The New York Jets added second year cornerback Leon McFadden to their 53 man roster on Sunday, releasing LeQuan Lewis to make room. McFadden was a Cleveland Browns third round pick out of San Diego State in 2013. After one season where he played in all 16 of their games (starting two), they let McFadden go.
Although this seems ridiculously early (and concerning) to give up on a third round pick, Cleveland’s cornerback situation was a numbers game and McFadden did not perform up to par. Although his young career has been relatively underwhelming, it is quite clear why the Jets added him to their secondary. Let’s take a look…
McFadden is an average sized cornerback standing at around 5’10 and weighing 190 pounds. He has played both the slot and outside corner positions in the NFL, although he seems to be suited much better in the slot. His lateral movement, especially at the line of scrimmage, is quite good as seen here:
McFadden breaks inside quickly to slow down the slant. He eventually gets his hand in front of the wideout to break up the pass. This is a perfectly played slant, one of the harder routes to “shutdown” in the NFL.
As for McFadden on the outside and/or vs. longer routes, we see a entirely different player. He struggles turning his head on long passes (his kryptonite), although he does have the downhill speed to stay with his assignment.
This actually isn’t a terrible play, but McFadden was flagged. Now why was he flagged? Well, there is mutual contact between him and his coverage assignment. The only problem is, the receiver is fighting for the ball while McFadden is fighting with the receiver. In a league that favors the receivers and hounds the corners for contact, this is an easy call for the official. Turn your head around Leon!
McFadden clearly has his struggles as he tends to get beat deep. He has relatively good feet, but he needs to anticipate the long ball a little better. He also seems to be an adequate tackler after the catch, which is a huge plus. Once he learns how to track the deeper passes, he could become a more complete corner. As for now, he is a second year player that can find success as a nickel or dime back playing the slots.
So why is he a better option than Kyle Wilson?
McFadden is a second year player that fell into a bad situation in Cleveland. While he did not produce instant success, the coaching staff and front office in place did not draft him. They did not feel the need to develop him or to justify the pick. He is extremely far from being a lost cause, as shown above.
Wilson on the other hand is on the final year of his deal, his fifth in the NFL. The bad tendencies shown above from McFadden? Wilson still displays those on a weekly basis. With McFadden, you have a corner that will give you comparable (or better) play, while also still developing as an NFL corner. Not one that gives up 9 catches on 10 targets for 154 yards and a touchdown in one preseason.