CFB Player in Focus: Can Martin Emerson Jr Crack the First ROund?

If you are hunting for an elite cornerback, the SEC isn’t a bad place to start. That’s particularly true this year. Derek Stingley, Kaiir Elam and Roger McCreary are frequently mentioned when discussing potential day 1 targets for the 2022 NFL Draft.


However, if you look a little closer, another name is beginning to move up draft boards. Mississippi State’s Martin Emerson Jr is what they call in the business a ‘riser’. Draft analyst Matt Miller had him in a recent first-round mock draft, and his name is well entrenched on early top-50 boards.

That said, he certainly doesn’t get the recognition of his peers that play at the biggest ‘brands’ in college football. Of course, the cornerback class is one of the deepest position groups in this draft cycle which further adds to why Emerson hasn’t come to the fore sooner.

Early Promise Followed By Sophomore Breakout

Emerson, a three-star recruit from Pensacola, had some interest from other major programs like Oregon and Miami, but he opted to become a Bulldog. Even as a freshman, Emerson was called into action. He started five games and appeared in a further eight.

However, it was his sophomore season that showcased his talent. Emerson was ranked as the seventh-best corner in the FBS by PFF, with a grade of 82.9. All this even though he was lining up across from the top talent in the country in SEC competition.


What Makes Emerson A First Round Talent?

So what makes Emerson one of the elite cornerbacks in the country? Well, first and foremost, his size will attract NFL scouts. At 6’2, Emerson is a long and athletic defender. In line with that, he plays with physicality almost to a fault. He does tend to get too ‘handsy’ and draw penalty flags.

Emerson has faced stellar opponents and was only targeted twice against Arkansas, where the Bulldogs managed to keep the elusive Treylon Burks under 100 yards receiving. Against Alabama, Emerson had a more difficult evening. He allowed Jameson Williams to flash across his face and accelerate away for a long touchdown grab.

While Emerson can handle one-on-one man coverage, he isn’t the finished product yet. He isn’t the twitchiest, sometimes being caught on his heels on comeback routes. You expect to lose some explosiveness at his size, but it will be interesting to see what his 40 time is, which will likely be critical to his draft standing.

Production is also an area that evaluators will hope to see a jump. Emerson has only recorded one interception this year, and despite that stat not being the be-all-and-end-all, NFL teams place a high value on playmakers who can supply takeaways.

Is Emerson Set To Shine In SEC Showdown?


Viewers in the UK will get an excellent opportunity to evaluate the Mississippi State prospect on Saturday evening as he faces Auburn in an early SEC showdown. The Tigers will lean heavily on their rushing attack of Tank Bigsby, Shaun Shivers and Jarquez Hunter.

That will be a good test for Emerson, who is likely to be called into action should they manage to break loose. His tackling is solid, in part, due to his size, although he sometimes whiffs by over-committing.

If the Bulldogs can keep Auburn’s rushing attack relatively quiet, it will force Bo Nix to attack them through the air. If that’s the case, then it will be interesting to see if he risks throwing in the direction of Emerson.

Can Martin Emerson Jr Be A First Round Selection?

The answer to the above question remains up in the air. On the opposing side this weekend, we will see Auburn’s Roger McCreary, who ranks as the number 1 corner in the country according to PFF. That juxtaposition will be intriguing to watch.

I currently have Emerson just outside of day one contention. He would fall in the tier just below the likes of Stingley, Booth, McCreary and Elam. However, his mouth-watering measurables will have NFL teams on alert. If he finishes the season strong and tests well, it would be no surprise to hear his name on the Thursday evening of the draft and not the Friday.

Feature Image Credit: Mississippi State Athletics.

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Rory-Joe Daniels

Cfb contributor

formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at