Tre Tomlinson has looked like a draft steal for the Rams this preseason

Tre Tomlinson’s college resume was as good as any defensive back’s in the 2023 NFL draft. He won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top DB last year, he was a three-time first-team All-Big 12 selection, he was a 2022 first-team All-American and tied for fourth in the FBS with 15 pass breakups last season.

You might be wondering why he fell all the way to the sixth round, which is where the Rams scooped him up. The primary reason? He’s small.

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, he’s far from the biggest cornerback. But he plays much bigger than his listed size and that’s been on display through two preseason games so far. He looks like he might be the Rams’ next draft steal in the secondary, shining in coverage and as a tackler in his first two games.

His coverage numbers are particularly good. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s only allowed two receptions for a total of 16 yards on seven targets this preseason. He’s also broken up two passes in coverage and has given up a passer rating of 39.6 when targeted.

It’s only the preseason but those are some fantastic stats in his first two NFL games.

What’s especially impressive is the fact that he’s holding up on the outside and not just playing the slot – which is where you might expect a 5-foot-9 cornerback to line up. On this play against the Raiders, he stays in the receiver’s pocket and plays the ball perfectly to prevent a completion.

His awareness on this snap against the Chargers (and his former TCU teammate, Quentin Johnston) was excellent. It was third-and-12 and Tomlinson knew exactly where he was on the field, playing the route to the sticks and breaking on the pass and knocking it away from the receiver for an incompletion.

Later on in that same game, Tomlinson got another rep against Johnston on the outside. It was a go route to the 6-foot-4 receiver, who had 7 inches on the smaller cornerback. Tomlinson played it well, flipping his hips and running stride for stride with Johnston down the right sideline to force a difficult catch. The pass fell incomplete thanks to Tomlinson’s tight coverage.

Tomlinson’s coverage grade of 83.0 this preseason ranks 11th among all cornerbacks who have played at least 20% of the coverage snaps thus far. His two pass breakups are also tied for the third-most at the position.

The Rams know Cobie Durant and Ahkello Witherspoon will be two of their starting cornerbacks this season, but Tomlinson is making a strong case to be the third – especially considering he can play outside and allow Durant to remain in the slot, which is his best position.

Tomlinson is on his way to beating out Derion Kendrick and Robert Rochell at cornerback. There’s still one week of the preseason left, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the rookie out of TCU.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire