Over the next few weeks, the Broadway staff will be taking a closer look at prospects the Titans could look to target in the 2021 NFL Draft based on positional need.
Today I am looking at one of the most exciting defensive backs in this class: Washington’s Elijah Molden.
Games I watched: Stanford (2020), Oregon State (2020), California (2019).
Molden is an experienced player who heads to the NFL after playing in 36 career games at Washington. He has played behind and next to some pretty noteworthy defensive backs throughout his time as a Husky.
Molden recorded 153 tackles, 19 passes deflected, five interceptions and four forced fumbles in four seasons.
At 5-10 and 191 pounds, Molden mainly lined up at the nickel position in Washington’s 4-2-5, match-three defense. He also saw a lot of time as a safety. In Washington’s complex defense, a lot of the responsibilities fall on the nickel, which of course was Molden. He served as the team’s main communicator on the field in 2019 and 2020. This is a highly intelligent player who recognizes things pre-snap.
Molden told me this for The Draft Network earlier this month, when asked why he’s around the ball so often:
“I would point to my ability to recognize things pre-snap. I get a great read on the offense pre-snap. I always have a good feel for where they want to go with the ball. From there, it’s just about trusting in yourself and your technique to go make a play. You have to rely on your instincts.”
It’s easy to see on tape, where Molden’s instincts and ball skills jump off the screen. His ability to read an offense and get on his horse to click-and-close at the catch point is magnificent.
The film reveals a player that finds the football in a hurry and plays fast:
Molden is sticky in man coverage with good short-area agility. In zone, he’s very comfortable with pattern recognition and can use his instincts to bait QB’s to attempt throws they’ll later regret.
He simply doesn’t give up much in the passing game:
Molden is obviously undersized, but you wouldn’t know it based on how he tackles. He’s incredibly physical and willing to come downhill in the run game and make a play. I don’t have any concerns with his size when it comes to his ability to tackle because he loves to do it. In fact, Molden is such a good tackler, that I had to ask him about it:
“It’s part of the game. I can’t shy away from it. It’s weird because I’m evaluated as a cornerback or a safety, as one or the other, but I honestly don’t see myself that way. I don’t see myself as only a corner or as only a safety.
I see myself as a chess piece for the defense. Tackling is part of the game. I look forward to it. I welcome it. At the end of the day, making a tackle in the open field is one of the hardest things you can do as a football player. If you can do that, you can do everything else.”
Once again, that full interview can be found over at The Draft Network.
To summarize, Molden is a versatile chess piece that can move around the defense. He’s a terrific athlete that plays the game with a sense of urgency. He’s smart, physical and has terrific ball skills.
The obvious weakness here is something that Molden can’t control. He is undersized and some NFL teams won’t consider him capable of playing on the boundary. I wouldn’t rule it out due to his football IQ and overall competitiveness, but some teams will see Molden as a nickel cornerback due to his size limitations. That doesn’t mean he isn’t versatile. You can move Molden around the secondary and use him as a “match” type weapon, just like Washington did.
He also lacks great length, which could be an issue at the catch point. There will be instances in the NFL where his body can’t make the plays that his mind does.
Does he fit the Titans?
Absolutely. The Titans have a lot of question marks in the secondary following the releases of Malcolm Butler and Kenny Vaccaro. Add in the fact that Desmond King is an unrestricted free agent, and the Titans need to add multiple players to the secondary this offseason.
There are just a few defensive backs on this team right now that are guaranteed a roster spot in 2021. I expect to see a lot of new faces roaming the secondary next season, some of which could be first and second-year players.
Molden is going to be a damn good NFL player. You can move him around the secondary and take advantage of his rare instincts and ball skills.
He would be a great fit in Tennessee as they begin to retool the makeup of this group. He’s likely a late second or third-round pick this April. Anything past that would represent excellent value.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!