Now that our prospect study is nearly over, and I have watched all the defensive backs before the draft, I want to go through a quick ranking of the 21 cornerbacks I’ve gone through. Not all of these are ones I’ve done scouting reports on for the site but obviously, have still watched. Remember, this is my list, and I don’t need to subscribe to the conventional. Conventional is boring.
I have attached my own personal grades to each pick. These may differ from the ones in scouting reports. Scouting report grades are largely ones where I believe where the player will go, more than where I think the player should go. This is the latter.
Please also understand that I couldn’t watch every CB this year. Some guys I missed who I would’ve loved to get a good feel for.
As always, feel free to react or post your lists in the comments section.
1. Jalen Ramsey/Florida State: Not pulling any surprises here. Ramsey is not only the best cornerback but one of the top three talents in this draft. He’s big, long, with times as impressive as anyone, putting him in an elite athletic level. Though he won’t have the benefit of the boundary the way he did in college, which will force him to adjust, his length/strength to cut down space by pinning the receiver is remarkable.
He’s physical, supporting the run and working off blocks. Strong in coverage with the ability to recover and get back in-phase. In short, there’s no one quite like him, and though you can float the idea of moving him to safety, I think he’ll be successful no matter what. Hard to see that kind of talent is tough to fail.
Grade: Top 5
2. William Jackson III/Houston: Went back and forth on this one but settled on Jackson. A little bigger, longer, with top level speed. Triangle numbers are off the charts. Though we didn’t see him active in run support very often, he plays with an edge and just needs his technique cleaned up. Don’t see it as a lack of desire. He’s a playmaker, showing the ability to track and high point the football. Still think he’s a little stiff but the Combine drills were impressive. Best fit for a zone scheme but that’s no knock. That’s how Josh Norman thrived last year.
3. Vernon Hargreaves III/Florida: I like my corners feisty and Hargreaves shows it on each snap. He’s on the shorter side with stubby arms but makes up for it with a mad 39 inch vertical, allowing him to compete with bigger receivers. Couples that with the even more important ability to time his jumps and competes at catch points. Twitchy, fluid, and supports the run with all the ammo he has. I dig it.
4. Mackensie Alexander/Clemson: Didn’t do the report on him but I like Alexander. Has an attitude Ike Taylor would adopt. That may be off-putting for some, and I’m obviously not in the room with him, but confidence is so important at the position. Like Kevin Colbert said, cornerbacks are going to get beat. It’s all about how they are able to respond to those challenges.
On the field, Alexander is another twitchy player with quick feet and really fluid hips. Willing tackler who just needs to bring his aiming point up a bit. Has trouble staying in-phase and will turn back for the ball, giving up space at the top of the route.
5. Jonathan Jones/Auburn: I can’t talk him up like I have and then low ball him on the ranking, right? Sure, Jones is short and on the lighter side, but aside from the obvious physical limitations, there’s not much to dislike about him. Will he have trouble bringing down A.J. Green? Sure, but that isn’t unique to him. Problem every corner has.
Jones makes up for his size with his vertical, timing and high-pointing the football as well as Hargreaves. One of the fastest corners in this draft, stays in-phase, and a better tackler than given credit for, especially knowing he played 2015 not at 100%. Loved his body of work at the Senior Bowl and one of the real winners. Won’t be drafted as high as your usual #5 cornerback but I’m sold.
6. Eli Apple/Ohio State: Most put him ahead of Jones but they have the same issues. Ability to tackle and Apple is taller, heavier, and longer. Shouldn’t have those problems. I like his ability to turn and stay in-phase in coverage but in Pittsburgh, his lean frame and below average tackling is off-putting. His production was only average too. In a more man-dominant scheme, he’d get a boost. For Pittsburgh? It’s a knock.
Grade: Mid-Late 2nd
7. Artie Burns/Miami (FL): I can see the allure to him. The speed. The ball skills. But he’s a pretty stiff player and I don’t see some of the physical traits translate on tape. Don’t get me wrong. I do like Burns. But I’m not showing up to his window with a boombox over my head. Realistically, he is one of the few corners at 58 I’m fine with taking, his skillset fits the scheme, but I’m equally as fine passing.
Grade: Mid-Late 2nd
8. Tavon Young/Temple: Young is similar to Jones but a tick worse in coverage. Which is why I put him below Jones and Apple. He needs to play cleaner, too many penalties downfield, but his performance against Will Fuller was eye-opening. He’s twitchy with excellent short area quickness and I just enjoy seeing the emotion he plays the game with. A leaper, takes good angles, and shows himself to be an ideal slot corner. With 70-75% of defenses in nickel, his value barely decreases.
Grade: Early-Mid 3rd
9. Kendall Fuller/Virginia Tech: . He’s a strong tackler who even took down Cardale Jones without much issue. I like his technique and ability to play the pocket. Works hard to get back in-phase and is more developed than a lot of corners in this class.
