Earlier this week I focused in on offensive lineman Tristen Hoge and Kenny Yeboah, you can read those pieces by clicking their names, today I turn my attention to 5th round selection Jason Pinnock, a cornerback from the University of Pittsburgh.
Pinnock grew up in Connecticut as a huge Jets fan, and considering his position and the team he followed, it will come as no surprise that his favourite player was Darrelle Revis, the Jets first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Jason attended Windsor High School playing as both a wide receiver and a defensive back. He finished his senior season with 1,172 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. He also returned two fumbles for a score and one interception, so it’s safe to say he was no stranger to the end-zone.
As a 6’1, 190lb cornerback, Pinnock received interest from several top schools. He originally verbally committed to Boston College, before re-opening his recruitment and taking a visit to Pittsburgh. A day later he committed to the school of his idol and closed his recruitment. There were rumors at the time that Notre Dame were heavily interested and I’ve seen reports which state they tried to flip Pinnock’s commitment by offering him a full scholarship a month before signing day.
Jason appeared in 10 games in 2017 for the Panthers, mainly serving on special teams and as a backup CB, totaling 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup and recovering a forced fumble for a touchdown against Oklahoma State.
However, it wasn’t until 2018 that we truly started to see the talent that Pinnock possessed. Before the season Head Coach Pat Narduzzi hired Randy Bates to head up the defense, in part to try and improve their pass defense which was ranked 106th in the nation in 2017.
Pinnock appeared in 13 games and started 6. Pinnock at 6’1 was the biggest corner on the Panthers roster and as such he handled some difficult assignments through the season, which included limiting Syracuse’s 6’5 receiver Jamal Custis and lining up against Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin. Rather than shy away from it, Pinnock embraced the challenge:
“That’s what I was recruited for,” Pinnock said Tuesday, “a big corner to just take away their biggest target. … Everybody around here knows I embrace it. I love it. I tell Coach Bates every week, just put me on their biggest guy, or main target.”
Pittsburgh would narrowly lose that game to the #5 ranked and undefeated Fighting Irish by 19-14, but Pinnock flashed and came down with his first college interception. Overall he enjoyed a good season with 15 tackles, 2 for a loss, 1 sack, 8 passes defended and 2 interceptions.
His 2019 campaign was interrupted by injuries as he missed three games, but he continued to play inside and out and flashed his ability to make plays on the football. In the end, he appeared in 10 games, recording 16 tackles with 0.5 for a loss, 8 pass defenses, and 1 interception. Pinnock did move around in Bates defense and took everything asked of him in his stride:
“To me, [playing inside] didn’t change much,” Pinnock said. “To me, as a corner, if you’re in front of me, I need to take you out the game. Whether I’m in the slot or out wide, that’s what I try to do.”
In 2020 Pinnock finally got the chance to start outside in Pitts base defense and it’s important to remember that it was his 3rd year working under defensive coordinator Randy Bates.
Having been given the chance to start, Pinnock again flashed his ball skills by leading the team in interceptions (3) to go with 8 pass defenses. It was a noticeable improvement for Jason as he showcased his length and physicality throughout the season, gaining a reputation as one of those corners you just don’t want to go up against snap after snap.
One of the best aspects of attending Pitt is that they share a lot of the same facilities with the Steelers. And in a recent path to the draft interview, Pinnock revealed that players and coaches from the Steelers were always willing to offer insight and advice and Jason enjoyed chats with Mike Tomlin and got the chance to pick his brain on concept and technical questions.
However, Pinnock did put up a very impressive pro-day performance which likely grabbed the attention of many evaluators. He put up a 4.52 forty-yard dash, as well as posting a 39.5 vertical which would have ranked 3rd at the 2020 combine for cornerbacks. He has the speed, but it doesn’t always translate. He has the ball-skills which do translate, and that will be what appealed to the Jets, along with his physical nature both when defending the pass and the run. He flips his hips nicely, and shows a good feel for the position, in the 5th round he’s an interesting development prospect because of his size and length.
If Robert Saleh is going to bring some press-man coverage to the Jets, he'll need players like Pinnock who excel with getting their hands on opponents and disrupting them off the line. Pinnock was a corner who played a ton of man-to-man at Pitt and was asked to follow some of the toughest receivers around the field.
Pinnock also flashed as an elite red-zone defender. In fact, since 2019 only LSU's Derek Stingley JR has forced more incompletions (7) in the red-zone than Jason (6), and many expect Stingley to go high in the first round next season. Pinnock also allowed the lowest completion % into his coverage (30%) of any cornerback in college football in 2020, and that includes the likes of Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn.
When asked what separates him from the other corners in the draft, pinnock says that's he's a "ballhawk, and when the balls in the air, they (HC) should be getting the offense ready" promising that the best is yet to come. He speaks of his versatility having played from nickle against some of the fastest receivers in the game, while also matching up with some of the biggest on the outside. He lined up at outside linebacker at points in what Pitt call their "Delta" packages which allowed him to blitz off the edge.
Now reading these words, you may think it's arrogance, but it's pure confidence. Jason comes across in interviews really well, a level-headed and mature guy who just knows what he wants and what he needs to do to get there.
I don't know about you but I find that pretty impressive. Whatever way you want to look at it, Jason has been one of the best lockdown corners in college football in recent years. The advanced statistics prove that to be the case, and maybe just maybe the Jets have taken advantage by being able to select him in the 5th round. When asked in a recent interview the cornerbacks he studied, he chose Revis and fellow 5th round selection Richard Sherman, you never know, when all is said and done they may be playing on the same team come September.
Over on Twitter, I’m giving fans the chance to vote on which prospect is covered next, so if you want your say, head over and VOTE HERE.