NFL supplemental draft sneak peak -- CB Sam Beal
It doesn't take long to notice Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal when popping in the tape.
The prototypically-built press corner wore jersey No. 1 (switching from 18) in his second season as a starter for the Broncos, often lining up just inches away from opposing receivers. Beal played so close -- and more importantly remained so close -- that it is clear he will be a more exciting prospect than usual for the 2018 NFL supplemental draft.
Beal applied for the second-chance draft after learning he would not be eligible for Western Michigan in 2018 because of academic reasons.
The 6-foot, 185-pounder uses his long arms to corral receivers off the line of scrimmage, limiting their ability to get a clean release and choking passing lanes as routes progress. Beal has light feet and loose hips, allowing him to change directions smoothly to effectively stick to the hip of receivers.
Beal showed patience and poise with the ball over the four games viewed (Michigan State-2017, Central Michigan-2017, Toledo-2017, Wisconsin-2016). He led the Broncos with 10 passes broken up last season, showing good timing and competitiveness on 50-50 balls. One area in which he (and many other defensive backs) can improve is his hands.
Beal turned just two of the 10 passes broken up a year ago into interceptions and dropped a pick late against Central Michigan. To be fair, the potential interception was complicated by the fact that it came in a steady rain and over his shoulder while running full speed.
Beal is competitive with receivers throughout the route, at times sneaking holds of cloth. He works to get off blocks in run support, showing the core strength and body control to slip free, as well as the courage to take out pulling guards. Beal could improve his consistency as a tackler. He is willing to lower a shoulder into ball-carriers to create a pop but needs to do a better job of extending his arms and wrapping up. He does show good speed and vision in his pursuit angles.
Scouts say Beal has no known off-field issues. He started 23 of 25 games for the Broncos the past two seasons for a Western Michigan program that has quietly churned out seven NFL draft picks the past three years, including playmaking wideout Corey Davis, who battled daily against Beal for two years and was selected No. 5 overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2017.
Beal's suspension from Western Michigan (and reason for jumping into the supplemental draft) was due to "academic credit shortcomings," head coach Tim Lester explained to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports.
"The bottom line is he was forced to make this decision," Lester said. "His GPA isn't bad. We did everything we could to try (to help him). We made sure we did everything in his best interest."
Lester is not just providing lip service to his former player. Western Michigan is holding a personal on-campus Pro Day for Beal on June 28, a courtesy not always provided to players in the supplemental draft.
Lester's comments -- both public and privately to scouts -- could play an important role in where Beal ultimately is drafted. Teams do not have the time to vet Beal or any other supplemental draft prospects the way they do players eligible for the traditional draft.
Beal's gifts are obvious. With a strong senior campaign, he might have warranted first-round consideration in the 2019 draft.
It will be harder to justify using this high of a pick in the supplemental draft, however.
The fact that there are so few trades this time of year -- and that no players have been selected in the supplemental draft since 2015 -- show just how loathe teams are to give up next year's draft picks at this point in the league calendar. And while every team in the league is looking for quality defensive backs, there is no getting around it, Beal dropped the ball, academically-speaking. The same inconsistency as a finisher also shows up occasionally as a tackler and with the ball in the air.
Further, teams know that it's more difficult for rookies to make an impact after getting selected in the supplemental draft, and therefore prospects often slip a round or two further in July than they might in April. Rookies throughout the league are finishing up OTAs and have a two-and-a-half month head start on Beal, Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander and any other prospects who will join the supplemental draft.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, I'm stamping a second-round grade on Beal, projecting him to be selected somewhere in this or the third round of the July 11 email-only supplemental draft. The winning team forfeits its same-round pick for the 2019 draft.