The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys appear to be eyeing up the same player in the 2023 NFL draft. The bitter NFC East rivals were listed as two of seven teams that have formally reached out to cornerback Emmanuel Forbes Jr. to request top-30 visits. There is also one mystery team interested in Forbes Jr., according to Jon Sokoloff.
The 6-foot-1, 166-punder put on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine where he blew expectations out of the water. Forbes Jr. ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.35 seconds, which tied for the third-fastest time among cornerbacks, along with a 37.5-inch vertical. His 88 total score from NextGenStats ranked second at what is seen as a very competitive position, too.
After that, the confident youngster went back to Mississippi State for their official Pro Day where he delivered a lofty boast.
When asked if he was the best cornerback in this year’s class, Forbes Jr. replied: “Yes, 100-percent.” Scouts from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance to hear it.
Then, Forbes Jr. opened up about the thought of getting drafted (via WTOP-TV): “I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I don’t think it will hit me until I get drafted actually but I’m really just enjoying the process.”
One minor concern: Forbes Jr. played at 180 pounds all year at Mississippi State, then showed up to the Combine and officially weighed in at 166 pounds. He ranked 317 out of 319 players in weight while being the lightest defender there by a whole 12 pounds. Scouts already had questions about his “slender build” and “lack of tackle strength” so a skinnier version of the talented corner was a somewhat weird twist.
Projecting Where Forbes Jr. Lands in 2023 Draft
The 2023 draft is a good one for cornerback-needy teams, with as many as six corners projected to go in the first 30 picks. Forbes Jr. had looked like a Round 2 pick, mainly due to size concerns, until his performance at the Combine. That sizzling speed, combined with his highlight-reel tape – 14 interceptions over three college seasons, including an NCAA record 6 picks returned for touchdowns – may have bumped him up to the first round.
He’s been scattered all over the big board, sometimes in Round 1 and sometimes in Round 2. CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards has Forbes Jr. going at No. 43 to Carolina in his latest mock draft; meanwhile, ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum put him in Cincinnati at No. 28 and draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Washington should jump on him at No. 17.
The Eagles would have two real cracks at Forbes Jr.: No. 10 or No. 30, unless they trade back and then up in Round 2. They currently sit at No. 62.
Other top defensive backs coming out include Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), Devon Witherspoon (Illinois), Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State), Deonte Banks (Maryland), Cam Smith (South Carolina), and Brian Branch (Alabama). The latter translates as a hybrid nickel cornerback and free safety at the next level.
James Bradberry, Darius Slay Returning to Philly
The idea of selecting a corner in Round 1 was a no-brainer two weeks ago. The Eagles were going to need someone to pair with Darius Slay after losing James Bradberry in free agency. Then, in a stunning turn of events, Bradberry came back on a three-year, $38 million deal that no one saw coming.
Well, no one except Howie Roseman who orchestrated a mini coup. The move gives the Eagles a lot more flexibility in terms of when or if they want to draft a cornerback. They might decide to wait until the later rounds. Or ride with their current cornerbacks room – one anchored by Slay and Bradberry – for another year.
“Priorities are the defensive line and cornerback position,” Roseman told reporters. “Those two spots are probably better (at this point) than I would have anticipated going into free agency.”