But many concerns about him. Just as stiff as Burns. Abused by Michael Thomas the last two years. And that was before the microfracture knee surgery. I know rechecks have gone well but that doesn’t mean he’ll be the same player. The best thing for him might to be move at safety because I don’t think he has enough size or fluidity to hang with most receivers. A decent #2 corner is his ceiling there. Including him on this list because my tape of him obviously came at corner.
Grade: Mid-Late 3rd
10. Kevin Peterson/Oklahoma State: Another guy I’m higher on than most. Barely gets talked about and he won’t go until the draft party is snoozing through Day 3, but his performance against Corey Coleman was impressive. Also shut down Kevin White in 2014. He’s a technician who makes up for his lack of speed. Supports the run, tough guy, lots of starting experience in a pass happy conference. Definite sleeper.
Grade: Early-Mid 4th
11. Eric Murray/Minnesota: What I said on The Terrible Podcast a few weeks back still sticks with me. If there is a player I’m wrong on, or least confident about, it’s this guy. He timed as a better athlete than I expected, topped with a 39.5 inch vert. He’s the most physical corner in the draft which gets him into a lot of trouble. But with some work on his technique, he can be a definite #2 corner in this league. 39 game starter for the Gophers.
12. Maurice Canady/Virginia: Has the size and triangle numbers. Great start. But he doesn’t play to his straight line speed and is a bit stiff himself. Struggled against Phillip Dorsett and Duke Johnson in 2014, and he’ll be facing that kind of competition on a weekly basis. But he transitions downhill with a powerful lower half and his size allows him to compete against anyone. Upside is not great but another guy who wouldn’t shock me if he turned out to be a starter. Value on special teams if he doesn’t.
Grade: Late 4th
13. DeAndre Elliott/Colorado State: The scouting report will be out tomorrow. Promise. Have watched him and though I didn’t get the best view, I liked what I saw. Quick feet and loose hips whose upper and lower half work well together. Does just enough in run support to make me happy. Productivity and injury concerns are some of my prime concerns. You’ll see the breakdown in the report but reminds me a ton of Ross Cockrell.
Grade: Late 5th
14. Harlan Miller/SE Louisiana: Had a great Senior Bowl week. Was consistent and that was the biggest thing. Anyone can shine for a day, especially in a new environment where everyone is trying to handle the mountain of information being handed to them. Miller is a gambler with a big payoff, but long speed is ugly (4.65 40), and he’s so thin the gusts off Lake Erie will blow him over. May make switch to safety down line.
Grade: Late 5th
15. Xavien Howard/Baylor: Big faller for me but I really didn’t see anything special about his game. Really struggles with the ball in the air, just gets so lost. Timed speed and vertical were both below average, 4.58 and 33 inches. Lot of wasted motion in his turn, doesn’t time his jumps very well, and penalized too often. No thanks.
Grade: Early-Mid 6th
16. Brandon Williams/Texas A&M: Late round flier for me but the physical tools are there. 4.37 speed doesn’t go on trees and his change of direction is excellent, no doubt influenced by his running back upbringing. For a guy who didn’t play defense until last season, he didn’t look lost. Physical guy who enjoys tackling. Really admire that for someone who was ingrained to avoid collisions. But he’s still so raw and needs lots much time to rep his craft.
Grade: Mid 7th
17. Mike Hilton/Ole Miss: Short, light, but has a big heart. I’m writing the Pixar script immediately. Another quick-twitch guy who plays the three step game well. But limited to slot and is still going to get beat up. 40 time isn’t great. He’ll carve out a niche but not as a starter.
Grade: Late 7th-UDFA
18. Donte Deayon/Boise State: 155 pounds is…not good. But if you can put yourself past that, his tape is impressive. Three year starter for a quality team says a lot about his game. Can hang in man coverage with a springy vertical and ability to track the football. Made a ton of plays in coverage. Better open field tackler than I expected while offering a little bit of return value. Still, the fact he’s 5’9, 155 is off-putting and difficult to justify.
Grade: Late 7th-UDFA
19. Cyrus Jones/Alabama: For all of those who think I give short corners special treatment, let me Mutombo swat that thought out of here. Jones is 5’9 but I don’t like his game. Short, not a physical tackler, and has a horrendous time finding the football vertically. Struggles to keep balance. Only an average 40 (4.49) when we consider his frame. Paltry 33 inch vertical. Antwon Blake without the top end speed and ability to hit. Only attractive thing to me is his return value. I do dig that.
Grade: Late 7th-UDFA
20. Morgan Burns/Kansas State: Was anxious to look at him but came away feeling pretty “meh.” Has speed to play in man coverage but needs to be in off-man. Doesn’t press well. Not an impact player, not twitchy, and ugly job supporting the run. Return numbers are sparkling but I don’t even think his returns were all that impressive, relatively speaking. Defensive production was low.
21. Bryson Abraham/La Tech: Has a 41 inch vertical and I see pockets of that on tape, but not much else to get me excited. Small, can’t tackle, and I just didn’t see him make enough plays. Had some hope for him but came away disappointed.