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Arizona Cardinals select Rutgers CB Max Melton with the 43rd overall pick. Grade: A

The Cardinals are about as bereft of talent at cornerback as they are at most other positions on the roster, and in Rutgers’ Max Melton, they get a borderline first-round talent in the second round. Melton has a bit of work to do to stay in phase downfield, but he has all the athletic attributes to match and carry receivers wherever they go. A likely first-day starter, Melton might take a few lumps at first, but the playing profile says, “Starting island cornerback.”

Max Melton comes from an athletic family. His father Gary played wide receiver and running back at Rutgers from 1987-91, and his mother Vicky, competed on the Rutgers women’s basketball team from 1989-93. Melton’s older brother Bo also played for the Scarlet Knights, was selected in the seventh round of the 2022 draft by the Seattle Seahawks, and caught 18 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers last season.

Max Melton might have the highest profile in his family when all is said and done. A receiving and rushing star at Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City, Atlantic County, New Jersey, Melton chose Rutgers as an obvious family proposition, and had his best of four collegiate seasons in 2023. Then, he allowed 24 catches on 44 targets for 252 yards, 72 yards after the catch, three touchdowns, three interceptions, three pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 65.7.

The 5-foot-11, 187-pund Melton is a bit under the radar as an outside cornerback in this class, but the tape shows an instinctive match defender with great athletic attributes.

PLUSES

— Natural match-and-carry cornerback in any scheme — zone/man, press/off.

— Will run foot-for-foot with any receiver; Melton has a frenetic playing style, but he’s able to keep it under control for the most part.

— Gave Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka all kinds of hassles vs. Ohio State.

— Smooth in his transitions and backpedal, and has excellent ball skills for deflections and interceptions.

— Can handle choice routes and other option concepts from the slot.

— 4.39 40-yard dash shows up on the field, as does the 40½” vertical jump and the 136″ broad jump (all high-percentile)

— Melton can get from Point A to Point B in a hurry, and he’s explosive to the ball when he gets there.

MINUSES

— Tackling is… well, a work in progress. He’s not going to get through blockers, and his tackling style is more pestering than truly bothersome.

— Doesn’t really have a concept of run fits.

— Recovery speed is nice, but he’ll give receivers too much of a cushion at times, which he doesn’t need to do.

— More of a man coverage expert; he’ll occasionally get a bit lost in zone.

Melton is a fascinating prospect. As a pass defender, he’s as sticky as anyone in this class. As a run defender, he doesn’t really look like he wants to be out there at all. I’m not sure how much his NFL coaches will be able to develop that killer instinct. I’m also not sure how much it matters, because his tape against the pass tells an important series of stories.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire