Emmanuel Forbes is an exciting prospect and addition to the Commanders defense. While Washington was solid statistically from a yardage perspective last year, they ranked 27th in takeaways with just 14 (eight interceptions). Enter Forbes, who can help take the defense to another level. He is a top-tier athlete with elite speed and ball-hawking ability and has a solid understanding of route concepts that will allow him to win at the next level.
(You can see our pre-draft analysis of Forbes for additional background.)
Forbes has excellent ball skills as a cornerback and is a legitimate threat to turn quarterbacks over if the ball is in his range due to his catch radius and competitiveness at the catch point. His arm length is also very disruptive at the catch point, so he can contest most pass trajectories. Furthermore, Forbes's good body control and elite hands for a corner while showing the willingness to high point or fully extend outside his frame for catchable passes.
Forbes is good with his back to the quarterback because he can consistently turn his head around to find and track the football. He is patient and doesn't panic when the quarterback challenges him downfield. Forbes is just as good while facing the quarterback, too. Forbes shows good anticipation and very good hand timing to break up or contest passes. From an athletic standpoint, Forbes has top-tier burst and acceleration to break on underneath receivers quickly and also shows good football instincts at times, undercutting routes to beat receivers to the catch point.
Line of Scrimmage Skills
Forbes is most effective in soft-press situations because he has good lateral agility and foot quickness to react quickly to the receivers' inside/outside release. He also displays competitive toughness and football instincts near the sideline to squeeze receivers' operating space. Forbes can be impatient at the line of scrimmage in press and soft-press alignments by opening his hips too early during a receiver's route. However, what best helps Forbes in these instances is his recovery speed to get back to the hip of the receiver. Forbes's arm length is also problematic for receivers when steering receivers because he has good hand placement and timing to latch onto the receiver.
Forbes's mental processing and natural football instincts are best displayed in zone coverage. Forbes's bail technique is excellent due to his ability to effectively read the eyes of the quarterback while understanding the route concepts the offense is trying to attack him with. His click-and-close ability has created several big plays for the Bulldogs' defense or even shut down offensive plays in their entirety.
His processing allows him to operate effectively in various cover 2, 3, 4, and 6 zones. Forbes shows the necessary processing to play deep to short on high/low concepts. Forbes also shows good processing in cover two zones to protect safeties from honey-hole shots and has very good foot speed and quickness to quickly close throw windows for the quarterback. In cover 3 and 4, Forbes has the long speed to stay in phase with receivers on vertical stems.
Forbes is most effective in man coverage with safety help. In cover one or cover 2-man, Forbes doesn't forget where his safety help is and shows a good ability to maintain his leverage throughout the route. He has good use of hands to latch onto receivers early in the route and also has balance with solid functional strength to take on contact that allows him to hold his ground and stay in phase at the top of routes. Forbes also shows good mirroring ability at the top of routes with less physicality. From a vertical standpoint, his foot speed is top-tier, making him a tough defender to challenge downfield. While I believe Forbes is most effective with safety help, he can survive without help against full-speed routes such as crossers, overs, and fades.
The tackling discussion for Forbes should be more nuanced than it currently is. To start, Forbes is not being drafted to tackle or because he is a great tackler (and he is not). He was to cover and make plays in coverage.
With that being said, there are several ways in which Forbes is an effective tackler. He is good in open-field situations when smaller ball carriers haven't yet picked up downhill momentum and show the ability to wrap up at the point of contact as well. Forbes also shows the competitiveness and willingness to tackle bigger bodies, but again, when they do not have much downhill momentum or if their shoulders aren't squared up to him. Forbes will also deliver big blows when the ball carrier back is to him.
From a run support standpoint, he is solid as a force defender, maintaining the proper positioning to filter ball carriers back toward his help. He also has very good angles to chase down defenders and the foot speed to stop the big play.
Forbes is not a press/jam cornerback coming into the NFL. He has adequate strike timing and footwork to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage effectively. He can also lunge at times, which allows receivers to shoot his hands down and knock him off balance. Additionally, as we mentioned earlier, Forbes has the necessary recovery speed when he does get beat. However, receivers with above-average single or double-move releases with good foot quickness can threaten Forbes's hips, making him vulnerable on quick-timing COD routes (slants/digs/outs).
From off-man, Forbes sometimes can get manipulated when he anticipates vertical stems. Crafty route runners with good shake moves and quickness can defeat his leverage, causing him to struggle to stay in phase with them. Additionally, his lack of patience makes him susceptible to double moves, and he will need to continue developing his discipline.
From a tackling standpoint, Forbes has poor tempo and control at the point of contact when coming from depth to tackle smaller bodies on the first level and lacks the competitiveness to make the play in these situations. Additionally, he displays a marginal ability to bring down bigger bodies due to his technique. Forbes can get caught with his head down or even lunge with his shoulder allowing ball carriers to easily elude his tackle attempt.
Forbes is an excellent fit for what Jack Del Rio likes to do defensively. His defensive coordinator, Matt Brock, utilized a healthy balance of man and zone concepts such as cover 0, 1, 2/2-invert, 3, and 4. So Forbes has plenty of experience with coverage responsibilities as a deep and underneath defender, playing off, soft, and press. Forbes's mental processing is excellent, which makes him a top-tier zone cornerback. He was very good as a bail cornerback in college, and his concept recognition allows him to bait quarterbacks into making the wrong decision at that level. His athleticism, specifically his foot speed, and acceleration, makes him very difficult to challenge vertically because receivers struggle to stack and separate against him. While not as strong in man coverage, he can be above average on the next level. He will need to continue developing his technique, and more patience as receivers will be even quicker on the next level. Forbes will likely get more development as a press corner on the next level so that he can do more with his arm length.
As a tackler and in overall run support, he can be trusted in limited situations but not all. NFL offenses won't hesitate to run his way and test him early, just as they did on the college level. As a result, Forbes will need to show his physical toughness early on before it becomes a focal point in game plans throughout his rookie season or further. It might become a non-factor once he builds on his functional strength with NFL strength coaches.
58% of Forbes's career snaps with the Bulldogs came on the left side of the defense, where he aligned the most. For Washington, Kendall Fuller primarily aligned on the left side of the defense last season, while Benjamin St-Juste was primarily on the right side. I would assume Del Rio would not want to change his alignment if they don't want to risk a drop in his production. Del Rio primarily utilizes cover one, three, and four structures, so Forbes will not have a difficult transition due to his college experience. Additionally, Forbes’s elite athletic traits can make him an effective pre-snap disguise player for Del Rio while posing a legitimate threat to take the ball away post-snap when reaching his landmarks due to his ball skills.