As we get closer to the draft, there are plenty of players to check out. Today’s focus is Arizona State cornerback Chase Lucas.
Name: Chase Lucas
Weight: 188 pounds
Combine Results: 4.48 40-yard dash, 39” vertical jump, 128” broad jump
Chase Lucas has had a fairly unique path to the draft, and it’s one I’ve personally been fortunate enough to watch up close, having attended the same high school and college as Lucas while being just one year apart. As a sophomore in high school, Lucas was called up from the JV team to fill in at running back due to injury issues. He played so well that Lucas became the full-time starter to finish out the year.
Not long after, Lucas started splitting time between offense and defense, and he soon became the 12th-ranked athlete in his recruiting class. Lucas opted to stay close to home and play for Arizona State despite holding offers from the likes of Notre Dame and Nebraska. With the Sun Devils, Lucas settled into the cornerback spot, which he manned for five straight seasons.
Lucas quickly established himself as a ball-hawk and one of the better Pac 12 cornerbacks, which led to him seeing a drastically reduced amount of targets over the final two seasons. Lucas likely could have gone pro even after Arizona State only played four games in 2020 due to COVID-19, but he returned for his super senior season and showed off added versatility playing in the slot, as Lucas had primarily played outside in years prior. Very few draft prospects in any year have as much tape as Lucas does, which makes the relatively low buzz around him even more confounding.
Man Coverage: Arizona State’s defense, led by NFL coaches Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis, employed man coverage at a very high rate. As a result, the vast majority of Lucas’ snaps are in man coverage, and that’s a good thing because he excels here. He has excellent footwork that allows him to stay in the receiver’s vicinity at all times, and his elite explosion traits - Lucas tested third among all corners in both the vertical and broad jumps at the combine - make for some exceptional closing speed.
Zone Coverage: Man coverage is definitely what Lucas is best at, but he holds his own in zone too. He has great instincts, which you’d expect from someone as seasoned as he is, and that shows up a lot in zone when reading the quarterback’s eyes.
Playmaking Ability: Lucas has a ball-hawk mentality, and it’s why teams stopped throwing his way after a certain point. At 5’11” with arms just a hair under 32” he is not overly long, but he has the closing speed and physicality to more than make up for it and play aggressive at the catch point. His background as a running back also pops up after Lucas gets a takeaway, and he can be a dangerous runner in those situations.
Athleticism: Lucas has great athleticism. There are some physical freaks in this draft who out-tested him, but he is still right near the top in terms of top-flight athleticism. His 10-yard split on his 40-yard dash ranked in the 90th percentile, and we’ve already discussed his elite explosion. Lucas also plays with very fluid hips, which was a big reason why he looked like a natural playing in the slot later in his college career.
Run Support: At 5’11” and 188 pounds, you would expect this to be a weak point for Lucas. In reality, it’s probably his strongest area. Lucas seems to crave the physicality that’s inherent to this sport. He shows zero hesitation to trigger down the field in run support and has made significant strides as a tackler in his college career, blossoming into a very technically refined tackler. Due to his frame, he isn’t capable of laying the lumber that often, but it is never for a lack of trying.
Processing: It can be difficult to tell how much of Lucas’ processing is due to football IQ or just great instincts, but that’s not really a problem. He plays like a veteran, showing great understanding of route concepts and double moves. He played in three very different schemes in his five years, and it never once looked like it was too much for him to handle.
Intangibles: Lucas is a high-effort player, frequently making plays after running to the opposite side of the field or tracking things down from behind. He was named a team captain his final year at Arizona State, and functioned as an on-field coach in the way he mentored younger players.
The reasons for Lucas not being more highly sought after are evident: he’s undersized and already has a lot of tread on the tires. At least, that’s how some teams will look at him. But the tape shows someone who plays much bigger than he measures, and with how difficult it is to play cornerback in the NFL, having so much experience should be considered a plus if anything.
Lucas’ body of work is hard to not get excited about when you really look at it. I’m obviously biased, but Lucas plays with the physicality, athleticism, and fundamentals you want to see in a cornerback. He especially excels in man coverage and has elite potential in the slot, though he can play outside just as well. Through 10 games in 2021, Lucas didn’t allow a single touchdown.
In Dallas, Lucas’ fit would be a bit complicated because the cornerback room is already pretty crowded. Personally, I think Lucas has the most upside in the slot due to his fluidity and physicality, so bringing him in as a potential replacement for Jourdan Lewis (who has two years left on his contract) would make a lot of sense. Lucas’ accomplishments in man coverage also mesh very well with Dan Quinn’s scheme preferences. Lucas is being projected to be selected somewhere in the fourth or fifth round, though a team could pull the trigger on him in the third if they want him badly enough.