The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a cornerback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their defensive back depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.
Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Patrick Surtain, there are a lot of talented defensive backs who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24, or after.
There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a cornerback to bolster their depth at the position in 2021, and if Washington cornerback Elijah Molden is available when the Steelers pick in the middle rounds, is he an option for the team? Or would Molden be just another mid-round cornerback selection we’ve all seen so many times?
I did some digging on Molden, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.
Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Molden. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!
Let us know your thoughts on Molden in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
Elijah Molden played cornerback for the Huskies defense and aligns mostly inside. Overall, he demonstrates the athleticism to be a highly effective coverage player from the nickel slot. He’s a little undersized by ideal NFL measurables, but would suffice as an NFL slot. He is a willing tackler in the run game, so there are no reservations there. In the passing game, he excels. He plays with rare level instincts which allows him to bait quarterbacks inside and make plays. He doesn’t have elite play speed for a smaller cornerback, but his instincts help to cover his deficiencies.
Ideal Role: Starting caliber NFL nickel slot.
Scheme Fit: Any system that can creatively take advantage of his instincts and talent inside.
Weight: 191 lbs.
An undersized cornerback who has safety and nickel versatility. He lacks ideal length and height but is compact while possessing good overall athletic ability highlighted by explosive closing burst, lateral agility, change of direction skills, and fluid hips to flip to assist with his very good transitions. He has solid deep speed, but that is not his strength.
He possesses NFL quickness, which is essential for slot defenders. He has a low, squatty type of stance and has active hands despite only being marginal in press/jam situations due to shorter arms. He plays with exceptional competitive toughness and was a team leader for the Huskies. A true competitor and a guy you want in your locker room.
He has elite mental processing ability and does an excellent job seeing the field, reacting to what he sees, and executing his assignments. According to SIS, he allowed 17 receptions on 22 catchable targets in 2019 while playing zone coverage with a quarterback rating of 31.2, 3 interceptions, and three passes defended.
Allowed 14 receptions on 26 catchable targets while surrendering a quarterback rating of 87.6, along with eight passes defended while in man coverage in 2019. With that said, he had the 2nd best coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus in 2019. Was able to hold opposing quarterbacks to a quarterback rating of 28.1 in 2020.
He does an excellent job mirroring receivers in the slot, staying in phase (right in the hip pocket), and using his hands just enough not to get flagged. Good transitions with his footwork and hips, and does a good job coming off of assignments and attacking down low in man and zone when it is warranted.
He has incredible eye discipline in zone coverage. He does a very good job reading the quarterback and route concepts and attacking aggressively through his targets. He is very disruptive at the catch point and is a reactionary player who doesn’t miss much on the field. Click & close ability downhill is good as well. He has very good ball skills and does a good job getting his hands on the football.
He’s very physical with his tackles but can get a bit reckless when he doesn’t square up (when he tries to deliver the boom). He takes solid angles to the ball carriers and did a solid job cutting angles off from single high/C3 middle of the field closed defenses.
Solid in run support but could stand to clean up some technical issues with his tackling form. Plays with good play strength, despite his lack of size. Overall, Molden is a player that coaches love to have on their teams. He can slide into the NFL and start in the slot while also being a versatile second-level defender who can execute safety roles.
Molden is one of the more versatile defensive backs in the draft class. He can play on the outside, in the slot or as a safety. His experience at Washington allowed him to get experience in all of these areas. Molden’s best fit might be as a nickel/safety hybrid because of his height and length.
His awareness and instincts are what sets Molden apart from other draft prospects in this class. He uses his eyes to read what the quarterback will do with the ball and reacts quickly to defend it better. His reads start pre-snap and then he also does a good job of showing that he recognizes route concepts and what receivers will do on a given play.
He is a physical player who isn’t afraid of contact despite his small stature. Molden is a sure-tackler who looks to hit hard. He will not let many players break his tackles and even gets the better out of a lot of his hits. This physicality and tackling helps him to be an asset against the run as well as against the pass.
His size will be the first thing brought up about Molden as far as weaknesses are concerned. He is on the shorter side for corners as he is 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds. To go with that, he has shorter arms than most at the position at 29.5 inches. He plays bigger than his measurables, but bigger receivers can still get the better of him at times.
Molden also isn’t the most athletic cornerback. He moves decently, but doesn’t have great speed. He can get burned by faster receivers and struggles to mirror what receivers are doing at times due to his lack of agility. His tight hips come into play here as well, which makes it harder for him to change direction.
While his physicality is a good thing, it also can go too far. When he is in coverage, Molden can be too grabby down the field to try and keep up with faster or bigger wide receivers. He will get called for way more pass interference penalties at the next level if he doesn’t trust his coverage more.
Projected Draft Range: Second Round Pick-Fourth Round Pick