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Scouting Jets cornerback Bryce Hall

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

With the draft now complete, we’ll be providing in-depth breakdowns of each of the Jets’ draft picks and undrafted free agents. We continue today with their fifth round pick - cornerback Bryce Hall.

The 22-year old is listed at 6’1” and 202 pounds and played college football at Virginia, where he was a second-team all-American in 2018. He suffered a serious ankle injury last season having entered the year with some draft analysts saying he had a chance to be a first round pick.

Background

Hall was a two-star recruit as a high school wide receiver and eventually accepted a scholarship with the Cavaliers having received only one other offer.

He was immediately converted to cornerback and thrown into the action during his freshman season as he started seven games and intercepted two passes.

In his sophomore and junior seasons, Hall was a full-time starter and he broke out in his junior year when he led the nation with 21 pass break-ups. He also posted career highs in tackles (62), tackles for loss (3.5) and sacks (two) on his way to being named a first-team all-ACC selection and a second-team all-American.

He ended his career with 39 starts in 42 games and totals of 154 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, five interceptions and 38 pass break-ups.

After deciding not to enter the NFL draft as an underclassman, Hall’s senior year was cut short when he injured his ankle. He was invited to the scouting combine but couldn’t do a full workout and this factored into him being available for the Jets with the 158th overall pick.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Hall brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

Hall has good size and length, but is only regarded as an average athlete with his 40-yard dash time estimated in the 4.5-to-4.6 range.

At the scouting combine, the only thing he was able to do was the bench press and he only managed to put up 11 reps.

During his injury rehab, Hall told reporters he had been working at trying to improve his explosiveness.

Usage

Hall played almost exclusively on the outside at Virginia, in a system where the cornerbacks usually - but not always - stuck to one side. He rarely played in the slot, but would drop off into a safety role if there was no receiver on his side of the field. He’s seen limited work covering tight ends.

As noted, Hall was a wide receiver in high school, but he did also play some defensive back.

Coverage skills

Hall’s coverage numbers were excellent in college, as he allowed a catch on less than 50 percent of his targets and never gave up a 50 yard play. He gave up seven touchdowns in his career, albeit never more than three in any one season, along with an average yards per catch of 13.

He is a long-striding cornerback who uses his impressive length to disrupt receivers and make a play on the ball.

He’s not regarded as having the best long speed, although on this play - where it looked like the safety may have been the one to screw up - Hall showed some good recovery speed to get back into the play and disrupt the underthrow.

His footwork isn’t bad for a player of his size and he looks balanced working in and out of his transitions, but there are times where he is a step late to react or shows limitations in terms of his hip flexibility as he turns to run with his man or changes direction.

Hall seems to be at his best when he can play off his man and keep everything in front of him. When he reads the action well, he can break on the ball and make some plays. However, when he doesn’t have help over the top, he will sometimes give his man too much of a cushion.

Ball skills

Hall’s statistics speak for themselves as he managed to rack up 38 pass break-ups in 39 career starts, including an NCAA-leading 21 in 2018. He has the ability to anticipate, break on the ball and use his long arms to disrupt.

Hall has good closing speed and makes some good reads in coverage, although he does gamble a lot and this could be something that NFL teams might look to exploit.

When running downfield, Hall seems to be adept at getting his head turned so he can make a play on the ball.

In his career, Hall only managed to intercept five passes and, despite being a former wide receiver, dropped a few opportunities. However, a few of the interceptions he did make saw him go after a 50-50 ball with a receiver’s natural aggressiveness. On this play, he shows quick reactions.

Tackling

Hall is a productive and willing tackler who racked up 154 tackles in four seasons at Virginia and forced two fumbles. He is capable of making some good hits and has good closing speed.

Over the course of his career, Hall has averaged several missed tackles each season, mainly because he has a habit of not always wrapping up.

Most of the tackles Hall missed in 2018 and 2019 didn’t prove to be particularly costly in terms of extra yardage gained, though.

