Seahawks Fifth-Round CB Tariq Woolen Would Make 31 Other Teams Look Silly By Winning DROY

Oct 9, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen (27) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) going to wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (10) during the second half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen (27) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) going to wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (10) during the second half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

Tariq Woolen is becoming a household name at a rapid pace. The Seattle Seahawks selected the former UTSA Roadrunner in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft; Woolen is making a case to win the DROY award.

High School Recruiting Days

Tariq Woolen was once a three-star wide receiver from Arlington Heights High School. Every scholarship offer that Woolen received was from a program in the Lone Star State.

Woolen passed on the chance to play for Baylor and Houston, instead opting to attend UTSA. He hoped to see immediate playing time, but this did not come to fruition as Woolen redshirted the 2017 season.

Tariq Woolen Starts UTSA Career At Wide Receiver

In 2018, the redshirt freshman appeared in 12 games, starting three at wide receiver. Woolen’s freshman stat line is nothing crazy; he caught 15 passes for 158 yards and a single touchdown, which came in the season finale.

Woolen entered the 2019 campaign still on the offensive side of the ball. Due to injuries and a lack of reps at wide receiver, a member of the UTSA coaching staff floated the idea of Woolen flipping sides.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound athletic marvel was initially against the move, but he soon came around to the proposal. Woolen appeared at cornerback for the final few games of his redshirt sophomore season.

Tariq Woolen Flips To The Defensive Side

The 2019 season was essentially a trial run for Tariq Woolen at cornerback. The youngster mostly spent the time on-field getting a feel for the game as a defender.

In 2020, Woolen started seven games at cornerback for the Roadrunners. The newly-turned defensive back struggled mightily for much of the season. The biggest reason: Woolen still possessed wide receiver tendencies.

Woolen was susceptible to being caught out of position due to guessing routes rather than playing his man/the football. The lanky defender also had a bad habit of getting “grabby” while in man coverage, resulting in some killer penalties.

Still, Woolen flashed enough plays like this that made me a believer. With a cast on his right arm, Woolen intercepted a pass against Middle Tennessee.

In 2021, Woolen still was sloppy in some areas, but it was clear after a few games that he made massive strides in the offseason. While the nuances of the position were still lacking, Woolen began using his athleticism to cover up deficiencies in technique.

Woolen started nine games in his final season with the UTSA Roadrunners. The raw statistics matched his previous campaign, but the film showed the true results of his offseason regimen.

The Texas native led UTSA to a program-record 12 victories in 2021. Before this, the Roadrunners never won more than eight games in their 12-year history.

Process Leading Up To 2022 NFL Draft

Woolen parlayed a successful college career into invites to the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He ultimately attended the Senior Bowl, arguably the best decision he would ever make.

During the week in Mobile, Woolen battled the best of the best in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Woolen looked a bit overmatched to start the week but similar to his trajectory with UTSA, he steadily improved each day.

The fastest speed recorded at the event was 22.45 mph, setting a record for the Senior Bowl. Tariq Woolen is the proud owner of that accolade. The jaw-dropping Senior Bowl performance was just an appetizer for the NFL Draft community.

When Woolen arrived at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, I claimed he was the single best athlete at the event. A bold claim due to the sheer amount of talent present, but one that Woolen backed up when he lined up for the 40-yard dash.

Woolen blazed a mind-blowing 4.26 40-yard dash. A 6-foot-four, 205-pound cornerback should NEVER be able to move as fluidly as Woolen does. As a result, the buzz began to surround his name as the NFL Draft drew near.

Ultimately, the NFL viewed Tariq Woolen as too raw of a prospect to be taken on the first two days of the draft. Woolen earned a top-25 ranking from me heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, so I was hooked to the television to see who would end up with the biggest steal.

Seattle Seahawks Get Steal Of The 2022 NFL Draft By Selecting CB Tariq Woolen At No. 159 Overall

At No. 153 overall, Woolen’s long wait was finally over. Seahawks general manager John Schneider took the gifted cornerback and added him to an organization with a strong track record of developing defensive backs. Woolen became only the fourth NFL Draft pick in UTSA history, joining Marcus Davenport, Spencer Burford, and David Morgan II.

It took no time for Tariq Woolen to make waves at Seahawks’ training camp. His length, athleticism, and braggadocios personality quickly stood out in one-on-one and team drills.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll stated early on that Woolen would be a special football player with hard work. The fifth-round pick heeded that statement and worked his butt off, earning a starting role heading into the 2022 regular season.

Tariq Woolen looks like a bonafide superstar in his first seven games as a rookie. The penalties are still there, but every time he commits one, Woolen seems to learn from it. Each week he has improved on getting his head turned around on deep throws.

Woolen went without an interception in the first two weeks, but each of the last four contests has seen the UTSA product come away with a pick. One of those interceptions resulted in a pick-six against the Detroit Lions. Here are all of the interceptions:

Week 3 vs. Falcons

Week 4 vs. Lions

Week 5 vs. Saints

Week 6 vs. Cardinals

Impressively, Woolen’s nose for the football transcends to other areas. He has recovered two fumbles, bringing his total turnovers to six through six games; some unprecedented production for a rookie.

Seahawks legend Richard Sherman has heaped praise at the feet of the rookie. Sherman was a fifth-round draft pick back in 2012, so there is no doubt he sees some of himself in Woolen. Sherman stamped Woolen as “next up” earlier this season.

Aside from quarterback, the cornerback position is the most difficult position in the NFL. Players are at such a disadvantage, so it takes a special kind of talent to be able to not only survive at cornerback but thrive. Only eight cornerbacks have won DROY since the award came into existence in 1967.

Tariq Woolen Near Top Of DROY Rankings

I’ll never call a player the “next Deion Sanders”, but the similarities are present between these two. The overall package of speed, athleticism, confidence, and instant success as a rookie is something that only Deion can match.

Sanders didn’t win the DROY award but he intercepted five passes as a rookie and became a superstar for the Atlanta Falcons immediately upon being drafted. Woolen is on the way to eclipsing those, as he already boasts four interceptions with 11 games still remaining. To add to his resume, Woolen currently allows a sub-40 passed rating.

He will never be Deion Sanders because that is a one-of-one personality. However, the fifth-round pick has shown that he has the potential to be the closest thing we will ever see to Prime Time at cornerback.

Tariq Woolen is at the top of the list for the DROY award, and even if everyone else is shocked, I assure you that he is not. He is looking to become the first ever Seahawk to win DROY.