New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
The Giants released their CB1 during the 2019 season, Janoris Jenkins. He was the one stabilizer in the group, the one corner who could be relied onto cover and make plays. 2019 was a growing season for the three young corners who this team is really banking onto evolve into quality players. After trading up for Deandre Baker in the first round of the 2019 Draft, he was thrown into the fire rather early and he came out burned badly. There was no denying how poor he played and when given the opportunity, fellow rookie Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal, who was on the game-day roster for the first time since being a supplemental pick in 2018, didn’t instill any confidence either. The one positive sign was Baker improving as the second half of the year progressed and he actually put together a few solid performances late in the year.
The signing of James Bradberry takes down the need at the position a bit but there are significant questions behind him, zero assurances. Grant Haley remains the primary nickel even though his play took a turn in the wrong direction in his second year. Between Haley, Baker, Beal, and Ballentine the odds are one of them will turn out to be starter-caliber, one will turn out to be rotational-caliber, and two will be gone within a year or two. That said, there is a spot for a new guy in the group.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
- Jeff Okudah / Ohio State / 6’1 – 205
Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Grand Prairie, Texas. The former five star and number one cornerback recruit did not disappoint once he got onto the field late in 2017. The most recent “DB U” has produced handfuls of NFL talent in recent years and the Ohio State coaches have labeled him the best of the bunch in those recent years. Okudah is an elite physical talent who plays with an elite mindset and aggressiveness. The tools are there, the mental capacity is there, and the short memory is there. Okudah is the kind of corner you want out there on an island against the opposition’s number one receiver. He owns that island and charges rent for anyone who wants to live there. Okudah is a week 1 starter in the league with an upside of being one of the best in the game at a position that is incredibly hard to fill.
*Okudah is the top corner I have scouted in quite some time. Physically and mentally, you are going to have a hard time telling anyone with a credible opinion that this kid isn’t going to be a Pro Bowler early in his career. The one thing that keeps him out of the rare 90+ tier on my grading sheet is the lack of discipline when it comes to technique as a press corner. If that issue gets cleaned up and a defense protects him early in his career, watch out. Is he in play for NYG at #4? I think he will be but the signing of Bradberry in combination with this front office trading up into round 1 last year for a corner makes me think they won’t consider him there.
- CJ Henderson / Florida / 6’1 – 204
Summary: Junior entry from Miami, Florida. A three-year starter who earned All SEC honors all three seasons, including a first team honor in 2019. Henderson brings elite triangle numbers to the table, perhaps best in the class. He has the best combination of height, weight, speed, and leaping ability. However his greatest trait trumps all of those numbers, and it is the ability to stick to a receiver’s hip pocket with a rare combination of quickness, agility, and body control. Henderson makes his elite burst and acceleration look smooth and easy. He has the kind of speed that can stick to the NFL’s fastest deep threats but also the quickness to stick to the NFL’s shiftiest slot receivers. His poor tackling and tendency to avoid contact will hurt his team at times, but for what a corner is first asked to do, cover the receiver, it is hard to find someone better than Henderson.
*I’ll say this, if Henderson was more physical against the run, he would be higher than Okudah. As a scouting mentor (and former NFL coach) once told me, “You pay the other 10 guys to tackle”. If a team doesn’t care about a corner’s ability to tackle, Henderson could easily make a case to be higher than Okudah on the board. He is so smooth and easy, it almost looks like he isn’t even trying. He has some things to clean up as well but talent wise, this kid has it all.
- Kristian Fulton / LSU / 6’0 – 197
Summary: Senior entry from New Orleans, Louisiana. Two-year starter who finished his career with a 2nd Team All SEC honor. Fulton was nearly suspended for two years in 2016 for messing with a performance enhancing drug test. After a couple of appeals, he was only suspended for the 2017 season. He then put together two solid years and stayed clean off the field but had to cope with a nagging ankle/foot injury both seasons. Fulton has tools and the ball production that will cause for the hope of upside, but there are significant movement issues both in short and long areas. He may need to be in a zone-based scheme to hide those issues. He shouldn’t be trusted on an island.
*Last year when Greedy Williams was getting a lot of national hype, I was telling everyone who would listen Fulton was the top guy. Williams went in the middle of the 2nd round in a weaker CB group, I think Fulton has a shot at going round 1. It has been a rocky career for him though with off field issues and a nagging lower body injury that hampered him a lot in 2019. There is some unknown here but when I have seen him at his best, he is first round caliber.
