Vikings

Auburn's Nehemiah Pritchett Could Be the Answer For Minnesota's CB Room

Photo Credit: Jake Crandall via USA TODAY Sports

A lack of high-quality cornerback play has been a consistent issue during Kevin O’Connell’s tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. Byron Murphy signed a two-year, $17.5 million contract last year. However, the Vikings still have holes to fill in the secondary, and Auburn’s Nehemiah Pritchett is a quality Day 2 or 3 pick who could bolster Minnesota’s cornerback room.

Pritchett, who excelled in the SEC, is primarily an outside corner. In five years at Auburn, he totaled 115 tackles with three interceptions. He probably could have had more picks, but teams didn’t throw his way — a show of respect for any CB.

Brian Flores has drafted Auburn cornerbacks in the past. In 2020, when he was the Miami Dolphins head coach, he selected Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene in the first round.

Flores would value Pritchett’s versatility. Pritchett is reliable in both man and zone coverage. However, man coverage is his forte, especially when pressing.

Pritchett’s man coverage abilities would fit Flores’ scheme. Flores runs cover zero 11.5% of the time, compared to the league average of 4%. Flores could leave Pritchett on an island with little worry while blitzing the opposing quarterback.

Pritchett is 6’0”, 190 lbs., close to the ideal size for an NFL corner. He is also extremely lanky, with a 31 ⅝” wingspan. His length and range have been a huge asset, complementing his athleticism well.

In the clip below, Pritchett baits the quarterback into throwing an out route and uses his length and speed to close in and make a play on the ball, resulting in a crucial third-down stop.

Pritchett’s speed will also set him apart from the other cornerbacks in this class. At the combine, he posted a 4.36 40-yard dash, the fourth-fastest among cornerbacks.

Oh, and that speed on the running track translates directly to the gridiron.

Pritchett is also more physical and aggressive than some pundits give him credit for in their draft profiles. He can lay the boom when he needs to. He stopped Alabama’s Jalen Milroe, one of the most dynamic runners in the country, on a crucial third-down play to keep Auburn alive in the Iron Bowl.

As a handy bonus, he’s also a stud on special teams. Pritchett returned kicks in 2021 and consistently contributed meaningfully.

He also stood out at the Senior Bowl for his special teams’ contribution.

However, one of Pritchett’s biggest weaknesses is that he consistently backpedals too much. Although Pritchett is extremely fast and can normally make up for this, it became an issue when he played against NFL talent.

Projected first-round pick Malik Nabers took advantage of this backpedaling to create space:

However, given Pritchett’s skill in press coverage, NFL coaches may be able to fix this issue and encourage him to use his natural ability better in coverage.

Despite five years of experience in the SEC and a strong resumé, Pritchett sometimes gets overlooked because his teammate D.J. James is projected to be drafted earlier. Therefore, Pritchett often gets undervalued and overshadowed, which could help the Vikings land him.

Pritchett would be an excellent way for the Vikings to bolster their defense with a later-round pick. It is rare to get someone with his experience late in the draft, and they should take advantage of it to build out their secondary.

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