The departures of Nasir Adderley and Bryce Callahan leave a snap void for the Chargers to address in 2023. While the Chargers appear content with their existing talent to step up and into these roles, backfilling the depth chart with capable reserves is essential to reaching this organization’s goals.
Taiwan Mullen could be a sneaky undrafted free agent that does just that. Mullen arrived on the college football scene with immediate impact, leading the Big Ten with 13 pass breakbacks as a freshman in 2019. He appeared in all 13 games, started eight, and made a total of 29 tackes, 3.5 of which were for a loss. The Athletic and 247Sports both named him as a first-team Freshman All-American.
In 2020, he followed it up with a solid sophomore campaign that earned him IU’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year, a FWAA first-team All-American nod, placed him on the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, amongst other accolades.
2021 saw Mullen battling an ankle injury that drove him in and out of the lineup, and ultimately resulted in a down year. In 2022, he and the rest of Indiana’s defensive backfield looked to bounce-back. He managed to start all 12 games, and although he allowed eight touchdowns on the season, there were highlights worth some optimism.
A great sample is seeing how Mullen played against Marvin Harrison Jr when Ohio State faced off against Indiana. Quickly glancing at Harrison’s seven catch, 135 yard and one touchdown stat line doesn’t reflect their in-game battles, as much of this production game when Harrison was matched against another defensive back. Here are some clips of Mullen and Harrison going head-to-head.
Tiawan Mullen vs Marvin Harrison Jr on the goal line fade pic.twitter.com/1kFLgL8L5j— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) November 18, 2022
Mullen does an excellent job staying in Harrison Jr’s hip after losing a step to him off the break. The fluidity and recovery speed he showed here is exemplary.
Tiawan Mullen squeezing Harrison Jr towards the sideline and contesting the throw pic.twitter.com/N2RDJGNpzu— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) January 19, 2023
When watching Harrison Jr’s highlights from the game, almost none of them featured Mullen as his counterpart. When they did face off, Mullen did a superb job staying with him. There isn’t a wide receiver in college last year more NFL-ready than Harrison, giving us a decent projection of how Mullen could fare at the next level.
His biggest shortcoming, and likely what kept him from being drafted, is his height. Working outside at the next level would likely make him a liability, as shown below. You can be exactly where you need to be, but at some point a small stature is going to hurt you on the boundary.
Tiawan Mullen in good position with a good contest, just his size limits him pic.twitter.com/hn5mNhjChU— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) January 18, 2023
The role Mullen can fill for Staley is essentially providing competition at the “star” cornerback position. Despite his size, he’s strong enough to hold up in the run game, and gets downhill quick when he makes his read. Simply put, he does his best work when he’s in the middle of the field.
I meant the 2022 NFL Draft when I tweeted this out back in October. Either way, watch Tiawan Mullen (Indiana CB 3) on the right side of the screen. We'll be talking about him more when we get into the summer and fall. https://t.co/FfZmKVelTW pic.twitter.com/Gjsqo77ykU— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) April 14, 2021
Tiawan Mullen looks to be a solid pick-up for Staley, and likely to get some snaps for the Chargers in 2023 as the roster currently projects.