The Seattle Seahawks made addressing the cornerback room a priority this offseason. While they lost D.J. Reed to the New York Jets, they re-signed Sidney Jones, added the likes of Artie Burns and Justin Coleman in free agency as well as drafted Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen. This position group also features players from last year’s roster, including Ugo Amadi and Tre Brown, which tells you it is one of the deeper rooms on the roster. Despite that though, injuries happen and what is a very deep group can become a very thin group in a matter of weeks which means players low on the depth chart get pushed up quickly which includes both Woolen and Bryant.
Seattle’s rookie corners are two different players. Their fourth-round pick, Coby Bryant, is a fluid athlete, although he does not possess eye popping athleticism, nor did he post elite testing numbers. The Seahawks fifth-round pick, Tariq Woolen, is one of the best athletes we have seen test at the cornerback position in history. He posted the 85th best Relative Athletic Score amongst corners with their data going all the way back to 1987. Bryant is more suited to be a man coverage cornerback thanks to his ability to stay in phase with receivers as well as possessing a quick change of direction. Woolen on the other hand is better suited to be a corner in a zone scheme where he can best feature his game-breaking athleticism and ability to read the eyes of the quarterback.
Coby Bryant is a far more experienced corner having played in 53 games for Cincinnati. In those 53 he has played against Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Georgia in the Peach Bowl, and at Notre Dame. Tariq Woolen on the other hand started as a wide receiver in college — sound familiar? — having not switched over to cornerback until the 2020 season. In his two seasons at corner the UTSA product only played 18 games where he played only one Power 5 opponent in Illinois. Woolen is an extremely raw corner, and it shows on his tape consistently due to his tendency to grab receivers, unreliable eye discipline, and tendencies to overplay routes. Bryant is not a perfect corner by any means as he still has some flaws in his game including his footwork.
So, with all of that in mind, which of Seattle’s two rookie corners who are deep on the depth chart would be better suited to start? The answer is easily Coby Bryant. The biggest factor for this is the schematic fit. Clint Hurtt has discussed how he wants to play more man coverage this year which better suits Coby Bryant’s skill set at this present time over Tariq Woolen’s. Additionally, Woolen’s overall rawness as a player is going to force him to be eased along rather than rushed into game action. There are too many immediate flaws in Woolen’s game that would prevent him from making a consistent positive impact on the defensive side of the ball. In two- or three-years' time we could be having a very different conversation when comparing Bryant and Woolen, however, where things currently stand Bryant is definitely the guy.