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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Terrion Arnold

As of late, a prospect who's gotten a ton of love is one Terrion Arnold out of Alabama. The primary right outside starting cornerback has gotten CB1 love from the likes of Connor Livsay of the 33rd Team, Brentley Weissman of the Draft Network, and most notably, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network. So, it's fair to say my interest had been piqued for some time, even before the latter dropped his first mock of the cycle. Most of those familiar with the draft are probably familiar with his running mate, Kool-Aid McKinstry, but what's the rap on Arnold?

For starters, Arnold, a native of Tallahassee, Florida, was recruited to Bama as a safety, but after a redshirt year to kick off his college career, Arnold was more or less thrown into the fire playing cornerback as a redshirt freshman due to an injury to Eli Ricks. Although he didn't start the entire season, all he did was nab Freshman-All American honors, while also coming close to winning SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

In 2023, Arnold was set for a larger role in Nick Saban's defense. Flanking the opposite wing of McKinstry, Arnold was named First Team All-SEC and was a First Team All-American. This is someone who brings a solid frame to the table at 6'0 and just a hair under 200 lbs, can move into the slot as a cover guy or play the STAR, and has some elite instincts. So, after a five-game film session, is the CB1 hype for Arnold justified?

Player Bio

Name: Terrion Arnold

Jersey: No. 3

Position: Cornerback

School: Alabama

Class: Sophmore (Redshirt)

Height: 6'0"

Weight: 196 lbs

Games Watched: vs. Texas A&M and Tennessee (2022), vs. Texas, LSU, and Georgia (2023)

Major Injury History: Arnold suffered a concussion against Tennessee in October of 2023, but there's nothing else to note.

Player Breakdown

Man Coverage (14/15)

On my initial watch-through of the film, I thought Arnold had some lapses in man coverage in the 2022 games, but showed a better set of reps a year later. Going back and pursuing through the 2022 games a second time, I felt much better about what Arnold brings to the table. He has plenty of snaps, high leverage ones at that (vs. guys like A.D. Mitchell, Xavier Worthy, Ladd McConkey, etc.) in off-man and press-man coverage, and put together some great tape.

What jumps out with Arnold as a man coverage defender is his closing speed, his aggressiveness (both good and bad. More on that later), and his ability to stay glued to guys while in press situations. One big concern is that Arnold was very prone to giving up hitch/comebackers and in-breaking stuff in off-man situations, as well as zone, but more on that in a second. It was less of a problem in 2023, but I had the same concerns with Joey Porter Jr. from last year's class, from the standpoint he leaves the proverbial door open too much for my liking. It's easily fixable with good coaching, but it led to a non-insignificant number of completions.


Zone Coverage (13/15)

In doing some pre-film research, the consensus that I got was Arnold had some holes in his game as a zone defender. While I find myself in that boat to a degree, I think I came away higher on his ability in the zone than most. The biggest thing he needs to improve is understanding his leverage based on certain coverages, Cover-3 mainly. I'd also like to see him get better knowing when the right time to bail out is when there's nothing to threaten his spot. That's probably the only weakness in his instincts, speaking of which.


Instincts (9.5/10)

It becomes pretty clear that Arnold was a high school safety after you watch a bit of him because his instincts/Football IQ are as elite as it gets. I'm gonna show you two examples of that which jumped out to me.

So this is a 4th & about a yard in the last few minutes of the first quarter. Brian Kelly dials up a designed legal pick using Malik Nabers (No. 8) on a hitch/fade to get Brian Thomas Jr. (No. 11) open in the flat after some presnap motion. You see Arnold communicating this beautifully with Malachai Moore, who starts this off in the slot, with the quick hand signals. He knew this was coming the entire way and gave Moore enough room to drive down on Thomas at the catch point for an excellent PBU. Great rep in a momentum-swinging, high-leverage situation. Now, onto an excellent run-down rep.

There wasn't a better play that displayed Arnold's ability to know when to go for the jugular than this. He's expecting a run on this first down, and he doesn't even hesitate to blow by A.D. Mitchell and get into the backfield for a massive TFL to get this drive started. Several other plays demonstrate Arnold's elite feel for the game, but those two jumped out to me right away. Even with some of the technique issues in coverage, this is why I think he'll be successful. You can't teach his game feel/sense.

