The New York Jets finally addressed their glaring void at cornerback by signing former first-round pick Morris Claiborne March 16. But New York’s cornerback group still has room for another cornerback (or two) on the 2017 roster. Additionally, Claiborne’s one-year deal does little to address the long-term future of the position.
Enter Jalen “Teez” Tabor, a junior cornerback from the University of Florida who would have an immediate role on Gang Green as well as shape the future of its cornerback position.
Tabor spent the first two years of his collegiate career alongside current Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. The 2016 season was Tabor’s turn and he shared the spotlight with fellow projected first-round cornerback, Quincy Wilson.
His three career pick-sixes ranked 7th in the SEC since 1976. He also finished his career with eight interceptions and 28 pass breakups. However, while his production was good, he battled off-field issues as well. Tabor was suspended one-game for refusing to take a drug test in 2015 and was suspended for the 2016 season opener after an altercation with his teammate.
“You know a lot of these teams, they have a report on me,” Tabor said at the NFL Combine. “I just want to let them know that I’m a changed young man.”
Weighing the risks of taking a cornerback in the first round with the potential reward of Tabor’s talent will be a tough task for many NFL general managers. New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan likely won’t have to make that decision at No. 6, as Tabor is projected to be selected later in the first round. However with Maccagnan stating that the Jets are “open for business every round,” it would be wise for him to assess the former Gator corner.
The option of trading back is always in play under Maccagnan. Additionally, the Jets have the sixth pick in the second round, an ideal spot for Tabor if he slips in the draft. There are ways New York could pick up the talented Florida corner, but should it?
How’s he rated?
ESPN.com: No. 2 CB, No. 11 overall prospect
NFL.com’s Mike Mayock: No. 4 CB
CBSSports.com: No. 7 CB, No. 45 overall prospect.
NFL Combine performance:
40-yard dash: 4.62 seconds
Vertical jump: 31.0 inches
Broad jump: 120 inches
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: “While [Tabor] has some lapses in judgement and awareness in coverage, his nine career interceptions didn’t happen by accident. He is a pure cover corner with the ability to pattern match around the field, but don’t expect him to be a plus tackler in run support. He has the traits of a first-round cornerback, but some teams may be put off by some of his annoyances.”
Tabor’s playmaking abilities are shown through the number of interceptions returned for touchdowns he has recorded in his three-year career. However, his underwhelming 4.62-second 40-yard dash raised concerns about his speed. He still has a knack to jump the receiver in an attempt to make a big play, which he was able to do on this play against Missouri.
Tabor is a very good pass defender, who has played both press and off-man in college. Thus, his best pass coverage ability is his knack to stick on the receiver and athletically break up passes. He led the SEC in pass breakups in his sophomore seasons and has made plays like this throughout his collegiate career.
While watching Tabor, it’s very evident that he is consistently active. He is seen on nearly every play near the ball, which is encouraging and suggests he has a high motor on the field. Despite that, he still needs to become more polished as a tackler, especially in run defense. He missed multiple tackles this past season, including this one against the Seminoles.
Overall, Tabor could definitely be a solid coverage cornerback in the NFL. His 40-yard dash time and off-field transgressions could raise concerns, but his college production over a three-year span with other solid defensive backs should keep him in the first round, especially if he can perform better at Florida’s pro day.
There’s a reason he will stay in the first round. According to Pro Football Focus, Tabor “recorded a pass breakup or an interception on 26.5 percent of his targets,” a number that is the best in the draft class.
He should not be an option at No. 6, but if he slips into the second round because of concerns stemming from his past and the Combine, he could be a nice fit in Gang Green’s new-look secondary.
Photo courtesy of Florida FB / Twitter