A closer look at the Vikings 4th round pick to play safety
The Vikings selected CB Camryn Bynum with the 125th pick of the NFL Draft. The Vikings acquired this pick during the draft last year, in a trade down with Chicago. Bynum was ranked 167th on The Athletic’s consensus big board, as the 16th ranked cornerback.
The Vikings intend to move Bynum to safety, however, where he’s better suited to play in the NFL. I like the approach the Vikings took to drafting a safety in this draft class, which was weak for true safeties, really from top to bottom.
Bynum fits at safety first of all because he’s a good run defender, which safeties need to be as the last line of defense. PFF called him perhaps the best run defending CB in the draft. His PFF run defense grade was 20 points higher than Trevon Moehrig’s, who was the top ranked safety in this year’s draft class. Bynum’s deficiencies as a cornerback in coverage were centered around not being as good in man coverage, and not having the quick hips and suddenness in that role. He also wasn’t that good in press coverage.
Those things don’t matter so much for a safety, who essentially plays zone coverage, where Bynum is better suited. He also has shown the instincts and football IQ needed for a safety in recognizing route combinations, etc.
Bynum’s athletic profile is that of a smaller version of Harrison Smith – about an inch and a half shorter and 17 pounds lighter – but with similar speed (4.58 vs 4.57), vertical jump, broad jump, and short shuttle measurements. His 3-cone was a bit worse (6.99 vs. 6.63).
I think the Vikings will look at him more at free safety than strong safety, although Zimmer wants his safeties to play both roles and be interchangeable for maximum flexibility.
College Grades and Stats
Bynum started all 42 games for Cal from 2017-20 at cornerback. He earned First Team All Pac-12 honors as a senior, Second Team All Pac-12 as a junior. He averaged about 3 tackles and 1.5 assists per game, and had a total of 8 TFLs, 6 INTs, and 28 passes defensed over his career at Cal.
Bynum earned his best grades as a run defender and in zone coverage, which sets him up well for a transition to safety.
Scouts rave about the personal character of Bynum, but concerns over his athletic ability and speed are very real. Despite his time as a press corner, his poor recovery speed and inability to match NFL receivers in man coverage will likely pigeonhole him into a zone-heavy scheme or force him to flip to safety. – Lance Zierlein
PROS: Bynum has played a lot of football — he’s credited with having started 38 consecutive games. He will be a 4-year starter this year (2020). Athletically, he is smooth and fluid when opening his hips. Does a good job of staying in phase in press and also when locating the football while his back is turned. A very instinctive defender in regard to route combinations. Does a good job of leveraging the football against the run on the edge, too. He’s shown very good tackling efficiency on the perimeter as an added bonus.
CONS: Skill-set suggests he’s an outside only corner, which somewhat limits his value. Finishing the rep with INTs is a bit more challenging from press for him — you’d ideally like to see him take the next step in order to get more turnovers. He’s not the most dynamic athlete and doesn’t have good long-speed; so some teams are going to struggle to profile him in regard to height/weight/speed. He also lacks good short area agility when mirroring in coverage, quick footed receivers will test him. – Drae Harris, The Draft Network
Positives: Four-year starter and two-time captain of the Cal football team. Tough, instinctive cornerback with terrific ball skills. Quick flipping his hips, loses nothing in transition, and rarely makes mental mistakes or gets beaten on the field. Plays heads-up football, possesses next-level ball skills and awareness, and displays excellent hands for the interception. Rarely challenged by opposing quarterbacks. Plays faster than his 40 time, takes proper angles, and gives effort defending the run. Squares and wraps up tackling.
Negatives: Struggles against larger pass catchers. Ran better than expected during pro day workouts but had the propensity of getting beat deep in college. Lack of deep speed will be an issue at the next level.
Analysis: Bynum was a terrific cornerback four years running at Cal and has the ball skills and instincts to start at the next level. He finished a terrific college career by performing well at the Senior Bowl and will be good value as Day 2 of the draft closes out.
There’s a lot to like in Camryn Bynum’s game. On the surface, he’s one of the more under-the-radar cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, on tape, he flashes a lot of the necessary traits to be an eventual starter, and a versatile one at that.
Bynum’s athletic profile is solid. He stands just above 6 feet tall with decent length and density. For his size, Bynum also possesses good functional athleticism. He’s very fluid when transitioning his hips, and he shows flashes of impressive explosiveness when coming downhill. Additionally, he tracks most receivers downfield and sticks to hip pockets.
The Cal cornerback has fairly easy movement skills, and this allows him to traverse the field with ease, both in man coverage and zone coverage. In the short-range, his lateral athleticism is also excellent. When he squares up players, he brings solid tackling ability as well.
Beyond his athletic profile, Bynum brings an aggressive, physical style of play to the field, as well as excellent instincts. Bynum plays with fast feet at the line, and he couples those feet with active hands in press coverage.
Even against larger receivers, he’s not afraid to disrupt route stems with his hands, and he flashes ball skills in contested situations. In run defense, his proactive playstyle shows up as well. Bynum has the instinctive quickness to sidestep blockers and shoot into the backfield for losses, and he’s fairly physical against blockers, especially those who mirror him in size.
What are the concerns with Camryn Bynum?
Off of his positives, Cal cornerback Camryn Bynum is a very enticing NFL Draft prospect. Having said that, there are some areas of concern to take into account.
While Bynum is a good athlete, I don’t know if he has elite speed or explosiveness. He has no trouble mirroring larger receivers or non-elite athletes, but how will he fare against the more dynamic receivers of the NFL?
Bynum doesn’t always have the best recovery quickness and closing speed, especially against sharp in-breaking routes. He can also give up too much space on slants. Additionally, while Bynum shows flashes of ball skills, he can be more consistent in this area. At his best, Bynum can track passes at all three levels and extend to make plays on the ball. However, in some instances, he’ll fail to locate the ball, or position himself properly to make a play.
The fact that Bynum shows the capacity for playmaking is promising, but it’s a trait he’ll have to hone further at the professional level. Bynum can also stand to further bulk up his frame and increase his raw play strength.
The positives outweigh the negatives for Bynum, who’s a decent athletic prospect with good instincts and physicality to match. Since 2017, he’s been one of the most productive cornerbacks in college football.
Bynum is versatile, with snaps logged on the boundary, in the slot, and at safety. He’ll have a chance to reinforce that reputation in the NFL. Of course, he also has some questions to answer, and his showing at the Senior Bowl didn’t quite resolve those issues. – Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network
Bynum looks like he could be a better safety than cornerback in the NFL, but he’ll still need to work on all facets of his game in his transition to safety before he can contend for a starting job. In the meantime, Bynum has also been in touch with Vikings special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken in the pre-draft process, suggesting he could become a core special teamer while he develops his skills as a safety.