There are very few athletes on the planet that can be mentioned in the same breath as Tariq Woolen. In this 2022 NFL Draft Profile, I highlight why Woolen is flying up boards.
Name – Tariq Woolen
Position – Cornerback
School – UT-San Antonio
DOB – May 2, 1999 (22 years old)
Height – 6’4”
Weight – 205 Pounds
Hand Size – 9 1/8”
Arm Size – 33 5/8”
Wingspan – 79”
40-Yard Dash – 4.26 Seconds
Vertical Jump – 42”
Tariq Woolen has been in Texas his entire life. He grew up in Fort Worth and attended Arlington Heights High School, a school in which Lee Harvey Oswald also graduated from. You didn’t expect to read that name when you clicked on this article, did you? Woolen was a standout wide receiver during his high school days, even earning three-stars and receiving a slew of offers from many Texas based colleges. He ultimately chose the University of Texas at San Antonio, becoming one of the highest rated recruits in Roadrunner history.
Woolen redshirted his first year on campus, and then played sparingly the following season as a wide receiver. Entering his redshirt sophomore season, he was slated into a role on offense yet again. However, three games into the campaign, they team conjured up a brilliant idea. With Woolen being buried on the depth chart at wide receiver, he decided to make the transition to cornerback for the first time in his life. In 2020, he assumed a full-time starting role on defense. Woolen made the most of his position change, showing an uncanny ability to mirror every move while gliding seamlessly downfield.
It wasn’t perfect, and there have been some growing pains, but to consider that it was his first ever attempt at chasing — rather than being chased — he proved to be better than the coaching staff could have ever expected. Woolen’s improvement followed him into his final season at UTSA. So much so, that he began catching the eye of national scouts. One of which being Senior Bowl Executive Director, Jim Nagy. After only two seasons at cornerback, Woolen showed up to Mobile and you’d have thought he played the position for years.
Woolen flashed his unparalleled athleticism and a surprisingly proficient technique in press-man coverage during Senior Bowl week. Not only that, he also won over many by never taking a snap off. Woolen showed zero fatigue at any point, and I’m not even sure he’s capable of being “tired”. He is always moving, always thinking, and always ready to bounce any which way. He parlayed an impressive showing there, with an even more impressive outing at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Woolen sent shockwaves through Lucas Oil Stadium, leaving everyone in shock that a guy with a 6’4, 205 pound frame could move that fast. His time (4.26 seconds) is good enough to put himself in a three-way tie for the fifth-best 40-yard dash time in Combine history. Fellow draft hopeful, Kalen Barnes, topped Woolen by a mere .03 seconds, but the major difference is that Barnes carries around 22 less pounds. Regardless, Woolen did plenty in Indianapolis to skyrocket his draft stock.
Now that we are caught up on how Woolen got to this point, let’s take a look at his collection of traits that simply does not come around often, let alone in the 2022 NFL Draft. I’ll also address the facets of his game that must be improved in order to have a productive career at the next level.
2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Speed – I know Tyreek Hill has the Cheetah name on lock, but there may be two cheetahs once Tariq Woolen hears his name called at the 2022 NFL Draft. Guys as big as Woolen is, should not be able to move around the way that he does. He not only has blinding straight-line speed, but he also is able to stop on a dime and re-accelerate without missing a beat. The term generational is thrown around like a hot potato these days, but what else do you call 4.2 speed from a 6’4, 205 pound individual?
Athleticism – Speed is not the only thing that Woolen possesses in droves. He can jump over anybody, as proven by his insane 42” vertical jump. In addition to that, the closing speed that Woolen uses to recover when defending a pass catcher downfield is what will give him the ability to start immediately. He’s still learning the ropes at the position, but when you have the ability to make up lost ground as easily as Woolen does, it masks a lot of deficiencies. His stellar range is yet another notch to add in his belt. There hasn’t been an athlete like this kid — maybe ever.
Mentality – As previously stated, Woolen used to be a wide receiver and the moxie that comes with it has stuck with him even after the position change. It is a major feather in the cap when a prospect believes in himself to such a degree that the confidence radiates from their body. It becomes infectious, and is enough to set the tone for an entire locker room. He’s not quite to the level of Sauce Gardner in this regard, but he is about as close as it comes.
Mirroring – Woolen looks like he knows what route the wide receiver is running before the wide receiver even knows himself. It is incredible when he lines up in press-coverage and is glued to the hip of his assignment all the way through the whistle. With his imposing frame, it makes life hard on quarterbacks’ when they try to fit the tight windows. Woolen rarely gets fooled, and even when he does, he is never out of a play.
Potential – So let’s get this straight. Woolen has 4.2 speed, a 42” vertical, ideal size for a shutdown cornerback, and a belief in himself that does not waver. Now factor in that he has only played the position for two full seasons, and just imagine with me what he could look like two years from now with proper NFL coaching? It is such a cliché to say “the sky is the limit” but sometimes clichés are the truth. It is scary to think of how far Woolen can continue climbing in the coming years, and it’ll be interesting to look back on the 2022 NFL Draft to remember this.
Experience – Pretty much every shortcoming that is present in Woolen’s game can be traced back to inexperience. There are certain instincts that he developed as a wide receiver, that hold him back a bit as a cornerback. For instance, there are times that it looks like he is the one running the route. This is a great trait to have, but it becomes harder to exploit as the talent level of the pass catchers’ rise. In the NFL, he will be susceptible to getting burnt if he continues to constantly try to jump passing lanes on every play. Think of the bad Trevon Diggs’ plays.
Technique – As I said in the previous section, technique can be traced back to his lack of reps at the position. Still, it needs to be said that his physical tendencies can be exploited in the NFL. Some receivers thrive at baiting younger players into holding and defensive pass interference penalties, and I could see this being an issue for Woolen early in his career. He has come a long way in a short amount of time, but he still has a long way to go before he’s polished into a diamond.
Tackling – Woolen is a willing tackler and can deliver a thunderous boom when he hits his target. The issue here is, sometimes he takes angles so poor that it impacts his ability to wrap the player up. You can tell that he spent the first ~20 years of his life on offense, because he still is getting used to being the one that does the tackling. A good NFL coaching staff should be able to correct this pretty quickly.
Tariq Woolen has been one of my favorite players in the 2022 NFL Draft, dating all the way back to pre-Senior Bowl. He is pound-for-pound the best athlete in a group of elite athletes, and is built in such a way that it makes you question if he’s actual a member of our species or not. Woolen spent the last two and a half seasons attempting to rid himself of his wide receiver tendencies. While he has made great strides, there is still a long way to go.
That being said, his blend of pure speed, agility, and a hunger to constantly improve is special. He is the type of guy that is not going to be satisfied until he gets every last ounce of his potential to the surface. Woolen is best suited for zone early in his career, but I would feel comfortable leaving him out on an island due to his otherworldly closing speed and ability to mirror as if he were a mime.
He is still not close to the player he can eventually be, and even with that being true, he still lays claim to a spot in my top-25 in the 2022 NFL Draft. The UTSA standout garners a first-round grade for me, and if that comes to fruition, he will join Marcus Davenport as the only day-one selections in school history.