Jeff Okudah: 6’1”, 205 lbs. C.J. Henderson: 6’1”, 204 lbs. Kristian Fulton: 6’0”, 197 lbs.
The top cornerback prospects in the NFL draft this season share a common trait — size. Big, quick and athletic defenders, professional defensive backs tend to have specific physical traits.
Former Cal cornerback Traveon Beck does not share these traits. At 5’9” and 165 lbs., the Bears’ standout is considered by many scouts to be undersized. But what Beck lacks in size is made up in his coverage and tackling ability, as well as his specialty covering the slot.
Beck is a force to be reckoned with in open space. His ability to stay low and wide makes it difficult for receivers to get around him, as Beck has shown a knack for bringing down runners in one-on-one situations to force short gains or losses. Where most players would easily get beaten, Beck is able to use his low center of gravity and wrap up players regardless of the difference in size.
Beck’s coverage in the slot is also highly touted — he is considered one of the best nickelbacks in the country. While his small stature can make it difficult to get off blocks, his quickness can also allow him to get around them. Should he make an NFL roster, he’ll likely have to gain muscle mass in order to compete with large, athletic professional receivers.
The St. John Bosco alumnus was one of the best nickels in the Pac-12 during his junior season, allowing a passer rating of just 43.8 and 6.5 yards per catch when covering the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.
Beck played in all 13 games in 2018, including a memorable outing against USC in Los Angeles which saw him make a career-high six tackles and three pass breakups, as well as snagging one of his season’s three interceptions.
Only fellow NFL prospects Jaylinn Hawkins and Ashtyn Davis would finish with more for the blue and gold in 2018, as Beck made himself an integral part of a Cal defensive backs unit nicknamed the Takers. Trained by position coach Gerald Alexander, who has since taken charge of the Miami Dolphins defensive backs unit, Beck had high expectations heading into his senior season.
Those expectations were difficult to meet due to nagging injuries throughout the 2019 campaign. Beck only played in 10 games, but still registered 18 tackles, five pass breakups and one interception.
He may not get drafted, but the former Cal cornerback could be a prime candidate for a contract when all seven rounds are done in undrafted free agency. Nickelbacks are increasingly valued in today’s NFL and Beck’s specialization and work ethic could see him earn a spot on a roster after a Cal career where he played in 43 games and had 77 tackles, 14 defended passes and four interceptions.