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Breaking Down Cameron Dantzler

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Mississippi State v Tennessee Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Vikings drafted cornerback Cameron Dantzler in the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, with pick #89 overall.

College Career

Mississippi State | FBS DIV-I | SEC

Dantzler redshirted the 2016 season before earning a key role as a reserve the following season (25 tackles, two for loss, three pass breakups (PBUs)). Dantzler was a 13-game starter as a redshirt sophomore, recording 43 tackles, two for loss, two interceptions, and nine PBUs. He started just nine games in his junior season but tied for the team lead with two interceptions and eight pass breakups to go along with 40 tackles, two for loss. Dantzler missed three midseason games due to an injury and sat out the team’s bowl game to prepare for the draft.

Among the many impressive stats Dantzler has accumulated over his college career, one is particularly impressive: Over his entire college career against SEC competition, Dantzler has allowed a passer rating of only 13.0 on third downs, according to PFF.

Measurables

The following are Cameron Dantzler’s Combine measurables, along with (% rank) among cornerbacks, with 99% being top, 1% bottom. Any pro day results are marked with an asterisk *.

Height: 6’2” (94%) | Weight: 188 lbs. (29%) | Arm length: 30 5/8” (23%) | Hands: 9” (35%)

40 time: 4.64s (7%) 4.38s* | 10-yard split: 1.57s (67%) | 20-yard split: n/a

Vertical Jump: 34.5” (31%) | Broad Jump: n/a | BP reps: n/a

3-Cone Drill: n/a | 20-yd Short Shuttle: n/a | Age: 21.4

Dantzler’s measurables are something of a hash. He has good height, but undersized by weight and arm length. He only did the 40 and vertical jump at the Combine, and his 40 time was lousy. Apparently he was more concerned about his weight, and appears to have added weight just before the Combine which effected his 40 time. He did another 40 at his pro day, which came in at 4.38s, which corresponds better with his college tape, even if less controlled than the Combine or pro days with multiple scouts on hand to time it.

Overall, tough to glean much from Dantzler’s measurables beyond what you see on tape- which is top notch.

Scouting Reports

It’s not much of an oversimplification to say Dantzler’s scouting reports agree he’s an excellent cover cornerback, in pretty much every respect and technique, and with the stats to back it up, but he’s skinny and could improve in tackling and run support.

Many scouts seemed to discount his poor (4.64s) 40 time at the Combine, as it was apparent he was trying to add weight (he had the highest body fat count among CBs at the Combine) which hurt his time. He was also clearly much faster than that on tape, and didn’t have any trouble keeping up with receivers like Ja’marr Chase, who’s clocked around a 4.5s 40 time.

And yet despite what many scouts considered the best college tape outside of Jeffrey Okudah, he dropped to the 3rd round, presumably on weight and perhaps speed concerns:

Cameron Dantzler... is evidence of what a poor pre-draft process can do to a player’s stock. Dantzler’s tape at Mississippi State spoke for itself, and he was one of the only players to have any kind of success going against the best receiver in college football last season, Ja’Marr Chase. Dantzler allowed just two catches for 13 yards in that game, notching a pass breakup and holding Chase to his lowest catch rate of the season and lowest yardage figure of the regular season.

Dantzler’s coverage numbers in college are extremely impressive. For his career, he allowed just 42.7% of passes thrown his way to be caught, for an NFL passer rating of just 43.8, and he surrendered only one touchdown. He has sticky coverage skills and more than enough feistiness to cause problems for receivers, as well as back-to-back seasons of top grading. His issue is size and a strange body-type. Though he stands 6-foot-2, his arms measured less than 31 inches at the NFL Combine. In an attempt to show he could pack on weight, he ended up running just a 4.64 40-yard dash at 188 pounds and recording the highest body-fat percentage of any cornerback in Indianapolis. Dantzler isn’t a 4.64-speed player, but unfortunately for him neither is he 188 pounds. As PFF’s lead draft analyst Mike Renner put it in the PFF Draft Guide, “If you could guarantee me Dantzler could add 15 pounds of muscle, he’d likely be the second cornerback on our draft board.”

His slight frame will be a concern and was what caused him to slip as far as he did, but at some point you need to trust the tape. Dantzler’s tape is as strong as any corner in this class outside of Jeffrey Okudah — to snag him as low as they did represents a relatively low risk with a potentially huge payoff. - Sam Monson, PFF

Very long, stringy cornerback with surprising strength and a competitive mindset that had quarterbacks looking for easier battles elsewhere. He looks to suffocate and contest the route from start to finish and does an excellent job of maintaining phase in the vertical plane. His cover style will draw attention from NFL game officials early on, but the athleticism and length should allow him to trust his technique. He won’t give up many explosive plays through the air, but is a high-risk tackler in run support and needs to do a better job of wrapping and finishing. Dantzler can play in a variety of coverages but is a future starter as a confident press-man corner with early starting potential. - Lance Zierlein, nfl.com

