In this series, Pete Hailey will preview 11 players whom the Commanders could select with the 11th overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Next up: Cornerback Trent McDuffie.
Background: 5-foot-11, 195-pound defensive back... Westminster, Ca. native... Will be 22 years old in September... Started for three years at the University of Washington... Two interceptions, 10 passes defensed, 5.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries in his college career.
Biggest strength: There's truly a ton to like about McDuffie's skill set, but his best trait appears to be his burst.
Scouting reports laud McDuffie's ability to "react immediately," his "twitch and explosion" and his "itchy, twitchy trigger." Overall, those are three different ways of saying this: the guy can close with speed and precision.
That attribute clearly is helpful in coverage, which is his primary gig as a corner. His sparse interception total in school may look concerning on its surface, but that low number is mostly due to the fact that quarterbacks rarely found a window to throw into when McDuffie was in the area. Openings and completions were few and far between on his side of the action.
McDuffie's burst is also useful on blitzes from the perimeter and when knifing by blockers to contribute as a run defender. Therefore, he doesn't just make an impact deep down the field.
In sum, even if McDuffie is trailing an opposing target or late to recognize a handoff — things that aren't common, by the way — he can make up for it and still show up on time because of his fast feet. That's a timeless and wide-ranging tool.
Biggest question mark: McDuffie plays like an alpha corner, but he doesn't have the look of one. He's sub 6-feet and his arms aren't long, and those shortcomings could be exploited in the NFL.
Now, McDuffie is renowned for his competitiveness, and that should help him make up for what he lacks in pure physical gifts more often than not. That said, there will be some one-on-one matchups that he simply can't win because he's not able to get his hands as high as his opponent, and in crunch time, the very best quarterbacks will test him.
Potential fit in Washington: In William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller, the Commanders are already paying two corners more than $10 million in 2022. Based on that, one would think the club would be best-suited searching for draft reinforcements elsewhere.
However, both Jackson III and Fuller could be released after 2022 if Washington wanted to generate some salary savings, and neither move would inflict too much dead cap money on the franchise's books. Based on that, acquiring someone like McDuffie suddenly seems like a prudent investment.
McDuffie showed comfort in various alignments and situations while at school and all of his intangibles check out. He'd be a boost for the Commanders secondary from Day 1 and educated draft minds peg him as one of the safest first-round prospects in the entire event. He'd be an excellent addition for Ron Rivera — or any other head coach who ends up with him.
Random and probably ultimately useless fact that's being included in this story anyway: McDuffie would be the third person named Trent selected by Washington since 2010. That year, the organization landed Trent Williams 4th overall, and in 2014, the team picked up Trent Murphy in the second round. If you believe the previous two sentences were a waste of time, well... you're probably justified in your thinking.
Previous profiles: WR Treylon Burks