When the Browns evaluated Martin Emerson Jr. 's tape from his three seasons at Mississippi State, one trait stood out in particular.
Length, and that can be applied in a couple ways.
Emerson is tall. At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, he's tied with A.J. Green as the tallest cornerback on the roster. He's a couple of inches taller and about 10 pounds heavier than Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II.
He also has a big wingspan — nearly 80 inches — and the benefits of that show up on film. Emerson uses his long arms to push receivers off their route near the line of scrimmage. The tactic can disrupt timing and throw off the connection the receiver has with the quarterback.
That ability was a core reason why the Browns drafted Emerson with their first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft in the third round at 68th overall. They believe it'll help him adjust to the NFL rather quickly, too.
"With somebody like Martin, (the receiver) is going to work the line of scrimmage toward you," coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday, "but even if they gained six inches, you maybe have 33 inches to go with your length to make them get around you and get you off your precision and timing."
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Those fractional benefits are evident on film, but not necessarily in his stats.
Emerson recorded one interception and 16 pass breakups in his three seasons with the Bulldogs. He had a career-high 11 pass breakups in 2020, but his best season might've been 2021, a year in which he only had three pass breakups. He was one of the top coverage corners in the SEC that season, earning an 89.6 coverage grade by Pro Football Focus, which ranked second among cornerbacks in the conference since 2020.
Good coverage usually means a quarterback isn't going to throw the ball to the receiver, which often counts as a successful play for the cornerback. Emerson excelled at that in his final season, and the Browns took notice.
"We do not strictly look at how many interceptions he had or how many pass breakups he had only," VP of Player Personnel Glenn Cook said after Emerson was drafted, "but you look at the full body of work, how he goes about covering, utilizing his instincts and all of the different components to being a DB."
Most mock draft projections didn't have the Browns taking a cornerback in the early rounds of the draft, let alone their first pick. They were already well-stocked at the position with Ward, Newsome, Green, Greedy Williams and Troy Hill, all players who largely performed well last season.
But a day after Emerson was picked, the Browns traded Hill to his former team, the Los Angeles Rams, for a 2023 fifth-round pick. Hill primarily played the slot position, so the Browns will need to find another player for the role.
Emerson could be a candidate, as well as Newsome, who occasionally slid over to the position in 2021.
"I think we have multiple guys who can fill that role and have filled that role," Stefanski said. "I think that's why we talk about versatility. If you're playing corner or you're playing safety, you're going to be trained to play in the slot or play our nickel position. I think we have multiple guys who can do that."
Regardless of where he fits, the Browns think they've found another long-term player for their cornerback room. If Emerson turns into the player they envision, they'll have three quality cornerbacks — Ward, who signed an extension through 2027 in April, Newsome and Emerson — all under contract for at least the next three years.
Emerson doesn't need to be rushed into finding a role, either. Time is on his and the Browns side, but the Browns believe he can eventually become an every-down player who can use his long arms and tall frame to win battles.
That's what they saw for three years from him at Mississippi State, and the third-round pick used on him suggests they're confident it'll translate over to Cleveland.