Physicality

Hall plays with good competitiveness, especially when disrupting at the catch-point. On this play, Hall jostles for position and maintains inside leverage to end up with the interception.

Virginia’s defense mostly required Hall to play off the ball in his last two seasons, although he has played some press coverage at times. In this role, he’s pretty good at slowing his man up with the jam at the line, but can lose ground as he turns to run with him.

He had just eight penalties on defense during his four seasons, but did have three in six games in 2019, including two for pass interference.

As you can see from this play, he instinctively resorts to grabbing the receiver once he senses he’s been beaten.

Run defense

Despite playing on the outside, Hall will get involved in run defense and does a good job of keeping contain and finding his way to the ball.

On this play, he showcases both good discipline and reaction ability to blow up an option run.

There are times when Hall can get stuck on a block, but when he reads his keys he generally does a good job of navigating traffic and keeping himself clean, as he did on this game-clinching play.

Blitzing

Hall has said that he loves blitzing and it’s something he’s had some success with. In all, he’s recorded four sacks and averaged a pressure on one in every five pass rush attempts.

One of Hall’s two career forced fumbles came on a strip sack, although an offensive lineman fell on the loose ball.

Special teams

Despite his first round aspirations, Hall was blocking on the special teams unit when he suffered his ankle injury. He’s seen plenty of action with a couple of tackles on kick coverage units and three penalties in four years.

One area where he’s looked good is as the vice on the punt return unit. He does a good job of staying in front of his man in this role.

Hall hasn’t seen action as a punt gunner or as a return man. However, he has been on the field goal defense.

Instincts/Intelligence

Hall is regarded as having good instincts and a good football IQ. He actually suffers from ADD but has said in the past that this actually helps him to focus on reading his keys defensively.

On the field, Hall gambles a lot and often gets it right, leading to some excellent plays as he shows a good ability to read the game. Here’s one such play where his quick read enables him to get out ahead of the blocker.

This can, however, lead to him peeking into the backfield and losing his man in coverage. He can also be susceptible to a double-move.

Attitude

Like most of the Jets’ draft class, Hall has an outstanding reputation in regard to his character. He’s been described as a culture-builder, who will be a leader and display a good work ethic.

As an example, when he suffered his injury last season, Hall still participated in meetings, during which time he became more vocal.

He has a fiery on-field demeanor and will get fired up and react demonstratively after a big play.

Off the field, he has had no red flags and did plenty of work in the community while at Virginia.

Injuries

Hall’s injury was a really bad one, as he reportedly disclocated his ankle, fractured his fibula and tore ligaments. However, there was some suggestion he was working his way back to somewhere close to 100 percent during the pre-draft process.

The Jets have taken a flyer on a couple of injured defensive backs in recent years. So far, Blessuan Austin looks like he might be a good pick, whereas Jeremy Clark didn’t pan out.

Scheme Fit

Hall is best suited to a zone defense where he read and react. That’s where he’s at his best and this was something Virginia started to trend more towards as Hall was breaking out. When playing man-to-man he will need protection over the top.

This fits in with the pattern of the offseason so far which indicates the Jets are setting themselves up to be able to play a lot of zone in 2020 and beyond. Several of the other additions they’ve made have been players who are also better-suited to a zone defense.

Longer term, there’s been some suggestion that Hall might be suited to a move to free safety. While this is something that often gets suggested when a cornerback isn’t believe to have elite speed, it may be appropriate in this case because of Hall’s positional sense and ability to read and react.

Conclusions

Hall is a classic value pick in the fifth round. Clearly he fell to that spot because of concerns over his injury, but he has a lot of upside if he can make it back to 100 percent.

While the projection of Hall as a first round talent seems generous, he is a player whose abilities seemed well-suited to the system we’re expecting the Jets to run next season, so he has a good chance at being someone who can compete for a role.

In the shorter term, he has experience on special teams, which should mean he has an opportunity to earn himself a role with a view to getting some rotational work over the course of the season.