Sometimes it’s a great thing when a player’s name isn’t mentioned much during a game.
This is especially true for guys on the offensive line or for a defensive back. Typically it means they’re just doing their job.
That’s somewhat what happened to Darrell Luter Jr. last season. It wasn’t often the ball was tossed in the direction of the South Alabama cornerback during the 2022 campaign. And for good reason.
Luter Jr. had a breakout junior season in 2021 where he finished with nine pass breakups — third in the FBS — and four interceptions. The numbers represent his lockdown defense in coverage, and because of this, quarterbacks avoided him last year. He finished his senior season with seven pass breakups and just one interception. But of course, that includes a lot fewer opportunities to make plays than he saw the year prior. Still, he earned a spot in the Senior Bowl.
Sometimes it’s a good thing to not be in the spotlight.
What Team Drafted Darrell Luter Jr.?
Darrell Luter Jr. was drafted by the 49ers in the 5th round with the No. 155 overall pick.
Darrell Luter Jr. Draft Profile
Luter Jr.’s emergence and his traits have landed him as one of the more intriguing corners in the draft.
One thing that immediately sticks out about Luter Jr. is his length. With his arms measuring 35-5/8 inches, he has some of the longest arms in the class. And even though he doesn’t look as big as he’s listed on paper, at 6-foot and 190 pounds, Luter Jr. is a decent-sized corner that can make an impact in the league and can still add some muscle.
Matched with his length, Luter Jr.’s instincts are ideal and help put him in position to make plays on the ball. This aligns with his ability to be a ball hawk and disrupt a play as he’s also excellent at using his length to attack and high-point a pass. His instincts and awareness fall in line with someone like Kenny Moore, while his ball skills and physique resemble someone like Darius Slay.
The Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native excels in zone coverage with his ability to track a large area of the field using said instincts and awareness. He can read the quarterback’s eyes well and has good IQ. He doesn’t have elite speed, so going against faster wideouts could stymie him in man coverage, but he’s still found plenty of success when lining up in man and doesn’t shy away from showing physicality with receivers on their release.
In both man and zone situations, Luter Jr. has been solid in mirroring and anticipating a receiver’s next move:
He has excellent footwork and breaks on the ball well. These help make up for the lack of speed, which may be Luter Jr.’s biggest weakness entering the draft. His tackling skills can also evolve, but have shown a step forward after logging 42 tackles last season compared to 20 during his junior year.
Right now, he’s probably an early Day 3 pick but has the chance to make a little bit of noise this week at the Combine.
Luter Jr. no doubt has the potential to be an NFL starter one day, but for now, could become a third- or fourth-corner on the depth chart. A team like the Lions or the Cardinals that like to play zone coverage and also need some depth at corner might be an ideal landing spot for Luter Jr. Those defenses both need some reinforcements.
Luter Jr.’s tools are all there. Between his length, his ball skills, and his instincts, there’s plenty to build on in the next step of his career.