Who is Blackmon?
Standing 5’11” out of USC, Minnesota elected to select Mehki Blackmon with their second pick in last April’s NFL Draft to help solidify their cornerback room. Blackmon comes into the league at 24-years old and has six years of college football experience under his belt at Colorado and USC. Racking up 143 total tackles, 24 pass defenses, 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 sack, Blackmon didn’t have a huge college career. That said, it was good enough to get selected in the third round of the draft. So, who is Mehki Blackmon? He’s Minnesota’s next top corner.
It’s no secret Minnesota had issues in the secondary last season and subsequently the front office overhauled the room. Off are guys such as Patrick Peterson, Cam Dantzler, and Chandon Sullivan and in comes Byron Murphy Jr, Joejuan Williams, and Mehki Blackmon. Add in sophomores Akalyeb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr alongside journeyman Tae Gowan and Kalon Barnes, amongst others, and there’s healthy competition this offseason. As the Vikings look for Minnesota’s next starting secondary group, there are plenty of names to take note of. For the former Trojan, he has a massive chance in front of him and could be the steal of the draft.
Taking a look, Blackmon as a player is a bit undersized for the league, just 178 lbs. Truly, he may need to bulk up a bit to secure a more dependable frame, but he goes hard. When describing Blackmon’s play, one word stands amongst the rest: Physical. He plays with a ruthless pursuit, willing to do a little bit of everything if called upon. As a corner, he plays best in man coverage but can play almost any coverage and is sticky with his defense. He will mostly line up on the perimeter but can play in the nickel. Occasionally, he gets beat. In those times, he has a tendency to commit penalties to try and make up for it. However, he does have natural instincts and athleticism to recover as well. His ball skills are impressive and his ability to make a play on a ball in the air is ideal. That said, bigger players sometimes smother him due to his size/frame, but he does play bigger than he is. As a run defender, he isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with a player in space. He will crash the pocket, chase down a ball carrier, and lower his shoulder if he needs to. As a whole, he’s versatile, physical, instinctual, and coachable, which will aid him at the next level.
Comparison and Outlook
Here’s the reality: Minnesota elected to take Blackmon over a handful of other players in the 2023 NFL Draft. Pair with this, they had already spent two picks on corners last year, brought in two bigger named free agents, and had some players in the wings already… but they chose Mehki. Flores and Kwesi evaluated the new incoming, defensive system and they noticed a missing piece? Blackmon. As a player, he comps really well to a slightly taller Jason Verrett. Both players have good footwork, fundamentals, and instincts but larger players do slightly torment them. That said, they both were versatile with a solid foundation and had good ball skills coming out of college. So, what can you expect out of Minnesota’s next top corner?
Blackmon has already had great reports out of training camp. Words such as toolsy, dominant, and competitive have accompanied his name this offseason. As Murphy Jr and Evans have seemed to be mainstays at the CB1 and CB2 spot, Blackmon has staked his claim as CB3. Initially held by Joejuan Williams, Blackmon has slowly taken over the role over the past few days and is running with the 1s. Flores has only spoken of Blackmon’s praises and as camp and preseason continues, expect to see more of Mehki Blackmon. Will he be CB1 by the end of the year? Probably not, but Blackmon has all the tools, athleticism, and ability to be Minnesota’s next top corner. As a prospect, I love all of what Mehki Blackmon is. With some coaching and development, I expect, in just a few years, to see this rookie in the same level of conversation as Xavier Rhodes was during his prime.