Ball Skills (9.5/10)

Another area where Arnold excels is his work at the catch point and around the ball in general. His ability to close up on pass catchers with ease helps out a lot to break up passes, and he also went from having only one pick in 2022, to six in 2023. In total, Arnold enters the NFL with seven picks and a whopping 26 PBUs in just 25 games. Assuming he doesn't turn into a true gambler like Trevon Diggs and Trevon Diggs and knows when to pick his spots, he'll rack up PBUs and hopefully turnovers as a pro.


Press/Physicality (8.5/10)

While I came away very impressed with Arnold's as a press-man defender, I worry about his ability to control his aggression in tight man-to-man spots. I had him down for four DPIs in five games, and there were absolutely plays that could've been called for penalties that weren't. This was also something that I read ahead of time, but a couple of those DPIs were avoidable. Arnold needs to do a better job of trusting himself in those tight spots because there are times he executes great in chase-down situations, or going vertical upfield, where all but one of those penalties occurred. All this is to say Arnold needs to know when he can be a bit grabbier than normal, another area where he overlaps with Porter Jr.


Long Speed (8.5/10)

Against Texas from Week 2 last year, Arnold was tasked with going vertical with Xavier Worthy, perhaps the fastest receiver in this draft class, and I thought he held up very well in the speed department for someone who has an estimated 40 times in the 4.4s. He doesn't have the long speed to win track races against the Tyreek Hills, and Jaylen Waddles of the world, but his play speed is good on the whole, and his highest gear is good enough to work without safety help against some guys a tier or two down from the Dolphins duo. Here's that Worthy snap to see for yourself. Even with a running start, Arnold keeps up with him until the very end.


Tackling/Run Support (9.5/10)

While the coverage ability is certainly good, Arnold's willingness to get involved in the run game will win coaches over right away. He's not on the level Brian Branch was last year as a tackler, but you can see why Nick Saban occasionally had him as the STAR. The ability to wrap up is really good, as is the ability to move off blockers to make plays. This was probably the biggest surprise for me, not knowing the full picture coming in, especially given Arnold's size. There are lots of good reps in run support.

Athleticism (9/10)

I touched on this already, but Arnold is an exceptional athlete for his size, the issue is he doesn't trust himself from that standpoint enough. He can make great chase-down plays in coverage, and go vertical if needed, and the lateral fluidity and short area burst jump out a ton. If coaches can get him to trust himself as a pure athlete more, the sky is the limit.


Change of Direction (3.5/5)

Arnold's hips are very fluid, and he can move laterally very well, but the on-trouble spot is working back downhill to work back toward the line of scrimmage. Disregarding that most of those snaps came in off-man spots, Arnold was a few ticks too slow to pull the trigger and get moving downhill. There was also a play against Tennessee where he gave up a deep over route, his man bounced it back to the outside, and he was a bit slow getting turned around, leading to a missed tackle.


Length (4/5)

Given the ability to chase down pass catchers and make plays at the catch point, Arnold makes very good use of his length. He's great at hand-checking, aggressiveness aside, and has a very good frame for someone who's 6'0 on the dot.


Player Summary

The most important thing to understand about Arnold is that while he has some notable areas to improve upon, they're all fixable. His instincts and skill around the ball can make him an impact starter right away, and his instincts and IQ will be why he stays on the field. I can't say with certainty that he'll definitively be the consensus CB1 while we're still in January, but he'll be in the conversation through late April. It's not hard to see why his fan club is growing by the day. He's hard-nosed, aggressive, has athletic upside, and has a lot of good tape out there while being relatively new to the position on a full-time basis.

I know he's been mocked there recently by some notable pundits, but Denver would be a fun landing spot for Arnold. Get him in that cornerback room with Pat Surtain, let him refine those technique issues, and get him those reps as a No. 2 corner who has the upside to be a No. 1 shutdown guy down the road.

Rookie Projections: Rightside Boundary Starter

Third-Year Projections: Fringe Pro Bowl Caliber Cornerback

Final Grade (89/100): Top 10 Talent

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