.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com