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Royston: T.J. Tampa’s slide was not surprising

Tyler Coe
T.J. Tampa adjusts his gloves during the Iowa State vs. Kansas State football game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Nov. 25, 2023 in Manhattan, KS.

T.J. Tampa should have been an early day two guy. That does not seem like a hot take.

Knowing that he had the talent of a first-round corner, seeing him go off the board nearly in the fifth round felt weird. It’s even weirder seeing 15 corners go before him, even though it felt as though he was a consensus top-10 corner in the draft.

So, the question becomes, what caused him to fall well below expectations?

There are multiple factors that, looking back at it, do not make it much of a surprise that he fell to the fourth round. First, being the offensive-heavy start to the draft and the second being Tampa’s lackluster pre-draft process.

First, despite the talented cornerback class, there was not a corner taken until pick 22, when Quinyon Mitchell went off the board. It has been five years since there was not a corner taken in the first 10 picks, so waiting until the 22nd pick was unexpected.

Nearly every team favored offensive players, with a historic amount of quarterbacks and offensive linemen taken early on. Additionally, there was not a defensive player taken until the 15th pick.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a draft, especially in the modern NFL era, that has not had a defensive player picked in the top-10. Considering the lack of love given to defensive players in the draft, it was no surprise that first-round cornerbacks fell into the second round or later.

With only three corners taken in the first, it was not much of a surprise that Tampa fell out of the second round. The biggest surprise came in his name not getting called on day two.

Tampa was easily a top-10 corner in the draft, and by the end of day two, 13 corners heard their names called. Tampa was not one of them.

When it comes down to it, Tampa’s pre-draft process hurt him more than expected. It is one thing to have the film, stats and grades throughout the season, but NFL talents must show off their measurables and athleticism before the draft.

Tampa did everything he needed to cover his Cyclone career to make a name for himself and had the film to be a top talent in the draft. However, when it comes down to it, he just is not athletic enough to be considered over other players in the draft.

Tampa did not compete in almost anything at the NFL Combine. He did his measurables and called it, which did not do him any favors in the eyes of any scouts.

After the combine, Tampa ranked outside the top-10 in production score and scored a 61 athleticism score, which put him as the 30th most athletic corner in the class.

Along with his lackluster combine, Tampa did not help matters at the Big 12 Pro Day. He did run the 40-yard dash but clocked in at 4.59. That stat line put him well behind other corners.

To put that time into perspective, Mitchell, the first corner taken in the draft, ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. In fact, Tampa would have been the third-slowest corner at the combine.

Given the nature of the cornerback position, teams tend to lean toward raw athleticism over production. Unfortunately, Tampa did not have what most NFL teams were looking for.

That said, Tampa still has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong. He did impressive things at Iowa State and has the chance to make a name for himself on the Ravens.

Baltimore has prided itself on defense over recent seasons and does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. If Tampa can turn heads early on, he could earn himself a role on the team and develop into a productive cornerback in the NFL.

Even though he was picked well below expectations, Tampa still made it to the next level, and that is all that matters.

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