Dantzler is the kind of prospect where you have to take in a large sample size before it really sets in how good he is. The more I watch, the more I find myself saying, ‘where are the losses?’ He simply doesn’t have many. His press technique is outstanding and he’s physical without being overly grabby like some. He’s a very natural athlete who’s made plays on the ball equally as much in both zone and man. With ideal height, length, and speed for the position, the only thing missing is strength. I can’t think of a single cornerback as skinny as Dantzler was last season playing in the NFL. If he lives in the weight room and the kitchen this offseason, look out. - Mike Renner, PFF

Man Cover Skills - He’s got great reach and disruptive abilities at the catch point. Shows needed mobility to flip the hips and carry receivers up the field, although he can get loose at the top of breaks and doesn’t illustrate desired stickiness through the end of the route.

Zone Cover Skills - He keys the quarterback’s eyes and arm very well, showing impact skills in zone coverage, especially in the flats to sink under throws working behind him. He’ll peel off initial landmark effectively and consistently jumps into the action when breaking on throws.

Feet/COD - Hops out of stance in tight alignment coverage to buy himself room to diagnose route releases, he typically does well to react, open and crowd the route but his stride length will hinder sudden redirect if WRs get him to take the bait at the line.

Ball Skills - Has misread some deep opportunities (Louisiana) and missed high point chances. His break on the ball and combative hands at the catch point are A+, however. Does well to break the hands of receivers and pull at the football as he arrives to the pass.

Flexibility - For all his length, he’s pretty pliable and flexible to adjust his frame and play without wasted movements. Ample skill in maximizing his length with torso and shoulder mobility. He’ll get busted with high hips on hard breaking routes working back to the LOS and sag off the target.

Acceleration - He’ll check the boxes needed to play outside and run with receivers in coverage. There’s some transitional lag when he looks to redirect and burst forward but his flat footed breaks show more spring and allow him to work into contested targets from off coverage.

Defensive Spacing - His man cover range needs improvement, although he’s a tall, long corner with notable strides, there’s only so much polish you can add there. He’s got ample range in zone and to crowd the catch point because of his length and reach.

Competitive Toughness - Does not play with enough functional strength. Got pushed around vs. LSU and is rarely an impact defender on the edge against quick game or outside run. He shows good scrap when he’s afforded the chance to press and appreciate enthusiasm to hunt the ball and collision WRs.

Run Support - There’s not a lot to write home about here. He’ll take advantage of poor block attempts and is willing to stick his face in the fire but he’s generally not going to stack blocks with authority at this weight, nor is he going to be a looming presence as a tackler.

Tackling - Has actually laid some impressive lumber but his consistency here is lacking because he hasn’t gotten cleanly off of blocks and doesn’t show great enthusiasm to step up and drop a shoulder on ball carriers. Does well on blitzes to hunt the ball and search for strip opportunities.

Player Summary - Cameron Dantzler projects best in a zone role as an outside cornerback at the NFL level. Dantzler brings desirable skill in keying the quarterback and illustrates great awareness of route combinations and anticipation of attacking the football in the air. Dantzler needs to continue to work on adding functional strength and weight to his frame, in the meantime he may be something of a developmental investment for his first NFL contract. - Kyle Crabbs, TDN

Cameron Dantzler was one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks over the last two seasons and enters the NFL with 22 starts under his belt. His presence on the field forced opposing quarterbacks to look the other way and Dantzler surrendered very little production in coverage. A versatile cover man, Dantzler has upside in press, zone and off-man coverage and he plays with the competitive edge you love to see in cornerbacks. He is aggressive attacking the football and has a quick trigger when firing downhill to tackle. Dantzler features plenty of height and length, but he has a thin and narrow frame which presents some restrictions playing through contact and dealing with more physical receivers at the catch point and the top of routes. Dantzler profiles as a versatile starter and adding functional strength will bring that opportunity quicker. - Joe Marino, TDN

College Film

Dantzler has a lot of good tape, including against top quality, future NFL receiver competition, which pretty much speaks for itself.

Vikings Fit / Projection

I would venture that Dantzler has at least an even chance of winning one of the starting outside cornerback spots this season.

I suspect his playing weight in college was around 180 pounds, and a good off-season program will do a better job than his Combine plan of getting to around 190 pounds, similar to Trae Waynes, without sacrificing speed. That should be fine - if still a bit undersized. Waynes managed to be solid in run support at that weight, and Dantzler has that ability too if he works a bit on his technique.

In the meantime, Dantzler has shown excellent coverage ability, to the point where opposing SEC QBs like Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa simply stopped throwing it his way - despite the fact that he was covering future first-round draft picks. He had only 13 targets 10 or more yards down the field all season last year - about 1.5 per game - and allowed just 31% of them to be completed.

Bottom line, Dantzler looks like a high ceiling draft pick that has immediate starter ability.