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NAME: Tariq Woolen
WEIGHT: 205 pounds
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Tariq Woolen attended Arlington Heights High School. Outside of football, he also played basketball and was a member of the track and field team in high school. In basketball, Woolen earned all-district honors. He was one of the team’s top pass catchers on the gridiron. As a senior, Woolen recorded a team-leading 31 receptions, 536 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. He earned first-team All-District 7-5A honors, as a result. Woolen chose to play college football at UTSA for the Roadrunners.
As a true freshman in 2017, Woolen took a redshirt before waiting to see game action the following season. He played 12 games and made three starts at wide receiver in 2018. Overall, he tallied 15 catches, 158 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. Woolen experienced a new challenge in 2019 as a redshirt sophomore. At the beginning of the year, he appeared in nine games and made three starts at wide receiver. Woolen did haul in nine passes for 105 receiving yards. Yet, he began the transition to cornerback in the final few weeks of that season.
Switch To Defense
That transition was fully completed by the start of the 2020 season. During that campaign, Woolen appeared in 11 games and started in seven contests at cornerback. He finished with 35 tackles, four pass breakups, 2.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, 1.5 sacks and one interception.
The 2021 season saw Woolen take a step further in his development at cornerback. For UTSA, he started in nine contests and registered 25 tackles, five pass breakups, 2.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and one interception. He would go on to earn an All-Conference USA honorable mention honor for 2021. Furthermore, Woolen and the Roadrunners defense forced 25 turnovers on the season, which ranked as the 10th most in the FBS for the year. Woolen also earned a spot on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List, highlighting his highly impressive athleticism. Finally, he competed at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Instead of listing positives and negatives for traits, this year we will be listing the best trait of each prospect and work our way down to the biggest area of improvement/absent trait(s), from top to bottom.
There is no denying the athleticism of Woolen, as it is easy to see why he landed on Feldman’s Freaks List. He is simply explosive in everything that he does. Though, it looks highly effortless for him. Given his long and tall frame, that is something that stands out. Other than his rare speed, Woolen provides tremendous recovery ability. This is due to a combination of smooth, nimble footwork and springy feet that he possesses. Elsewhere, Woolen sticks close to the receiver’s hip by taking long, wide strides. In the pass happy NFL, many teams will likely be willing to bet on this ultra-impressive athleticism.
Woolen is gifted with monumental length. As he continues to get more seasoning at the cornerback position, he feels rather comfortable when having to use this in press man coverage. He displays stiff, firm jabs at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Woolen can steer opposing receivers off their track and throw them off balance in those moments. He is also difficult for quarterbacks to face, when it comes to ball placement. Because of his mammoth length, Woolen forces passers to get the ball deep down the field and over his head. Short to intermediate routes are always in danger of being affected once he gets his arms in the throwing windows.
For a player who is still largely new to the cornerback position, Woolen can certainly exude commanding physicality. He noticeably plays assertive in man coverage reps. Rather than waiting for the opponent to make the first move or fake, Woolen quickly gets his hands on their chest and looks to continuously jab and hand-fight down the field. This is not something that appears to be as consistent in zone coverage. For instance, the instincts and timing is an area where Woolen will need to continue to improve moving forward. He is still willing to throw a shoulder around when jumping on routes. However, those chances can be extremely slim from game to game.
Man coverage is likely where Woolen appears more comfortable, as things currently stand. However, the gap between that and his zone coverage skills is not that large. He is fairly comfortable and confident in press man coverage situations, as mentioned earlier. Woolen mainly suffocates and crowds receivers at the line of scrimmage. He is also fluent when it comes to mirroring opponents in man coverage. The same thing could be said when Woolen is forced to flip his hips and turn to run down the field.
In zone coverage, his athleticism, length and closing burst is where he wins the most. He is still learning and growing when it comes to reading opposing receiver’s breaks. At the same time, Woolen can be a bit of a ball watcher while it is in the quarterback’s hands. He is forced to recover and find the receiver urgently, due to that. Other concepts like anticipation, taking adequate angles, maintaining sturdy body positioning and recognizing landmarks are still works in progress for Woolen.
Making plays on the football is something that Woolen is somewhat comfortable in. Given his background as a wide receiver, his hands and nose for the football are equally stout. He can still stand to add a more polished hand technique when playing both the ball and his man. Yet, there are a few items that stand out from Woolen when he is in coverage.
His ability to read the opponent’s eyes and hands made his timing at the catch point jump off the screen. For instance, he made many pass breakups by making those same reads and fared well when not getting his head turned around. On the flip side, Woolen improved on getting either underneath or over the top of the receiver, depending on the play call. This allowed the defender to take quicker tracks towards the football and jump into throwing lanes earlier.
Once again, the anticipation skills are something that Woolen is looking to grow further as he translates to the NFL. He can often be late in getting in and out of breaks. There is also a sense of occasional panic when Woolen is forced to go defend in the deeper portion of the field. In those instances, he appears to want to remain patient or wants to wait to make the first move against a receiver. Opposing pass catchers took advantage of that far too many times. Thus, Woolen can lose battles when it comes to leverage and body positioning. Other technique issues like sinking his hips, getting in and out of transitions and travelling laterally will be other areas where he could develop even more.
In terms of playing cornerback, Woolen is someone who will only appeal to outside cornerback tendencies. He just does not have the instincts or timing to handle a slot role. UTSA did allow him to play on both sides of the defensive formation. Nonetheless, he is strictly more relaxed when asked to press or when playing shallow zones. There could be some interest in teams to move him and test him out at the safety position as well. Perhaps, that is something that could happen down the line for Woolen, after he receives some more chances at cornerback.
The willingness and physicality is certainly there. But still, Woolen is still learning in all aspects when it comes to tackling. Finishing with superb technique or power can be hit or miss. As in most chances, Woolen can fail to execute a wrap up or struggles to get his weight on top of opponents. He is still learning how to take angles to the football. On top of that, the body control is something that must be cleaned up as he gets more playing time as an NFL cornerback.
The Kansas City Chiefs have not been averse to adding raw or developmental players at the cornerback position. Especially under this current regime, the Chiefs have taken chances on underdog type of players like Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton recently. They both eventually grew into starters for this defense. Possibly, someone like Tariq Woolen could enjoy a similar type of road in the NFL. Kansas City must continue to add as much bodies as they can to a secondary that is currently bare. Due to the weapons and quarterbacks on the opposing AFC West teams, more answers are needed at cornerback for the Chiefs. Woolen’s tantalizing athletic profile, size and physicality could pique the interest of Kansas City as they continue to reshuffle the roster.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout this spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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