Scouting Trenton Cannon

Over the next few weeks, we'll be bringing you in-depth scouting reports on each of the Jets' draft picks - in reverse order. We begin today with running back Trenton Cannon.

The 23-year old Cannon is listed as 5'11 and 185 pounds and was selected by the Jets in the sixth round out of Virginia State. He had over a thousand rushing yards in each of his three seasons there and is also a good kick returner.


Cannon was a track athlete and running back in high school and began his collegiate career at Shepherd. He rushed 47 times for 216 yards and two scores in 2014 while also catching three passes, but opted to transfer to Virginia State in hopes of getting more playing time.

As a walk-on at Virginia State, Cannon rushed for over 1,100 yards and caught nine passes as a sophomore, scoring 11 total touchdowns. Despite not being a starter in his junior year, he improved on all of his numbers, rushing for over 1,200 yards and a career-high 18 touchdowns.

His role and numbers increased again in his senior year with career highs in carries, rushing yards (1,638), total touchdowns (22) and yards per carry (7.7). He also set career-bests in receiving and kick returns, earning all-conference first team honors. He was third in D-II for rushing and led the nation in kick return average.

Cannon wasn't invited to the combine but was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, although he opted not to play in the game itself, saying he wanted instead to focus on preparation for his pro day workout.

Let's look in more detail at what Cannon brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.


Cannon wasn't just used as a conventional running back in college. He also would line up out wide for receiver screens or jet sweep action and would run routes out of the slot in spread formations. As a runner, he got plenty of read-option touches and ran both between the tackles and to the outside.


Cannon posted excellent numbers at his pro day. His 4.40 40-yard dash would have placed equal-first at the combine and his 10-yard split was sub-1.5 which has only been achieved at the combine by nine running backs in combine history and four times in the last four years by anyone.

His vertical leap would have placed fourth, his broad jump equal-best and his short shuttle first, so he displayed great speed, explosiveness and agility.

His bench press was only slightly below average and his three cone drill was about average.

There's no question that his timed speed translates to the field. Check out how he accelerates and runs away from the defense here:


He's obviously not very big and would need to bulk up if his offensive role was going to be anything more than as an occasional change of pace.

Running Ability

Cannon's college film is exciting to watch, with the obvious caveat that he was playing against lower level competition so his film would look comparatively faster and stronger than that of a draft prospect playing in the top levels of college football.

Nevertheless, he displays terrific speed, quick changes of direction and open field elusiveness:


Cannon's numbers increased in each of his seasons and he was a constant home run threat that had a starter's workload in his senior year.

While he isn't known for his power or for breaking tackles or driving the pile, Cannon ran between the tackles a lot with good success and can fight off tacklers in the open field and finish runs well:


Cannon's burst allows him to hit the hole hard and get up to full speed as he hits the second level, where he has the ability to juke tacklers. He has the speed to bounce it to the outside and his open field speed often causes safeties to misjudge their pursuit angles so once he's in the open he has a good chance to take it to the house.

Cannon can use a stiff-arm in space and will use spin moves or even hurdle defenders if they try to tackle him in the open field.

He had a consistently productive college career, but got bottled up for just 65 yards on 21 carries in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, his lowest yardage total of the season and lowest average per carry since his first game at VSU.

Short Yardage

Cannon totalled 46 rushing touchdowns in his college career and, although many of them came from long distance, he has a nose for the end zone at close quarters. VSU would often run him outside or parallel to the line of scrimmage in short yardage situations because his quickness and ability to get skinny in the hole enable him to find a seam to get to the goal line, but he can also be effective straight up the middle due to his burst.

Check out his unconventional method of getting into the end zone on this play:


Receiving Threat

It will help Cannon's chances of getting on the field if he can contribute in the passing game and he has displayed an ability to do that, despite not posting elite numbers in college. He did average 12.5 yards per catch though, scoring seven touchdowns to underline his big-play capabilities.

As you might expect, much of this production came from taking dump-off passes upfield, but Cannon has displayed some flashes of a more rounded pass catching skill-set.

As already noted, he sometimes lines up out wide or in the slot, usually to catch screen passes in the flat. However, he has also run slants and drag routes, as well as wheel and flat routes out of the backfield.

Here is a simple flat route that he is able to turn upfield with to break the plane:


Cannon has often had success getting behind defenses for big plays on wheel routes and here is a tough grab over the middle:


Scouting reports correctly identify the fact that Cannon doesn't yet look like a natural pass catcher, although he is adept at coming up with bad passes. He just about manages to come up with this one:



Fumbling could be a concern for Cannon, especially if he is going to handle the ball a lot in a kick return role.

The good news is that he only lost four fumbles in three years at VSU, despite totalling 631 touches. However, he had a slightly concerning 13 total fumbles over those three seasons. It's possible that some of these were bobbled kick-offs or dropped hand-offs that he was able to immediately recover himself, but that's still a tough number to justify if you'd consider using him in an extensive role and this - from last season - is a clear example of poor ball security, so he does need to work on that:



Nobody would expect a back who weighed 180 coming out of college to contribute much as a blocker as a rookie and Cannon's film does little to change that expectation.

They didn't leave him to block very often, but he rarely looked comfortable when they did, although they usually just got him to throw a cut block or threw a quick pass when he was in the game. If required to pick up the blitz, he was often knocked back off his spot and, as you can see, he missed his block on this sack:


Special Teams

This seems most likely to be where Cannon earns his salt in the early part of his career and could be the main reason behind the Jets selecting him with their final pick.

He only returned six kicks in his first year at VSU, but averaged 32 yards per return (including one score) in his junior year and then improved that to 32.8 to lead the nation last year, scoring twice.

Here is an example of his return abilities, showing off his elusiveness, open-field vision and, of course, speed:


It should be noted that he lacks experience as a punt returner, so that will be something Cannon will have to work at if the Jets want him to take that job too.


Cannon's patience and vision are good, particularly in the open field. He has said that he has studied Le'Veon Bell closely in that regard. There are sometimes occasions where he will try to do too much or won't take what the defense gives him, though.

As a blocker, he doesn't look as comfortable. There were a few plays where he seemed unsure of who he should be blocking.


Cannon has worked his way up from having been a walk-on at VSU and doesn't appear to have any character concerns. His high school coach described him as a "great kid" after the Jets announced his selection.


Cannon doesn't seem to have had any injury issues in college, despite racking up 587 touches over the past three years.

Scheme Fit

Although his primary role if he makes the team is likely to be on special teams, Cannon's skill-set should fit well in terms of the one-cut running style that best suits a zone-blocking system such as the one Rick Dennison is expected to implement.

There is a strong Jets connection to Cannon's head coach at VSU - Reggie Barlow. Barlow was an NFL running back and return specialist, who has obviously taken Cannon under his wing.

Barlow, who led the league in punt return average in 1998 was a teammate of Jets' special teams coordinator Brant Boyer for the first five years of his career. Then, for the last two years of his career, he joined the Bucs, who at that time had Jets' offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates on their coaching staff.

Boyer has been in regular contact with Barlow and worked Cannon out privately during the pre-draft process.


Breaking down Cannon's film was fun, but going from division two to the NFL is a big jump and realistically he will need to work on his strength, ball security and pass blocking if his role on offense is going to be anything more than special package work. However, his dynamic big-play ability makes him the sort of guy that the team will be keen to find creative ways to feature.

Cannon has a good chance to earn that kick return role, though, especially since it looks like they've targeted him specifically with that in mind. Look for them to experiment with him as a punt returner as well, but they will need him to prove he won't be a turnover risk in that role.