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Patrick Surtain, Alabama Crimson Tide (January 11, 2021)

Patrick Surtain – © USA TODAY Sports

CORNERBACKS

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, 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 signing of James Bradberry from last year’s free agency period was one of the best signings we have seen this franchise make in a long time.  Having a reliable, quality presence on the outside week to week means more to a defense than most understand.  Scheming around that is so much more opportunistic and with the versatility at safety, this defense has a lot of options.  The other outside corner role was a revolving door in 2020, as DeAndre Baker was released.  The signing of Adoree’ Jackson in this year’s free agency period is a huge net-gain for this defense.  Now they have two reliable guys on the outside, an up-and-coming nickel in Darnay Holmes, and adequate depth in Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis, and Quincy Wilson.  One can make the argument that it is a thin group when looking at the future.  You always want to have 1-2 quality backups on the outside because they do see the field plenty and you’re an injury away from a glaring hole that a good opposing offense can torch.

GRADING SCALE

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

1. Patrick Surtain II / Alabama / 6’2-202

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Plantation, Florida.  Three-year starter that began his career as a rare true freshman starter at cornerback when looking back at the Nick Saban era.  He went on to start 38 straight games.  Ended his career as a 1st Team All American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and finalist for the Thorpe, Bednarik, Nagurski, and Lott Awards respectively.  Surtain is the son of former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain.  Like his father, the young pedigree plays with outstanding strength and aggression.  He has the size and physical brand that can take over and dominate receivers on the outside.  Even though there are some deep movement and tracking issues, he is a starting caliber cornerback right now because of how advanced he is with techniques and how consistent of a presence he provides.  He is better in zone than he is man, but he can fit into any scheme and play week 1.

*Prior to the Jackson signing, Surtain II was one of five guys I had pegged to NYG.  He is an ideal fit for the scheme and there was a hole on the outside of Bradberry.  Add in the fact his grade met the value of #11, I really thought this would be the direction they would lead toward.  I still think there is a chance it happens, but obviously less likely.  Surtain II has a couple issues with the deep ball that concern me a bit, but he is so good in every other area.  He is going to be very good.

2. Jaycee Horn / South Carolina / 6’1-205

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Alpharetta, Georgia.  Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2020.  Opted out of the 2020 season after 7 games.  On a short list of true freshmen that have started at South Carolina.  Some of the other names include Stephon Gilmore (Patriots), Jadeveon Clowney (Titans), and Bryan Edwards (Raiders).  Horn, from day one, has been an impressive and important part to the Gamecocks defense.  He plays a physical game, capable of taking on a big possession receiver and beating him to the ball.  While there are some concerns with his turn and run ability, there is enough he can do, notably in a zone heavy scheme, that can make a big difference.  The ball skills, instincts, and downhill explosion will make him a starter early in his career.

*The single best performance I have seen out of any corner in recent years was the one Horn put out against Auburn last fall.  I have no quarrels with anyone that has him at CB1, him and Surtain II are equally very good.  Horn shows more ability in man coverage and I think his upside is higher.  If he evolves more like he did over the past 2 years, we may be looking at one of the top 3 or 4 corners in football.

3. Caleb Farley / Virginia Tech / 6’1-207

Grade: 81

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Maiden, North Carolina.  A two-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2019 after leading the conference in pass break ups while adding 4 interceptions.  He opted out of the 2020 season.  Farley was a high school quarterback that initially tried his hand at wide receiver in 2017 before tearing his ACL, leading to a redshirt.  He came back in 2018, made the transition to cornerback, and started the next two seasons.  Farley’s top shelf height, length, and long speed make him a very attractive prospect for any scheme in the NFL.  He can blanket the opposition’s targets with both size and speed in addition to possessing receiver-caliber ball skills.  The glaring issue is the fact that he only played in 23 career college games, with his 2019 being cut short because of a nerve issue in his back that later needed a procedure.  There will need to be extra medical screening done here, but his tape and tools pass all the tests.

*I never had Farley in the running for CB1 in this class, nor did I ever see him as a top 20 guy.  Still a very good prospect and 1st round talent though.  He has the tools, a case can be made he is earlier on the progression scale than others, and he showed plenty of playmaking skills.  Farley simply has too many question marks for me to “love” him.  Medical and small area movement.  Still a starter in year one I think.

