Top Five 2020 NFL Draft Prospects- Cornerback
These guys will be asked to shutdown an opponents receiver corps. Today I rank the top five cornerback prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Jeff Okudah- Ohio State
Bio: The top cornerback recruit in the country out of high school, Jeff Okudah played in all 14 games as a true freshman for Ohio State. As a sophomore, he tied for the team lead in pass breakups with eight while also recording 34 tackles. In 2019, he earned first team AP All-American, first team All-Big Ten, and was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist as he led the Buckeyes with three interceptions and nine pass breakups.
Strengths: Top tier height, weight, speed, and length. Enough size to handle big receivers and fast enough to handle speedy deep threats. Patient in press coverage and rarely fooled by receiver's release. Forces man tight to the sideline from press. Rare foot quickness and natural backpedal. Maintains position and eliminates open space on go routes. Reads receiver's eyes to know when to look back to the ball. Easily wins 50/50 balls with sharp swipes. Phenomenal acceleration to close in on balls. Goo hip flexibility to disrupt passing lanes. Good recovery speed to be a gambler in the NFL. Good range in cover 3 formations. Knows when to tackle and when to strike. Not afraid to unload on running backs. Driven and motivated to succeed to honor his late mother who passed away from cancer in 2017.
Weaknesses: Only one year as a starter. Needs to consistently trust his eyes. Inconsistent with route recognition. Uses feet to get open rather than dexterity. Slight deceleration when changing direction from backpedal. Route anticipation needs improvement. Instincts and zone reactions are just average. Momentum keeps him from shadowing at the top of routes. Will stay engaged to blocks from larger receivers too long. Could be more diligent in contain responsibilities on outside runs.
Pro Comparison: Patrick Peterson
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Detroit Lions
2. CJ Henderson- Florida
Bio: After initially committing to attending his hometown team in Miami, CJ Henderson decided to go north and play for state rival Florida. In his first year on campus, he returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns. As a sophomore, he registered (38 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, and two forced fumbles while earning second team All-SEC. The following year he was a first team All-SEC selection and the Gators with 11 pass breakups.
Strengths: Good size and above average athleticism. Solid play strength to hinder receiver's release from press coverage. Fluidity to mirror and cut off release point. Smooth swivel of hips when changing direction. Plays with anticipation while reading quarterback's eyes. Explosive acceleration to close in on throws and disrupt passing windows. Keeps pace with receivers with great long speed. Poised and patient when playing the ball. Versatility playing a variety of coverage. Punches with the goal to force balls loose. Willing to tackler in the run game.
Weaknesses: Must maintain balance and control through contact. Occasionally looses balance when changing direction. Trouble locating ball when back is to the quarterback. Tackling technique needs better control. Looses track of the target from zone coverage. Looked less competitive as a junior. Inconsistent recognition on combination routes. Missed time as a junior with an ankle injury.
Pro Comparison: Joe Haden
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings
3. Trevon Diggs- Alabama
Bio: A two time All-Washington D.C. wide receiver, Trevon Diggs played wide receiver, cornerback, and return specialist as a true freshman for Alabama. As a sophomore, he switched to defense fulltime while remain the Crimson Tide's return man. In 2018, he was the starting cornerback and as a senior he was a third team AP All-American and second team All-SEC selection after intercepting three passes and tying for the team lead with eight pass breakups.
Strengths: Elite combination of height, length, and weight. Strength and size to matchup against big receivers. Quick arm extension from press coverage. Athletic ad flexible to match routes and make a play. A+ footwork for a larger cornerback. Trusts eyes and know when to jump on routes. No wasted steps when transitioning. Instincts and ball skills of a wide receiver. Catch talent to make highlight interceptions. Length to box out on jump balls. Looks to take turnovers to the house with two defensive scores as a senior. Serviceable return specialist. Younger brother of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
Weaknesses: Awkward footwork when trying to mirror off release. Playmaking mentality will get him in trouble at times. Reacts before diagnosing the formation. Discipline fades when guarding combo routes. Struggles keeping composure against double moves. Questionable long speed. Jersey grabs when trailing will lead to penalties at the pro level. LSU exposed a lot of his flaws. Fails to maintain position when tracking deep balls. Positioning as an open field tackler needs improvement. Missed half of his junior year with a broken foot.
Pro Comparison: Aqib Talib
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
4. AJ Terrell- Clemson
Bio: A top 15 recruit out of Atlanta, AJ Terrell played a role as a key reserve on Clemson's defense as a true freshman. A starter the following year, he earned third team All-ACC honors with 54 tackles, two tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, three interceptions, and a pick six in the Tigers National Championship season. As a junior, he was first team All-ACC with 37 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups.