- Trevon Diggs / Alabama / 6’1 – 205
Summary: Senior entry from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Two year starter who peaked as a senior, earning All American and first team All SEC honors. The brother of MIN receiver Stefon Diggs.. The former number one wide receiver recruit out of Maryland, Trevon appeared on track to follow in the footsteps of his brother. He played a hybrid offense/defense/special teams role in 2016 before making the full time move to corner in 2017. Diggs still has a raw-style to his game but one could make the argument he is the top physical press corner in the class. He obliterates receivers at the line and has the kind of size, speed, and ball skills that have become largely in demand in the league. Diggs still has a lot to clean up though and his most ideal role may be in a Cover 2 scheme. He has a hard time reacting in small spaces and needs to clean up a lot of technique bases areas across the board. If he progresses in those areas, he ca be a force.
*For what it’s worth, I know of at least one team that is grading him at safety. So to continue the NYG-safety talk, I think this is another name who can be considered. Top of round 2? I don’t think so. But if they end up with a late 2 or early 3 via trades, it is a possibility. Diggs is long, fast, strong. Teams love that at corner so I think he gets a shot there first.
- Noah Igbinoghene / Auburn / 5’10 – 198
Summary: Junior entry from Trussville, Alabama. Two year starter who began his career as a wide receiver for the Tigers. Igbinoghene is the son of two Olympic-level track stars and he had quite the track career himself that carried on at Auburn. The star-athlete made the move to cornerback in 2018 and was abruptly inserted into the starting lineup. His two years at the position in the SEC saw a lot of flags, as his hand work and overall feel for the position just wasn’t quite there. With that said, the improvements he made over that span in combination with his elite speed and burst gives the notion that he may have some of the most attainable upside at the position in the class. Igbinoghene can play both outside and the nickel, but his tools as a press corner combined with the elite speed would best be served in a man-scheme outside. High risk, high reward prospect.
*This is a kid I am taking a chance on. There are a few corners behind him on this list who most have Igbinoghene behind. I saw the light switch on for him later in the year and that is what I want to see. If he had another full season worth of tape that I saw down the stretch, we are talking about a potential first rounder. He is going to go day 2 and he will be a corner who someone can throw in the slot or on the outside pretty early. Can’t say that about a lot of rookie corners. He turns 21 after Thanksgiving 2020.
- Jaylon Johnson / Utah / 6’0 – 193
Summary: Junior entry from Fresno, California. Two year starter and two time 1st Team All Pac 12 in addition to 2019 All American. Johnson passes a lot of the initial eye ball tests when looking for corners who have both size and speed who can play in multiple coverage schemes. He shows a good feel for reading the routes, giving him an advantage against the underneath passing game. The instinctive corner has 7 career interceptions and 28 passes defended. The production is there. He still has a lot of work to do, however, when it comes to technique and ball location. He is a big play waiting to happen if he is matched up against a quality outside receiver with size and ball skills. He is an upside-based pick who may not be ready right away.
*Johnson has good size and long speed. Johnson has good production to look back on. He is a smart kid and very coachable. Some have a late 1st / early 2nd grade on him. Why am I putting him in the round 3 discussion? I don’t see natural ball location and he has some ugly tape against his best competition. I think there is a good chance he develops into a quality starter who can make plays, but it is going to take time. I don’t want to see him on an island against pro receivers in year one, he won’t be ready.
- Troy Pride Jr. / Notre Dame / 6’0 – 193
Summary: Senior entry from Greer, South Carolina. A two year full time starter who also started sporadically in his first two seasons. Pride was also a member of the Notre Dame track team where he set team bests in the 60 and 200 meters. At this point, Pride may still be a better athlete than he is a football player, as seen in his struggles to maintain awareness of the ball. However the improvements he has shown over the years and his flashes of top tier man-cover ability, there is a significant reason to believe his best is far ahead of him. Pride is a hard working, smart kid who simply lacks confidence in his ability at this point. If given time, he can be molded into a quality starting corner.
*There was a point early in the process where I was flirting with Pride as a late first round grade. Once I got my hands on more tape, however, I had to bump him down a couple tiers. I think there is a solid upside here, someone who could rotate in right away but won’t be ready for a starting role until 2021 at the earliest. He is a lesser prospect than Julian Love from 2019, but one with more physical upside.
