Woolen is an unreal athlete that is explosive and springy. He’s a taller defensive back with high hips, and while it sometimes doesn’t appear he is moving quickly, he eats up ground in a hurry. His recovery speed increases his margin for error.
His picture is in the dictionary next to "length".
Woolen has rare length and it mostly shows up right now in press coverage, but as he develops, he should be a major asset as a tackler and when making plays on the ball. He is tall with exceptionally long arms. Zone coverage-heavy teams will love his length in coverage and how difficult it will be for quarterbacks to slot throws.
Two years of experience on the defensive side of the ball leaves plenty of room to grow.
It’s clear that Woolen is still new to playing in the secondary and he’s still developing his comfort, especially when he has to turn his back to the line of scrimmage. He has some technique and fundamentals issues to shore up when it comes to tackling, playing off blocks, and in press coverage where his sequencing is inconsistent.
After a standout athletic career in high school that saw him play football, basketball, and run track, Tariq Woolen went to UTSA to play wide receiver—where he spent his first three seasons. Late in the 2019 campaign, Woolen converted to cornerback and proceeded to start for the Roadrunners in 2020 and 2021. While the newness to playing defense is clear when watching him play, so are his rare physical gifts.
Woolen brings a unique blend of size, length, and athleticism to the table and offers an extremely high ceiling. He has the makings of a dynamic zone corner that can make plays on the ball, tackle, and situationally play press coverage, where he already shows a willingness to crowd releases and cap routes. When it comes to weaknesses, it’s all about gaining more time on task to develop his coverage instincts and find more comfort playing off contact and tackling. He has to develop his technique and fundamentals, but the good news is he isn’t lacking anything in terms of physical gifts. Woolen may not offer much in year one but with development, he has all the tools necessary to develop into an impact playmaker.
Ideal Role: Developmental outside corner
Scheme Fit: Zone, situational press
Written by Joe Marino
Games watched: BYU (2020), North Texas (2020), Illinois (2021), Western Kentucky (2021), Western Kentucky CCG (2021)
Best Game Studied: Illinois (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Western Kentucky CCG (2021)
Man Coverage Skills: Woolen’s best work in man coverage comes when he’s able to play up on the line of scrimmage and crowd the receivers’ release. He has terrific length and balance which leads to him frequently swallowing up routes early, placing the cap, and taking them off the menu for that rep. He has terrific recovery speed down the field but his pattern-matching skills are still a work in progress.
Zone Coverage Skills: Woolen projects well to zone coverage given his length, closing speed, and background at wide receiver, which helps him drive forward and play the football. With that said, he is still new to the concept so consistency with landmarks, adjusting, squeezing routes, and anticipation are a work in progress. He should have a ton of appeal for zone-heavy defenses that situationally play press.
Ball Skills: Woolen is a converted wide receiver so he has plenty of experience making plays on the ball, but doing so while playing coverage is still something he’s developing. My exposures did reveal some meat left on the bone for him to get his head around and make a play on the ball with his back to the line of scrimmage. He is much more natural playing forward when driving on the ball.
Tackling: Woolen is absolutely a willing tackler but it can be an adventure as he clearly does not have the fundamentals down. His inconsistency as a finisher is rooted in his inconsistency playing off contact and getting himself in good position to tackle. He has to play with better control and take better angles to find the necessary consistency.
Versatility: Woolen projects as an outside corner with little appeal in the slot but I can be convinced that his best position could come at safety in the NFL. He enters the NFL with only a modest amount of experience on special teams in college. Woolen did play both the left and right side in college but rarely in the slot or as a deep safety.
Competitive Toughness: A former offensive player, I had some level of concern with how physical he would be but it’s obvious that he is willing to tackle and play off blocks, but he has to clean up his fundamentals to be more consistent. He’s aggressive and competitive in press coverage with his willingness to crowd the release.
Functional Athleticism: See Above.
Football IQ: See Above.
Run Defending: Woolen has all of the physical traits and temperament to be an outstanding run defender but he isn’t there yet. He doesn’t have comfort yet fitting the run and tackling with consistency. There are too many missed tackles and too many times he’s not in a good position to make plays.
Length: See Above.
TDN Consensus: 80.42/100 (Second Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 80.50/100
Marino Grade: 81.00/100
Harris Grade: 80.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 81.00/100
Weissman Grade: 80.00/100
Parson Grade: 80.00/100