4. Ifeatu Melifonwu / Syracuse / 6’3-212

Grade: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from South Grafton, Massachusetts.  Two-year starter that was 2nd Team All ACC in 2020, the only year in which he played every game.  He led the team with 17 pass break ups over the past two years combined and showed a safety’s type impact on the running game.  Melifonwu is dripping with talent, much like his brother did coming out of Connecticut in 2017 when he was a 2nd round pick of the Raiders.  The younger brother has the kind of size and speed for the position that is hard to find when trying to connect it to a player with an actual cornerback skill set.  He attacks the ball with tremendous precision and accuracy, plays a physical brand, and is just scratching the surface.  If he takes in NFL coaching and cleans up some simple but vital techniques, he can be a menace on the outside.  High upside player that needs work.

*I am a bit higher on Melifonwu than most.  I think he is a borderline first rounder, partially because of the versatility he can bring to the table.  If I were to grade him strictly as a safety, he would be right around here as well.  Teams that really value the size at corner are going to be high on him.  He is twitchy, agile, and quick which doesn’t usually match up with this height and length.  He can do so much in the secondary.

5. Greg Newsome II / Northwestern / 6’0-192

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Chicago, Illinois.  Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2020.  A very fluid and easy moving athlete, Newsome brings the desired height, length, and athleticism to the table that NFL corners need.  He can play on the outside and be left alone on an island.  His footwork and hip movement look ideal, and he has shown the ability to play with high-level ball skills.  Newsome II only started 18 games over his career and there are some inconsistencies across the board.  He will get caught looking in the backfield too often and his physical maturity still has a ways to go.  He plays weak on contact and will not factor much against the run.  He can be a starting corner in time but would be best suited for a situation that brought him along a little slower over the course of the first year or two of his career.

*There is a lot of hype around Newsome II and I think he is going to get drafted somewhere in the 20s.  I’m not that far off from that evaluation, but I do question how quick he can make an impact. A few issues in his game are what I saw out of Jeff Okudah in his disappointing year in DET.  It takes a few corners multiple years before they’re high quality, and that is the path I see both those guys taking.

6. Aaron Robinson / Central Florida / 6’0-190

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Deerfield Beach, Florida.  Began his career at Alabama in 2016 where he played in 13 games.  Transferred to Central Florida in 2017 and redshirted.  Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in both 2019 and 2020.  Robinson has the pro-caliber foot speed and burst that enables him to stay sticky to his man on all levels of the route tree.   He can play the game with his feet rather than getting too grabby with his hands.  Robinson has a lot of dog in him.  He is always one of the toughest players on the field and he knows it.  Even though he needs to control where he gets aggressive and where to gamble, he is the kind of player that elevates the energy of a defense.  That doesn’t occur much from cornerbacks.  His size may keep him at nickel but he can play both.

*There are some corners that elevate their game with swagger.  They are constantly getting in fights, constantly running their mouth.  I understand that isn’t an approach for everyone to get behind, but I personally love it.  Much prefer that than guys on opposing teams laughing with each other all game and trading jerseys afterward.  Robinson hates his opponent every week, and he plays like it.  He also has really well developed technique and footwork.  Little gamble here, but I think he is starting in the league within a year or two.

7. Tyson Campbell / Georgia / 6’1-193

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Plantation, Florida.  Three-year starter that was a key part of a loaded Georgia secondary.  Campbell was a five-star recruit that developed from athlete with upside to full blown pro-caliber starting corner.  His body type fits in exactly with what the league is looking for.  His height, length, and speed have the potential to shut the big deep threats down at the next level.  He is a light and easy mover with fluid hips and flexible ankles.  His ability to seamlessly change direction with this kind of body is rare.  Campbell still has a ways to go in his progression when it comes to locating downfield passes, however.  His athleticism looks uncomfortable when he is on an island deep.  He lost too many 50/50 situations and simply didn’t produce enough to be considered a first rounder, but his upside is that of a starting corner.  If his progression path stays on the path he forged over his career, his upside is as good as any at the position in this class.

*Upside-based grade here.  There are safer prospects below him with similar grades but this where one can get more subjective with how they stack guys.  I saw flashes out of Campbell that I didn’t see from others.  His easy turn and run ability, top shelf speed, and size make him an attractive long term prospect.

8. Paulson Adebo / Stanford / 6’1-198

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Mansfield, Texas.  Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors both seasons.  Also earned All American honors in 2019.  Opted out of the 2020 season.  Adebo was very productive over the course of his short playing career.  He was on the field for just 22 games but still walked away with 8 interceptions and 29 pass break ups.  This tall, long, and fast cover man has proven receiver-caliber ball skills spread across multiple seasons.  He is a try-hard corner that pursues the action hard on all downs, all situations.  He is a smart and well-spoken kid that will get the most out of himself.  There are a few essential techniques that he will need to clean up, however.  He plays really high and it messes with his ability to minimize separation underneath.  His tool set is there, he just needs to become more machine-like.  High upside talent here that has the tools the NFL wants.

*Adebo was one of the guys I really wanted to watch in 2020.  He opted out though and I didn’t want to move him any higher than this even though I do think he can play like a 1st rounder.  He had a really impressive Pro Day and he is a really smart kid + hard worker.  He has the tools and showed the ability to make a lot of plays on the ball.  He just had a few backpedal and turning issues that, without the 2020 tape to look back on, I’m not currently sure about.

9. Kelvin Joseph / Kentucky / 6’1-192

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Began his career at LSU where he was a rotational backup in 2018 before transferring to Kentucky which forced him to sit out all of 2019.  Started 9 games in 2020.  Joseph is a smooth and easy mover that has plus-athletic traits attached to a really long frame.  His skill set looks NFL ready right now, as he can turn and run as if he were on ice skates on top of showing the ability to play the ball in the air like a receiver.  The issue here is a significant lack of experience.  He has 9 career starts and played in just 20 games total.  High risk, high reward cover man.

*There are a couple guys in the league that have a 1st round grade on Joseph.  No arguments against that from me.  He is as fluid and fast as they come.  The lack of experience increases his risk a ton and I saw a couple red flags when it came to being physical in both coverage and run defense.  Nobody would be surprised to see him being the top corner in this class a few years from now.

10. Elijah Molden / Washington / 5’10-190

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from West Linn, Oregon.  Two-plus year starter that is a two-time 1st Team All-Pac 12 honoree.  Molden was a chess piece for the Washington secondary that can project to multiple positions in the NFL.  He has the skill set to be a high-level nickel defender but can also play a free safety type role.  He flies around the field without any hesitation.  Molden is a true student of the game that is self-made.  His tools won’t win any awards, as he falls under the desired lines when it comes to pure size and speed.  However, his short area burst and quickness gets him around the action often.  Molden is a true leader of the defense type, one that will make players around him better and hide deficiencies via smart and active play.

*There are certain teams that are going to get everything out of this kid.  He is blue collar player that is smarter than most prospects coming out.  He can wear a lot of hats.  I just hope the right coach/scheme gets their hands on him.  If he is put into the wrong place, he will be merely average at best.

11. Benjamin St. Juste / Minnesota / 6’3-200

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Began his career at Michigan and spent two years there.  Two-year starter for the Gophers that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors in 2019.  St. Juste fits the mold of corners that many teams want now. He is tall and twitchy with plus-length.  He has a nicely developed frame with an easy-moving lower half.  St. Juste may not check all the boxes when it comes to long speed, thus he will need protection over the top or play a specific role at the next level.  His quality of play has been on a solid and consistent upward trajectory since the start of 2019 and there are intriguing tools here to try and develop.

*St. Juste was really far down the scouting lists that I get to cross check over the summer.  When I say far down, I am talking outside of the top 50 (just cornerbacks).  I knew he would finish higher than that, but even I was not anticipating him finishing this high.  He was one of the first Shrine Bowl recommendations I sent out.  Plain and simple, you just don’t get a guy with this kind of agility and balance paired with this height often.  It is rare, actually.  If he were at a SEC school, we may be talking round 1.

12. Shakur Brown / Michigan State / 5’10-190

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Stockbridge, Georgia.  Two-year starter that broke out in 2020, earning 1st Team All Big 10 honors after he led the FBS in interceptions per game.  His 5 picks in just 7 games highlighted his ability to make plays on the ball while also displaying superior sticky coverage potential.  Brown isn’t overly big or fast, but he plays hard and will stick the NFL slots naturally.  He is a short strider with elite agility.  He projects to a starting nickel role in time if he can prove to say healthy and progress his mental game.

*Brown has nickel written all over him.  Not just his size, but his movement and sticky-style in coverage underneath.  Was his breakout 2020 season real?  Or just a product of a short year? He is a tough dude that plays with some attitude and swagger.

13. Eric Stokes / Georgia / 6’1-194

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Covington, Georgia.  Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019, 1st Team in 2020.  In a crowded secondary with NFL talent all over the place, it was Stokes that led the team in pass break ups in 2019 and interceptions in 2020.  The former high school track star developed nicely into his frame that has natural height and length to it.  He still needs to add some bulk so he can maintain power positions and balance in traffic against physical pass catchers, but his long speed and easy burst really minimizes the separation receivers can obtain all over the route tree.  He will be a dependable man-cover corner capable of playing early in his career with the upside of being a very good number two corner.

*Stokes got put on some radars when he ran a sub 4.35 at the Georgia Pro Day.  We already knew he was fast, that wasn’t ever the question.  His questions will revolve around physical impact on contact and the ability to anticipate.  I just wish I saw a bit more natural flow in his game.  If he makes gains in that area, he can be a starter in a similar way to the new NYG starter Adoree Jackson.

14. Asante Samuel Jr. / Florida State / 5’10-184

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Sunrise, Florida.  Son of former Super Bowl winning NFL cornerback Asante Samuel.  A three-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2020, 3rd Team in 2019.  Samuel, like his father, is a ball hawk that can make up for physical shortcomings with his instinctive nature and precise footwork.  He broke up 29 passes in 32 games while intercepting another 4.  He was a bright spot among the struggling FSU program.  Samuel’s lack of size and questionable speed could get him in trouble if left alone against NFL receivers on the outside.  He doesn’t always look comfortable down the field and in traffic.  However, when it comes to sitting back and diagnosing the action in front of him, Samuel Jr looks NFL-ready.  He can be eased into action and is most attractive in a scheme with safety help deep.

*Samuel is going to be a very good nickel.  He is a bit scheme-specific, one that favors zone, but for the team that gets him will know that.  He could slip into day 3 because of the crazy CB depth in this class.  And I bet he makes a year-1 impact.

15. Kary Vincent / LSU / 5’10-185

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas.  Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season.  Son of former NFL cornerback Kary Vincent, Sr.  A former high school state champion sprinter that also ran track for the Tigers in college.  Vincent may be the fastest defender in the class.  His burst, acceleration, and top end speed are all tied together.  He plays at a rate faster than everyone else when he knows what he is going after.  The issue seems to be that he just doesn’t always mentally click when deciphering route concepts and the passer’s intentions.  Vincent was moved around the secondary a ton, seeing a lot of looks at nickel corner and free safety.  A team needs to try and develop him at one spot because the tools are good enough to be a big-time factor at the next level.  He isn’t a physical player and his instincts aren’t natural, so the nickel spot is likely his best spot where the power-shortcomings won’t hurt as much.

*I had Vincent top 5 in my stack at the start of 2020.  His opt out was less than ideal. I don’t want to penalize him for it but I do have a tendency to push guys ahead of him when I know there are significant instinct-based issues in his game.  Vincent will be one of the fastest players in the NFL right away and he made some big plays over his career.  He is worth the gamble at some point, the question will be when.  Also, you need a strong plan for where he is going in the secondary, as I don’t see the intelligence to man multiple spots.

16. Camryn Bynum / California / 6’0-198: 75
17. Robert Rochell / Central Arkansas / 5’11-195: 75
18. Shaun Wade / Ohio State / 6’1-195: 75
19. Ambry Thomas / Michigan / 6’0-189: 74
20. Keith Taylor / Washington / 6’2-191: 74
21. Thomas Graham Jr / Oregon / 5’11-193: 74
22. DJ Daniel / Georgia / 5’11-183: 72
23. Michael Carter II / Duke / 5’10-190: 72
24. Israel Mukuamu / South Carolina / 6’4-205: 71
25. Trill Williams / Syracuse / 6’1-198: 71
26. Marco Wilson / Florida / 5’11-187: 70
27. Rodarius Williams / Oklahoma State / 6’0-193: 70
28. Bryan Mills / NC Central / 6’1-180: 69
29. Bryce Thompson / Tennessee / 6’0-182: 69
30. Tay Gowan / Central Florida / 6’2-185: 69

NYG APPROACH

This is one of the deepest cornerback groups in recent memory.  I still have another 10+ names that I consider draftable.  NYG has a strong 1-2-3-4-5 for the 2021 season, maybe top 7 in the NFL if Jackson reaches his previous form now that his knee is 100%.  As said earlier, however, that extra depth for the future isn’t there yet.  Do you wait until next year and then have to rely on a rookie?  Or do you use a day three pick on someone that falls and groom him for a year?  I also think some depth and competition for Holmes at nickel would be a benefit to him.  While it isn’t a pressing need, you don’t ever want to be poor or lacking depth at corner.  If the value is right any point day 3, I think it is a smart investment.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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