- Jeff Gladney / TCU / 5’10 – 191
Summary: Fifth year senior from New Boston, Texas. Four year starter and three time All Big 12 honoree, including a 1st Team nomination in 2019. Gladney has the rare combination of plus-length and plus-twitch that translates into downfield speed. He can stick himself to receivers on all levels of the route tree and when the ball does come his way, he makes plays on it. He led the Big 12 in pass breakups over the past two seasons in addition to providing good run defense on the outside where he is willing and able to make a difference. Gladney has some minor technique issues to fix, namely his pre-snap set up, but he should be ready for NFL duty right away, possibly even a starting role.
*I like the way this kid competes. So much of playing cornerback is between the ears, revolving around confidence, swagger, and intelligence. Gladney takes all of those and it positively impacts how well he competes. I don’t want him in my starting lineup right away, but I do think he can be an important nickel/dime defender at some point. He has technique issues to clean up and the big 12 isn’t exactly a hotbed for NFL defensive back talent, but I am confident he will at least be a solid backup and eventual starter.
- Michael Ojemudia / Iowa / 6’1 – 200
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Farmington Hills, Michigan. Two year starter who earned 3rd Team All Big 10 honors in 2019. Ojemudia was somewhat slow on the progression scale but he did get better every year of his career and flashed some of the traits that the new age of cornerbacks possess. He has above average size and long speed, making him a tough guy to get the ball around especially when noting his receiver-caliber ball skills. He has some glaring issues that may make him a man-only type corner, as he simply allows too much separation underneath and doesn’t play with instincts. He lacks a true feel for the game but there will be roster spot for him, likely in a defense that can keep him in man concepts.
*This kid will be a scheme-based pick who I could see being in the round 2 discussion or dropping to the back end of round 4. I am staying right in the middle. Iowa has been putting quality defensive back talent into the league for a few years and he’s flashed some upside to be considered the best one I have seen over the past 4-5 years from that program.
- Cameron Dantzler / Mississippi State / 6’2 ‘ 188
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Hammond, Louisiana. Two year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2018. To get a full appreciation for Dantzler and his game, one must watch him over and over. His stats won’t jump off the screen but since the start of 2018, he was one of the toughest SEC corners to complete a pass on, most notably near the end zone. His height, length, and springy athletic ability make him a guy who nobody will have confidence throwing downfield or in contested situations. He has some footwork to clean up so he can be more effective against underneath throws, but the tools and attitude are there to make Dantzler a quality starting corner very early in his career.
*Dantzler was another one I flirted with in round 1 at the beginning of the process. The first tape I watched was the Alabama game, and he won. He beat those guys. But there were some speed concerns that popped up a few times and then we went out and ran a 4.64, not good. He also didn’t measure as long as I was told he would. That in combination with some red flags in further tape study, I put him in round 3. Still think he can be a starter down the road or quality backup.
- AJ Terrell / Clemson / 6’1 – 195
Summary: Junior entry from Atlanta, Georgia. Two year starter who earned 3rd Team All ACC honors in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. The former 5-start recruit has a lot of experience, as he was a key cog to an-always talented secondary since the minute he arrived at Clemson. When it comes to the tools and what the league desires, Terrell is going to impress many. He plays tall and long and has proven he can run downfield against speed. Terrell also has produced in some of Clemson’s biggest games. There are issues between the ears, however. He fails to recognize route combinations, struggles to find the ball, and he doesn’t trust his techniques. He gets too grabby in traffic, showing a lack of trust in his techniques. He has the tools to be a quality starter but there is plenty of work to be done before he gets there.
*I am a tad lower on Terrell than most. There are some who put him the tier below the top 2, but I don’t see it. Terrell wasn’t overly productive, he is way too grabby, and there isn’t a natural sense to his game. The tools and program are going to get him drafted higher than where I have him.
- Bryce Hall / Virginia / 6’1 – 202
Summary: Senior entry from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A four year starter who hadn’t missed a game until his season ending ankle injury halfway through 2019. Hall was an All American and 1st Team All ACC corner in 2018 after leading the nation with 22 pass break ups. He has the desired height and length for the outside corner spot and his performance since the start of 2018 proved he is more than a set of tools. He really came together over his career and teams that primarily run zone coverage will have a high outlook on him. He does have a hole in his arsenal when it comes to long speed. He can be burned and there isn’t a catch-up gear. His surgery is in the rear view mirror and he should be ready by training camp if not sooner. He has many starter traits but he will be scheme specific.
