Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 32: TCU CB Jeff Gladney

Eric Edholm
·8 min read
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

32. TCU CB Jeff Gladney

5-foot-10, 191 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.99 — starter potential

TL;DR scouting report: Feisty, aggressive and undersized corner who will upgrade a secondary, even with struggles vs. bigger receivers.

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Gladney was being wooed by the likes of North Texas, Rice, Tulsa and UTSA as a wide receiver before TCU became his choice. Gladney redshirted in 2015, then started eight of the 12 games he played in 2016, making 46 tackles and six pass breakups.

In 2017, Gladney played in 13 games (11 starts) and made 28 tackles, two interceptions (one run back for an 84-yard score) and five pass breakups, being named honorable mention All-Big 12. The next season, he was named second-team all-conference, with 41 tackles (four for losses), two interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

Then in 2019, Gladney bumped up to first-team All-Big 12 mention after posting 31 tackles (1.5 for loss), one interception and a conference-best 14 passes defended in 12 starts.

Gladney, who turns 24 years old in December, pulled out of the Senior Bowl with a sore knee but was able to compete at the NFL scouting combine (except for passing on the shuttle drills) and complete all the athletic testing drills and on-field work.

Upside: Highly competitive, physical and aggressive cover man. Feisty, scrappy and fearless — never backs down from a challenge. Takes pride in facing opponents’ best receiver, no matter their size or skill — often was asked to shut down WR1 and more often than not got the job done.

Plays bigger than his size. Tackles very well and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty — brings some pop to the party. Willing run supporter who fights through receivers’ blocks and does his job. Press-man skills — envelopes receivers at the line and reroutes effectively. Good arm length (31 7/8 inches). Knocks down receivers’ hands at the line and dictates the action. Reportedly squats 620 pounds, benches 400 and cleans 400.

Can turn and stick with vertical receivers. Fluid athleticism — explosiveness and flexibility are both plus traits. Good mirror skills with his foot quickness in man coverage — pitter-patter feet. Always seems to be around the ball, even on downfield passes.

Active hands — deflected more than one pass per game in college (43 in 42 contests). Allowed only 10 catches on 31 pass attempts in 10 games in 2019 outside of Baylor and Texas contests (see Downside for context of this statistic).

Pitched several shutouts — Oklahoma didn’t really even look his way in the second half (missed first half because of targeting call week prior). One of the best 2020 CB tapes we watched was Gladney’s 2018 game against Oklahoma State — allowed only one catch on 11 targets and deflected five passes. Received great weekly tests in practice past few years against TCU teammate, WR Jalen Reagor.

Shows some good zone instincts, too. Gives space to bait quarterbacks and closes fast. Good peripheral vision to spy receivers flooding his area and reacts quickly. Watch this play against Purdue where Gladney (No. 12) has his eyes in the backfield and immediately spots the flea flicker, turns, runs and makes the heads-up play to make the interception 15 yards downfield:

Gladney sees the flea flicker and reacts very well for the INT.
Gladney sees the flea flicker and reacts very well for the INT.

Extremely tough — played through pain and gave max effort on weekly basis. Bothered by a foot injury in the second half of the 2018 season but played some of his best ball at that point. Committed in the weight room. Accountable and mentally strong. Took young DBs under his wing past few seasons and was considered a team leader.

Downside: Size is prohibitive. Small tackling radius will show up at times. Ran disappointing 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds) after being timed in the 4.3s at TCU and might not quite have the makeup speed to recover when beat against NFL receivers. Also turned in shockingly slow 3-cone drill (7.26) that puts him in the bottom 10th percentile among all combine corners since 1999 — not what you want to see in a smaller corner.

Wasn’t able to contain bigger receivers such as Baylor’s Denzel Mims and Texas’ Collin Johnson — made plays against both but also gave up several passes in each matchup. Struggled to match their length and physicality — press coverage was just shrugged off at times. Also was stung a few times.

Watch here as the 6-foot-6 Johnson crosses Gladney’s face, executes a little swim move to get free and even breaks the tackle attempt:

Gladney has struggled with bigger receivers at times in college.
Gladney has struggled with bigger receivers at times in college.

Pushes the envelope for what is allowed, contact-wise. Flagged for seven penalties last season, including three pass interferences, one hold, one unsportsmanlike conduct and one targeting call that got him ejected from the Texas Tech game. Also had several more handsy plays where he could have been flagged but wasn’t. Can’t be so overt with it — gets grabby way downfield and won’t get away with that as consistently in the NFL.

Not much slot experience — only a handful of inside snaps per game. Hands are just OK — times up deflections well but should have come up with more picks on catchable passes. Still learning pattern recognition and will gamble unnecessarily, squatting hard on short stuff.

Best-suited destination: Any secondary looking to add a dose of toughness to its room would want Gladney on its roster. His size is always going to be a limiting factor against bigger matchups, but we still believe his best home in the NFL will be in an outside role, perhaps for a defense that plays a lot of two-deep (man and zone) coverage.

Among the teams we could see being interested in Gladney’s services include the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings.

Did you know: Gladney had started 29 consecutive games at TCU heading into the Horned Frogs’ matchup with Oklahoma State this past season. Then on the first snap of the game, Gladney was on the sideline and freshman Kee’yon Stewart got the start instead.

What happened? Discipline? Injury? Missing helmet?

No, it turns out that Gladney had a “uniform issue” that prevented him from being out there. He came in on the second defensive snap and played the rest of the way.

The officials deemed that Gladney’s undershirt beneath his uniform was too long. A few other TCU players had the same issue during that contest.

And in Gladney’s case, it cost him a chance to add to his impressive mark — of course, that streak was destined to fall eventually, as Gladney was hit with a targeting call three games later and would have to sit out the first half of the Oklahoma game.

They said it: “I feel like that’s the best corner in this draft. He’s very underrated, but ... that’s what made me the receiver I am today, just going up against him since I was a freshman. It’s good to go up against a great player every day.”

— Reagor on Gladney at the combine

Player comp: Jaire Alexander

Expected draft range: Top-40 pick, possibly even cracking the top 20

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

More from Yahoo Sports: