Rost: Rookie Coby Bryant comes to Seahawks plenty tested at CB
There were two names who dominated pre-draft coverage when it came to cornerbacks: LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. and Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Both were mocked to the Seahawks, a team that desperately needed an outside cornerback after losing starter D.J. Reed in free agency, though that was only the latest blow to a group that had faced instability since the departure of Richard Sherman.
Neither made it to pick nine, which was Seattle’s first-round selection.
Instead, the Seahawks found a potential answer at cornerback on Day 3. In the fourth round at pick 109, where Seattle ultimately selected him out of Cincinnati, was Coby Bryant.
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As is the case for any draft pick – though especially a Day 3 prospect – every selection is a gamble. Bryant could end up being a depth piece for a cornerback room that’s struggled with consistency, or the Seahawks could be hoping they’ve found an overlooked gem in a team captain who was a leader on a defense that led the nation in scoring, and who won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2021, an honor reserved for the best defensive back in college football.
Perhaps he fell to the fourth round because he lacked the unanimously praised ceiling of Stingley or his teammate Gardner, or because of the rare size-speed combination of more raw prospects – or, maybe he’s a special player who was simply overlooked by critics and overshadowed by teammates on a stellar Cincy defense.
Either way, Bryant (who, yes, was named after the late NBA Hall of Famer) sounds ready to enter the thick of competition. Despite the 105 picks that separated him from his highly-touted teammate, the former Bearcat didn’t lack confidence in his draft-day press conference, telling reporters he believed his ball skills to be the best in the class and issuing a correction to a question about his 40-time – that’s a 4.47, not a 4.48, mind you.
To be fair, he’s not without shades of humility, a good trait to carry into a year in which every rep must be earned by any player, first-round grade or not.
Now entering the second week of his NFL career after being drafted by Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, Bryant made that last part clear.
“The mindset is just head down and work,” Bryant told us on Seattle Sports’ Jake and Stacy when asked about transitioning from being a team captain to a rookie. “My ears are to the back, I’m ready to listen to anyone that provides positive information and things I can’t pick up on. I’m only a rookie. I haven’t played not one down of an NFL game yet, so I’m all ears. Like I said, just put my head down and work. Just earn respect from not only teammates, but from Mr. Schneider and Coach Carroll, as well. Just to earn respect from those guys would mean a lot.”
So smooth @CobyBryant8_ pic.twitter.com/HD5aH7pelx
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) May 7, 2022
Bryant will get plenty of work in a wide-open cornerback battle. A few returning veterans remain in the mix. There’s Sidney Jones, who played well in relief last year, and second-year player Tre Brown, who flashed promise before suffering a torn ACL. Competition also comes from his own draft class with fellow rookie Tariq Woolen, whose elite combination of size and speed produced eye-popping combine numbers.
Bryant doesn’t have that same size-speed combination, though he has good size and speed nonetheless to compliment a lengthier college résumé as a four-year starter. The most recent of those years brought a unique challenge playing opposite Gardner. Passers avoiding Gardner, who didn’t give up a touchdown in his college career, meant a lopsided share of targets against Bryant.
“I loved it,” Bryant said of the challenge. “I loved every bit of it. Sometimes I gave a couple passes up, which is going to happen playing corner, but it’s about the plays that you bounce back and make. That was the biggest thing and I feel like this year really challenged, and showed, my character.”
Bryant has already received a welcome from a handful of teammates, having connected with Seahawks safety Jamal Adams just prior to the combine, and having heard from both wide receiver Tyler Lockett and quarterback Geno Smith after draft day.
“The coaches, the atmosphere, the love around the city, the fans. I get all types of messages from the fans (saying) they’re excited to have me,” Bryant said. “It feels like I’m already welcome. But I still have a lot to prove and look forward to playing in front of the fans.”
Lightning round with Seahawks CB Coby Bryant
• Show you’re watching now: Ozark
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• Favorite restaurant: “Wasabi. It’s a hibachi place in Cleveland.”
• If you’re visiting friends at home for the weekend, tell us what you’re doing: Top Golf
Listen to the full Jake and Stacy interview with Bryant at this link or in the player below.
More Hawks draft profiles from Stacy Rost
• Kenneth Walker’s path from under-recruited to high draft pick
• A closer look at new franchise left tackle Charles Cross