Strengths: Played against strong opposition in three years of postseason games. Can disrupt receivers from press coverage. Strikes inside shoulder to force routes to the boundary. Low and consistent backpedal. Serviceable foot quickness to mirror. Patient when allowing play to develop before making transitions. Maintains control early in the route and is quick to horde receivers. Smooth and clean hip turn from backpedal. Follows quarterback's eyes from cover 3 sets. Plays close to the receiver to disrupt timing of catch. Above average body control and soft hands to contest 50/50.
Weaknesses: Had his hands full against LSU in the 2020 National Championship. Could struggle against elite competition early on. Thin lower half with long legs and high center of gravity. Struggles with body control and balance on comeback routes. Pad levels rises from backpedal when driving downhill. Must be more aggressive at the point of catch. Focus wonders from zone coverage, allowing receivers to get behind him. Average recovery speed. Needs to be more consistent in run support. Arm tackler who takes bad angles to the ball.
Pro Comparison: Xavier Rhodes
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys
5. Kristian Fulton- LSU
Bio: The New Orleans Defensive Player of the Year, Kristian Fulton played sparingly as a true freshman at LSU. Starting as a junior, he registered 25 tackles, one interception, and nine pass breakups. In 2019, he led the Tigers with 14 pass breakups while helping LSU win the National Championship.
Strengths: Well built to play on the outside. Allowed just a 40% competition rate over the last two years. Solid athleticism and agile footwork. Extendable mirror off the release. Plays underneath receiver's catch side to make a play. Looks for chance to make plays and is hardly content. Works hard to keep from being out positioned downfield. Had success pressing Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Reads receiver's eyes and hands when back is to the quarterback. Drives to the ball when playing off man.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent at keeping with route from press coverage. Talented route runners can get free and gain separation against him. Erratic confidence at times. Faulty hips during transitions on inside routes. Struggles to activate recovery speed early. Questionable long speed for the pro game. Balance and positioning is lost downfield. Slow to diagnose quarterback's clues in off coverage. Below average technique and toughness as a tackler. Suspended all of 2017 by the NCAA for having someone else provide urine sample for a PED test.
Pro Comparison: Marcus Peters
Projected Round: 2
Possible Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills
Other Notable Prospects
Cameron Dantzler- Mississippi State
- Imposing size, poor footwork
Jeff Gladney- TCU
- Elite quickness, lacks length
Jaylon Johnson- Utah
- Good route recognition, too much of a gambler
Damon Arnette- Ohio State
- Tenacious mentality, better football player than athlete
Noah Igbinoghene- Auburn
- Great leaper, stubby frame
Amik Robertson- Louisiana Tech
- Great instincts, too short to play outside
Bryce Hall- Virginia
- Good ball skills, average speed
AJ Green- Oklahoma State
- Natural backpedal, lacks physicality
Lamar Jackson- Nebraska
- Long limbed, press scheme specific
Harrison Hand- Temple
- Highly physical, not a burner
Dane Jackson- Pittsburgh
- Confident in coverage, needs to track ball better
Troy Pride Jr.- Notre Dame
- Consistent tackler, struggles in zone
Lavert Hill- Michigan
- Tough and fearless, poor backpedal
Darnay Holmes- UCLA
- Compact frame, almost exclusively a slot corner
Josiah Scott- Michigan State
- Tough demeanor, gets caught gambling
Demarkus Acy- Missouri
- True man corner, not a great athlete
Stanford Samuels III- Florida State
- Long frame, tweener build
Michael Ojemudia- Iowa
- Technically sound, not a willing tackler
James Pierre- Florida Atlantic
- Good hand-eye coordination, still learning the position
Essang Beasley- Wake Forest
- Excellent ball skills, not great in the run game
Kindle Vildor- Georgia Southern
- Good anticipation, awkward backpedal
Trajan Bandy- Miami
- Good press corner, poor in zone sets
Myles Bryant- Washington
- Quick and smart, limited to nickel packages
Debione Renfro- Texas A&M
- Long frame, play wasn't the same after coaching change
Reggie Robinson II- Tulsa
- Nice length, stiff hip
Grayland Arnold- Baylor
- Three position versatility, questionable tackling skills
Javaris Davis- Auburn
- Good body control, injury concerns
Javelin Guidry- Utah
- Blazing speed, purely a nickel corner
Nevelle Clarke- UCF
- Good size, slow feet