Cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. will always be a third-round NFL draft pick.
But there is a reason the Cleveland Browns grabbed him with their very first 2022 selection.
Andrew Berry and his staff were enamored with the former Mississippi State standout’s strength and length.
And both paid off on a highlight reel interception near the end of the first half of Cleveland’s 24-13 victory over Jacksonville.
🚨 MARTIN EMERSON PICK-SIX 🚨 pic.twitter.com/XafxwdJWzR
— Tru Maroon Nation (@TruMaroonNation) August 13, 2022
Emerson found himself behind the intended receiver, Jeff Cotton.
But a subpar throw gave Emerson a chance to reach over Cotton’s shoulder to knock it away.
And the cornerback admitted he wasn’t quite sure what happened that left the ball up for grabs on the play.
“I was just trying to break the ball up but (it hit) on my arm somehow, bounced up, it was right there and I had to take it,” he said.
Emerson’s return to the house was just as impressive, with a solid stiff arm and quick juke setting up the 74-yard score.
Fellow rookie Cade York’s extra point gave the Browns their first lead of the night.
Emerson Already Ties College Mark
NFL Draft analysts pegged Cleveland’s rookie corner all over the board, from the second through the fifth rounds.
There was little doubt he had talent, drive, and size worth investing in.
But he sparked some concerns by coming down with only one interception over his entire college career.
Of course, it’s difficult to intercept the ball if it isn’t thrown your way.
That is what happened at Mississippi State, as opponents targetted Emerson less than 15% of the time over the last 2 seasons.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 7, 2022
Emerson says he looks forward to getting challenged more as a rookie.
And his early practice habits indicate he won’t back down against anybody.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, known as a physical receiver, found himself pushed out of bounds by Emerson during his first week.
The incident sparked a little bit of a brouhaha on the practice field and set a tone for the rookie corner.
And his takeaway pick-6 won’t dispel the notion he is a tough defender to battle with.
No Rookie Jitters For Emerson?
Emerson can almost be called timid off the field between practice and games.
But once he’s between the lines, his personality changes quickly.
To hear him talk about how he looks forward to battling established NFL receivers is more than naive swagger.
He knows he has the long arms, strength, and willingness to engage that can offset mistakes or a learning curve.
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) April 30, 2022
His first preseason game was not perfect, especially Zay Jones‘ early 32-yard completion behind Emerson.
But the early loss did nothing to dissuade the rookie corner’s confidence.
As he explained to reporters after the game,
“In college, I used to be a little more nervous. But I’m here for a reason. I worked hard for this moment and was ready to show my teammates and my coaches what I can do.”
What he can do is challenge receivers of all shapes and sizes, even the more physical NFL players.
And it might not be long before Joe Woods has to reconsider who starts opposite Denzel Ward.