Cowboys draft prospects scouting reports for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Name: Eli Ricks
Weight: 192 pounds
Eli Ricks has a strange story. He was the second-highest rated cornerback in the country in high school, which played a part in his decision to transfer from California powerhouse Mater Dei to IMG Academy in Florida. As a highly coveted prospect, Ricks ultimately committed to LSU after watching the Tigers win a national championship.
Ricks saw action right away as a true freshman, and immediately turned heads. He picked off four passes and returned two of them for a touchdown, starting a hype machine around his name. His sophomore season ended early, as Ricks had to get surgery for a torn labrum. Following that year, Ricks decided to transfer after LSU fired head coach Ed Orgeron.
Ricks landed at Alabama this past year, but he played a rotational role early on, only becoming a full-time starter midway through the year. Once he saw regular playing time, Ricks once again looked like the stud from a couple years ago. But with such little playing time, it’s hard to know where teams see Ricks’ value in a crowded cornerback class.
Man Coverage: Ricks looks very comfortable in man coverage. Alabama changes up a lot between press and off man coverage, and Ricks didn’t appear to be at a disadvantage in either technique. He gets adequate punch with his hands in press technique to jam receivers and throw off their timing, and he demonstrates textbook footwork to mirror receivers in either press or off coverage. Pure speed receivers give him some trouble, but he is fundamentally sound enough to adjust and compensate in these situations.
Zone Coverage: Ricks is a natural in zone coverage. He plays with clean eyes and a keen sense of where to look. He does a great job of passing off receivers while keeping his eyes laser focused on the quarterback. This creates many opportunities to make a break on the ball, which frequently produced opportunities to make a play.
Playmaking Ability: Ricks has ball-hawk tendencies, as was on display at LSU. His four interceptions as a true freshman were split evenly between man and zone coverage, highlighting his ability to make plays from any coverage assignment. He didn’t record any interceptions at Alabama, which is largely due to a lack of playing time and the way the Crimson Tide plays their coverages; keep in mind that both Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain II recorded just four interceptions during their entire career at Alabama.
Athleticism: Ricks does not appear to be a freak athlete, which can limit your ceiling at cornerback. As mentioned, speedy receivers managed to run away from him on occasion, and they only get faster at the next level. How he performs at the combine will greatly affect his draft stock, as his athleticism is arguably his biggest weakness right now.
Run Support: He isn’t overly physical, but he’s no slouch in run support either. He understands leverage and has fundamentally sound tackling form, though he can take bad angles at times. Adequate is an appropriate way to describe Ricks’ tackling.
Processing: He has a great understanding of route combinations and how to identify them on the fly, which is a big part of how the Alabama defense operates. This is especially evident in zone coverage, when he can sit back and diagnose things as they unfold.
Intangibles: It wasn’t too long ago that Ricks was supposed to be the best corner in this draft. Similarly, it was considered a coup when Alabama landed him in the transfer portal. But then he didn’t start until halfway through the year. It’s unclear what the reason for that is, but teams will need to know why. Ricks has displayed a clear level of talent, but his sample size is so small that it muddies the picture a little bit and, thus, obfuscates his draft stock.