*Depending on which coach you talk to and what scheme they run, Hall can be where I have him (early day 3) or somewhere in the middle of the 2nd round. He would be an ideal fit for a zone scheme where he has some protection over the top. He is tall and long, he plays with a physical brand, and he shows plus instincts. But man, that long speed is an issue and he a team can put him on an island with their speed guy, the defense is in trouble.
- Amik Robertson / Louisiana Tech / 5’8 – 187
Summary: Junior entry from Thibodaux, Louisiana. A three year starter who was 1st Team All Conference USA two seasons in a row. Robertson made a name for himself via production and on-field swagger. He had 14 interceptions and 34 pass break ups over his 3 year career, albeit against a slightly lower level of competition. He plays with the kind of short memory you want all defensive backs to possess, never lacking confidence and playing with a borderline nasty attitude. His lack of size will likely keep him at nickel where his techniques and over-aggression could be a problem. He has a lot of discipline to pick up early in his career if he wants to stick around.
*Robertson is a hot name among some, I never put him took him out of the day three tier. I see a nickel-only who will be able to make plays, but he has the kind of game that hurts just as much as it helps a defense. Personally that isn’t my preference at cornerback but I can see why some don’t mind. There aren’t many corners at his size in the league, so it is another red flag but if he sticks at nickel, it is less of an issue.
- Lamar Jackson / Nebraska / 6’2 – 208
Summary: Senior entry from Elk Grove, California. Three year starter who earned 2nd Team All Big 10 honors in 2019. Jackson, a former high school safety, made the move to cornerback when he arrived at Nebraska and carved his niche. His size and speed numbers are among the best in the class and after how he turned things around in 2019, it is safe to assume he is undervalued when it comes to his upside. Jackson was benched for immaturity reasons in 2018. Things turned around after the birth of his son and he put together the best year of his career as a senior. Jackson is nowhere near his peak and if he continues on the track he went on between 2018 and 2019, Jackson could be one of the top values in the entire class. Some schemes may even consider moving him back to safety.
*I have a character red flag on Jackson, nothing overly serious but it did bring him down slightly. Jackson plays faster than what he timed at the combine. I actually have it written in game notes from the fall that this kid will play as fast as he needs to and then he went onto the Senior Bowl, where they were able to gauge how fast everyone moved, and Jackson was among the fastest. He is one of my favorite day three targets and I would be equally eager to put him at safety and I am corner.
- Damon Arnette / Ohio State / 6’0 – 195
Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Three year starter who has played outside and nickel on a loaded defense. Was named 2nd Team All Big 10 in 2019 after almost declaring for the draft after his 2018 Honorable Mention All Big 10 season. Arnette is going to impress with his triangle numbers during workout season. He has more than enough size and speed to play with and coaches will see the energy he brings to the table and try to channel it toward improving his techniques that occasionally arise and burn him. Arnette projects to backup duty, ideally on the outside, with the physical ability and upside to start down the road.
*Arnette is likely going day 2 from what I have been told, I’m not there on him. He never quite reached the upside many have been talking about for years and one has to wonder, if Ohio State couldn’t get him there, what makes you think the light will click in the NFL? OSU is arguably the top cornerback factory in the country. There is no denying the ability, but I didn’t see enough progression or consistency.
- Dane Jackson / Pittsburgh: 74
- Javaris Davis / Auburn: 74
- Trajan Bandy / Miami: 72
- Javelin Guidry / Utah: 71
- Essang Bassey / Wake Forest: 71
- Grayland Arnold / Baylor: 71
- Darnay Holmes / UCLA: 71
- Josiah Scott / Michigan State: 71
- Thakarius Keyes / Tulane: 70
- Lavert Hill / Michigan: 70
I am all about NYG adding another CB talent to the pool. They are one injury and one lack of development away from this being a bottom tier group at a position that good offenses can expose with ease. Does Okudah make sense at #4? Sure, when looking at him and his grade by himself. But I don’t think NYG is going to use another prime resource on the position. Remember, this front office traded up into the first round for Baker and they just spent a ton of dough on Bradberry. Now, use the 4th pick of the draft on a good corner, but not a great one, over players with similar if not better grades who play a position where NYG needs help? I don’t see it.
I think there is a lot of early day 3 talent in this draft who can drop into round 5, possibly even round 6. I am looking at guys like Lamar Jackson, Dane Jackson, and Javaris Davis. These are guys who offer some versatility and, to be honest, more upside than what I see in Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal. So at the end of the day, I see the real opportunity for CB value to start day 3 for NYG in relation to the likely value available at other positions.