Tariq Woolen has emerged as a rising star on the Seattle Seahawks defense, and is already looking like the cornerstone of the secondary moving forward. Beyond simply locking opposing wide receivers down, the talented rookie has forced turnovers at an incredible pace. This standout showing in his first season as a professional has propelled him towards his first Pro Bowl nomination, and has landed him among the top competitors for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Beyond these prospective honors, sports media coverage around Woolen’s performance been picking up all season, and now it has earned him an honorary spot on an ESPN list.
Matt Bowen of ESPN published his annual “Best NFL Defensive Backs” list, where he ranks the top individual players (and best overall secondary) in the NFL for the current season. This year, Tariq Woolen landed the excellent title of “Best cornerback ball hawk,” with Bowen going on to say the following:
“I’m going to push the rookie past the veteran names here because of his on-the-ball production. This season, Woolen has produced six interceptions and 13 pass breakups, making a play on the ball on 25% of the throws in his direction (NFL Next Gen Stats). And at 6-foot-4 with 4.2-second 40-yard dash speed, Woolen has extremely rare physical traits to track the ball vertically and impact the catch point. A rapidly developing corner, Woolen has big-time potential given his ability to finish plays.”
Following the above statement, Bowen embedded the following tweet for illustration.
We can argue endlessly over who should/will win DROY honors, but Matt Bowen ultimately sides with NY on this one; he goes on to rank Sauce Gardner as his “Best Rookie Cornerback,” although he does list Woolen as the runner-up. Sauce has had a great rookie season, to be sure, and both players are competing at a high level right now, especially for first year pros. Regardless, Tariq Woolen is getting the attention he deserves right now. We will get to see both of these guys in action in a couple weeks when the New York Jets visit the Seahawks on New Year’s Day.