Finding fits for the Cincinnati Bengals: CB Caleb Farley

Rory-Joe Daniels
MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: Caleb Farley #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies celebrates with teammates against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: Caleb Farley #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies celebrates with teammates against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Despite his relative inexperience as a cornerback, Caleb Farley’s athletic upside makes him an exciting draft prospect. The Cincinnati Bengals have question marks at the position. Could Farley be the one to offer a solution?

The dynamic athlete arrived at Virginia Tech having played quarterback throughout his high school career. After redshirting his freshman year due to injury, Farley returned and in two years became one of the premier corners in the ACC. Despite opting-out of the 2020 season, there is plenty of first-round buzz surrounding him.

It was the 2019 season when Farley really convinced evaluators he had NFL talent. At 6’2, Farley is a difficult matchup. He is a freaky athlete despite his height. He posted 16 passes defended and four interceptions in his ten starts, but once again missing time at the end of the year due to back spasms.

Currently, it appears that Farley will be in a head-to-head contest with Alabama’s Patrick Surtain to be crowned CB1 in this draft cycle. Farley’s tape is more explosive, demonstrating his speed and physicality, but he lacks the smoothness of Surtain. That paired with Farley’s relative inexperience makes the discussion an interesting one.

How the draft analysts currently rank Caleb Farley

You could currently flip a coin to decide the position of Farley and Surtain on the main analysts’ rankings. Farley cracks the top 10 overall with the guys at The Draft Network, while Tony Pauline at PFN has Surtain ahead of Farley in his rankings.

His performances in 2019 earned him a PFF coverage grade of 90.5 and their analyst, Mike Renner, describes Farley as follows:

"He’s got the size and speed part of the position down pat and was pretty darn good at the coverage part when we last saw him in 2019. He allowed a passer rating of only 26.8 that season."

There is no doubting that Farley will have the physical traits to excel at the next level. With a commanding build, he is happy to mix it with bigger receivers. His straight-line speed means he is a difficult man to shake in coverage. Perhaps most importantly, he has a knack for generating turnovers.

The biggest concern for him will simply be a lack of experience. The ACC has been dominated by Clemson in recent years but outside of the Tigers, the level of competition hasn’t been fantastic. With only two years as a cornerback, it’s fair to ask whether Farley is able to be a day one starter at the next level.

Does Caleb Farley fit what the Bengals need in 2021?

The cornerback position should not be one of the Bengals’ key needs in the 2021 NFL Draft. That is, if they can come to an agreement with starting corner William Jackson III. Jackson had an excellent year for the Bengals, ranking in the top 20 of his position according to PFF.

The question will come down to if the Bengals value that production at the same level as the open market. Cincy has two major free-agent decisions to make with Jackson and edge rusher Carl Lawson. It feels like one will receive the franchise tag.

If Jackson is indeed tagged, then there needs to be an ascension plan. Trae Waynes and Jackson project to be the starting outside cornerbacks next year with Darius Phillips in the slot. Taking Farley in the first round would give the Bengals security to allow Jackson to leave in 2022.

Where should the Bengals target Caleb Farley in the draft?

The cornerback spot demands a premium in the NFL draft. The value of having top tier coverage backs means that it’s unlikely to see Farley and Surtain both fall outside of the top 10. That said, if the Bengals like both, then they could move back.

Trading the fifth pick to the likes of Carolina or Detroit, quarterback-needy teams, would bolster the Bengals draft haul. However, it’s a dangerous game to play.

This draft is strong in the defensive backfield. Cincinnati could address the need at the top of the second with a player like Eric Stokes out of Georgia. If they feel comfortable that Darius Phillips can assume one of the outside spots in the future, they may also add a slot corner. Someone like Appalachian State’s Shaun Jolly would likely be available on day 3.


Bengals fans will hope that drafting a cornerback with the fifth pick overall is unnecessary. It would mean that current starter William Jackson was staying put in the Queen City. If not, Farley projects to be a strong replacement but with bigger holes elsewhere, a Jackson extension and focusing their first-round pick on another position is preferable.

Next. Examining how Penei Sewell would fit with the Bengals. dark