Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft starting on April 29th, we will be releasing several draft profiles of prospects who could potentially see themselves on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up…
Elijah Molden (Cornerback), Washington, Senior
Molden weighs in at 190lbs, standing at 5’10” and is one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the draft.
Elijah Molden was viewed as a 4-star recruit being an excellent defensive back and running back in high school, and was ranked as one of the premier recruits on the west coast. Similar to his father, Alex Molden, Elijah stayed out west but chose to play for the Huskies over his father’s alma mater Oregon. He will now continue his father’s legacy of being a defensive back in the NFL, but don’t be mistaken, Molden is not being drafted because of his name. After being one of the best slot corners in recent memory, Molden has proven that he knows how to play the game and do so at a high level. He has dabbled at safety, be it a very limited amount, so there might be some position versatility potential for him as well. Regardless how teams view him, he has the potential to immediately make in impact on just about any NFL defense.
- Ball skills are some of the best, shows the ability to play the ball in the air as good as anyone in the draft
- Willingness in run support
- Solid tackler who doesn’t miss often
- Good instincts, rarely hesitated to trust what he was seeing develop
- Coverage versatility having success in both man and zone coverages
- Quick feet
- Fluid hips making seamless turns and transitions moving in or out on breaks
- Hasn’t shown to be hurt by his size in coverage
- Shows good pre-snap diagnoses
- Gets off stock blocks quickly, even against larger wide receivers
- Violent hands at the catch point and at the top of routes
- NFL lineage
- Size, may limit his safety versatility
- Not elite long speed, has been beaten deep if he loses a step early
- Likely won’t be able to play in goal line situations
- Hip turns to carry vertically need to be faster due to lack of top end speed
- Might be too physical for the NFL in coverage, could draw too many flags early on
With the first few weeks of free agency coming and going, Steeler Nation has quickly realized cornerback is likely a rising need on the team, and Molden can possibly fill that void.
Man coverage, zone coverage, two deep, single high, etc., Molden has experience playing it. When in zone he does a good job keeping his eyes on the quarterback to see when to break on different throws, while also being able to see the guys who are entering and leaving his area. There have been few players able to get much separation against Molden, as he is physical at the line and has good foot quickness to stay with wide receivers in and out of breaks. As receivers get to the top of their routes, Molden is usually right there with them to make them uncomfortable and force them off of their spots. His quick hips lets him turn when his man tries to cross his face, and doesn’t allow much separation because of it. He does need to work on getting his hips around faster when receivers look to get vertical on him, but that wasn’t extremely often working in the slot.
Molden’s football IQ and instincts are his money makers. Whether it’s in zone or man coverage, he always seems to know when and where the ball is coming and getting there right as the ball arrives. He sees what is happening in front of him and reacts instantly wasting no time, which allows him to get to spots most defenders aren’t expected to be yet by the offense. Often times he is seen trying to bait QBs into poor decisions, and when they do make those decisions, he breaks on the ball quickly to either make the deflection or interception. Honestly I don’t feel there is much more to say here other than he checks all the boxes. Next.
Many would think that because of his size that Molden struggles in run support, but they would be wrong. Flip on the tape and he is consistently taking on blocks and making tackles on run plays and screens throughout every contest. He plays with good physicality that allows him to not get stuck on stock blocks, as well as fight through stiff arms of even larger ball carriers. He won’t be able to take tight ends or pulling lineman on 1-on-1 and win, but he won’t turn away and will work to find his way around them. He is also a solid tackler who doesn’t miss as often as a lot of smaller corners do. His ability to wrap and get the ball carrier down at his size stands out on tape. He does occasionally forget to break down when he is up to speed trying to get people down fast and hard which leads to some bad misses, but those are far and few between.
NFL Comparison – Tyrann Mathieu:
One of the best comparisons for Molden has to be Tyrann Mathieu. Both are smaller defensive backs with great instincts, ball skills, and isn’t going to shy away from being physical. This comparison has been thrown out by a lot in the draft community, and it is because it is a damn good one when you watch the tape. However, just lining up players like this in the same spot every play is likely wasting talent, so defensive coordinators need to get creative with their usage to maximize their skill set.
Draft Projection – 2nd Round:
Molden is likely just a nickel corner in the NFL, as he has shown limited tape playing outside or at safety on the back end. This will eliminate some teams who already have established players in that role, as well as teams that prefer larger nickel corners. If it was based on his football talent alone he would likely go in the first round, but I see him very firmly going in the middle of the 2nd round the way everything sits.
Let us know below what you think about Molden as a prospect, and let us know what other prospects you could be interested in seeing a profile on!