This year’s defensive back class may be the deepest one I have ever seen. There are guys who didn’t even get invited to the combine this year that will likely warrant high draft picks because this cornerback is unbelievable deep. Teams are going to be able to select quality starters as late as the 5th round. Most of these defensive backs are so difficult to grade because what they are asked to do in college varies across the country. Josh Norman of the Redskins was a small school guy from Coastal Carolina showing you can find talent later in the draft. Which guys really stood out for better or worse at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine?
Shut Down Corner:
There isn’t an elite cornerback prospect like Jalen Ramsey a year ago but Sidney Jones from Washington is the number one cornerback on my list. When Washington played Alabama in the Bowl game, Bama completely refused to throw to Jones’ side of the field. That’s the ultimate respect coming from Nick Saban and company. That was apparently the case all year as only 21.3 percent of the throws by opposing offenses went in his direction. Jones recorded 3 interceptions this past year to go along with first team Pac 12 honors. In the drills, Jones really sticks his foot in the ground and drives to the football. He showed some sweet footwork especially for a guy who is a long corner. For a guy that excels in press coverage, his skills should translate day one in the NFL. Marcus Peters came out of Washington a few years ago and exceeded all expectations coming out of college. We may have something similar with Sidney Jones who showed some nice speed at 4.47.
Potential Through The Roof:
USC cornerback Adoree Jackson might wind up being the best corner in the entire draft class. There is also a chance he turns out to be nothing more than just an athletic return man. Jackson is an extremely raw prospect who struggles with his hands as a result of being undersized (5’10”, 186). The bright side is there is a lot to like with Adoree Jackson. He ran a 4.42 – 40 time and probably had the quickest feet of any of the defensive backs at the combine. His return ability adds a ton of value to his game as well returning two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2016. Check him out in the drills below, he has a real knack for high-pointing the football.
The Ohio State Guys:
Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley are both expected to be first-round picks this year. Lattimore ran a 4.36 – 40 time but pulled a hamstring prohibiting him from running in the drills. That signals a major red flag in my mind His first two collegiate seasons were plagued by serious hamstring issues as he was only a one-year starter for the Buckeyes. Conley is around the same size but isn’t the athlete Lattimore is. The knock on him was I thought he looked really tight hipped in the drills and doesn’t always tackle well in the run game. He did only allow a 37 percent completion rate.
The Florida Guys:
The Florida Gators also have a pair of corners that will wind up being first-round picks. The depth in the secondary this year is absurd. In this instance, Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are complete opposites. Tabor is a smaller corner who is probably a better fit in off coverage roaming in the slot. The 4.62 – 40 time for Tabor is a bit worry some for a smaller slot corner but I thought he moved well in space. Remember Joe Haden didn’t test well coming out of Florida either but turned out pretty well. Wilson is taller & longer than Tabor as a press corner on the outside. Wilson ran a 4.54 – 40 time which is great for a lanky physical corner. Wilson is probably the better tackler and has a much higher ceiling if he can put all his tools together.
*The University of Colorado actually has 3 high ranking corners (Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson, and Ahkello Witherspoon). Awuzie was my favorite of that trio running a 4.43 performing well in the drills that can be seen below.
Other First Round Picks:
This defensive draft class as a whole doesn’t seem to be prone to busts. 3 other top tier corners are also worthy of first round picks. Tre’Davious White, Cordrea Tankersley, and Marlon Humphrey all belong in round 1. Tre White might have been the best player at the Senior Bowl and was essentially the closest thing to a shutdown corner down in Mobile. LSU has a long track record of producing superior talent such as Patrick Peterson so it seems to be foolish to bet against him. He played a ton of man to man coverage which gives him a leg up heading into the NFL. His footwork in the drills was absolutely flawless and showed good ball skills too. His 4.47 – 40 time is a good number for him.
Tankersley and Humphrey weren’t as fluid in the on-field drills showing some stiffness when they had to open their hips but these guys are studs. Tankersley ran a 4.40 – 40 time which is tremendous for a 6’1″ corner. He also showed really good ball skills picking off 4 passes in 2015 and 2016. The knock on him is he can be a little grabby and could be susceptible for penalties in the NFL. Humphrey comes from football background as his dad Bobby was a stud tailback. I was not expecting the 4.41 – 40 time either which was better than anticipated. He is excellent in press coverage and completely stonewalled John Ross in the Peach Bowl. With any Bama defender, you know you’re also getting a great and willing tackler.
Throw Them In The Slot:
Since this draft is so deep at the cornerback position, I will briefly give an overview of some players I liked that appear to be perfect nickel defenders. Shaquill Griffin, Nate Hairston, Damontae Kazee, Jourdan Lewis, Jalen Myrick, and Cameron Sutton are the guys I was impressed with in this group. Griffin from Central Florida ran a 4.38 time and might have been the smoothest runner in the on-field drills. Nate Hairston put on a good showing at the East-West Game and is one of those ‘Temple Tough’ guys. Damontae Kazee probably has the best pure ball skills of any corner in the draft with 17 career interceptions. Jourdan Lewis was a shutdown corner for Michigan who probably doesn’t get enough credit. After what he did at the Senior Bowl and today at the Combine it’s hard not to be impressed. The drive and power he showed off his back foot make him the perfect nickel corner. Myrick ran the fastest time of any defensive back at 4.28 and was super quick in and out of cuts.
The Prototypical Seahawks Corner:
Following the same notion as the category above Treston Decoud, Rasul Douglas, Corn Elder, Kevin King, Fabian Moreau, Channing Stribling, Marquez White, and Howard Wilson stood out among the tall lanky corners. Decoud is the brother of NFL safety Thomas Decoud and great length at 6’2 (33-inch arms). Douglas, Elder, and White can be seen more in the Senior Bowl Archives. Douglas really stood out, in particular, running a 4.59 time at 6’2″ to go along with the 8 picks he had at West Virginia a year ago. Kevin King was a part of the talented Washington secondary and ran a 4.43 time at 6’3″. Moreau and Stribling were both at the East-West Game. Moreau had a freakish day running a 4.35 time and jumping out of the building. Stribling was a little awkward in the drills but the Michigan product is a stud when you watch him play.
Top 5 Cornerback Rankings:
- Sidney Jones (Washington)
- Tre’Davious White (LSU)
- Adoree Jackson (USC)
- Jourdan Lewis (Michigan)
- Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)