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
1: Derek Stingley – LSU – 6’0/190
Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three-year starter that arrived at LSU as the number one high school recruit in the nation and fully delivered. 2019 SEC Newcomer of the Year, two-time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Grandson of a 1973 1st round pick by New England and son of a Major League Baseball draft pick, Stingley comes from strong genes and has combined them with an elite cornerback skill set. He checks all the boxes when it comes to defending the pass and will especially stand out in schemes that put their corners in man coverage most of the time. His footwork, quickness, and top end speed make him a sticky cover man all over the route tree. After his 6 interception, 15 pass break up freshman season in the SEC, he simply wasn’t thrown at much through the end of his career. He underwent foot surgery in September 2021 after just 3 games but should be full-go by rookie minicamp. Stingley has a few technique flaws that will need to be cleaned up and don’t expect him to play a physical brand against the run. However, this is the kind of corner that can shut down an entire third of a field by himself.
*There is a lot of debate around Stingley. His career could not have gotten off to a better start after a legendary true freshman season in the SEC. Add that to the fact he was the top recruit in the nation…he was perceived as the second coming in the world of corners. How does one even come close to those expectations at the second hardest position in football? Stingley missed games with multiple injuries over the next two years, the most recent one being serious. His Pro Day was absolutely crucial. The foot checked out and he timed well, Stingley needs to be the top or second corner in this draft. He is a mix of Patrick Peterson and Marshon Lattimore and I expect a similar career if he stays healthy. How does NYG view him? If they truly want a “tough guy” out there, they may look past him. Stingley is physical in coverage and at the catch point, but I would not call him a “chew glass” type. The risk of his lower body becoming an issue durability-wise is a major fear as well. NYG cannot afford to see one of these top 10 picks turn out to be a low-dividend. I like Stingley and his potential, but the risk may be too high and Gardner is nearly just as good. Tough decision if they want to go corner.
2: Ahmad Gardner – Cincinnati – 6’3/190
Summary: Junior entry from Detroit, MI. Three-year starter that stacked up numerous postseason accolades. Two-time All American, three-time All AAC, and 2021 unanimous AAC Defensive Player of the Year. Gardner has been a dominant force from the start of his career, having never allowed a touchdown across over 1,000 snaps in coverage. His on-field production matches his top-tier tool set for the position. He plays tall, long, and fast across all levels of the route tree. Gardner also shows a deep understanding of how to play the cover game on an island. He is rarely caught out of position and the few times that does happen, his recovery burst and speed can catch up to anyone. This kind of movement, body control, and length will make him a tough cover man to beat. Once near the ball he has shown more than enough coordination with his ball skills to force quarterback’s into thinking twice before going his way. Gardner has true shutdown corner upside.
*Right place, right time for Gardner in relation to the status of Stingley and his foot. Gardner is going to be CB1 on multiple boards across the league and has a strong chance of being the first corner selected even if Stingley is fully healthy. The size is light years ahead of Stingley, his production is off the charts, and the acceleration + health is super clean. Stingley may give more star power, but Gardner may be the safer pick. This will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow. I like Gardner a lot – don’t mistake the stack for me looking down on him. He has the goods. There are some concerns with the short area route tree that I have. That is the one issue I can see on tape. He also did not see a ton of difficult matchups in his career.
3: Kaiir Elam – Florida – 6’1/191
Summary: Junior entry from Rivera Beach, FL. Three-year starter that earned first team all-SEC in 2020. The son of former NFL safety Abe Elam and nephew to former NFL safety Matt Elam. Kaiir is a prototype cornerback with plus size and speed. His triangle numbers are some of the best in the class and they complement his tape well. His ability to play physical as a press corner and at the catch point can make him a handful to deal with for receivers. He has both the confidence and ability to get in their face at the line of scrimmage with the knowledge he can turn and run with anyone. He looks rough around the edges when it comes to techniques, forcing him to get too grabby with his hands. His athleticism does not always show up underneath where lateral quickness is needed. The ability and potential are there to be a credible number one corner at the next level in time, though.
*Elam’s uncle Matt was a first-round pick of the Ravens when Martindale was a linebacker coach there. That doesn’t mean anything, but hey a fun fact. Anyway, Kaiir is one of the more competitive, attitude-based corners in the class. In fact, he may be THE guy that I want next to me in a bar fight. This guy mixes it up every week and I think it gives him an actual edge on the field. He is very talented across the board, but there is too much sloppiness in his game right now. He needs to clean it up and that will require time and a lot of attention to his craft.
4: Andrew Booth Jr – Clemson – 6’0/194
Summary: Junior entry from Dacula, Georgia. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2021. Booth was a 5-star recruit that started just 15 career games at Clemson but was a key contributor for two full seasons. The physically gifted corner excels in downfield coverage because of his easy-moving, explosive lower half. He can hit his top speed in a hurry and combining that with excellent length and twitch, Booth has the makings of a top-flight outside presence that can excel in man-dominant coverage schemes. He needs to improve ball location and underneath-coverage feel. There are a lot of false steps when he is facing the action, he has too much tape where is found tripping over his own feet, and he simply allowed too many receptions. If his mind can catch up to his body, Booth has number one corner written all over him.
*Considering Booth simply does not have a ton of experience under his belt and there truly is no substitute for development at corner without true game experience, Booth is the wild card of this group. His movement skills may be the best in the class. His best tape rivals the best tape we see from both Stingley and Gardner. The issue is that the bad tape is really bad. The footwork and underneath body control can get roasted in the NFL. He also tends to lose the ball downfield, something else a quality passing attack will go after often. There is a lot of guessing here but if NYG can somehow can their hands on him in round 2, he is worth the gamble.
5: Trent McDuffie – Washington – 5’11/193
Summary: Junior entry from Westminster, GA. Three-year starter that earned first team all-Pac 12 honors in 2021, second team in 2020. McDuffie brings instant energy to a defense with his aggressive nature and twitched up movement. He can play fast in all situations, all directions against both the run and pass. His ability to diagnose, put his foot in the ground, and play fast can put him into a variety of roles and schemes. He plays with a one-size-fits-all style. McDuffie’s upside could be limited by the lack of height and reach, however, when he is in contested situations. He simply was not tested much, and his ball production was not noteworthy. There is some unknown here but there are plenty of reasons to feel confident he will compete hard and get the most put of his top-tier speed and quickness.
*McDuffie is guaranteed to bring the heat week in, week out. He can be an energy stick for a secondary. You cannot ignore the lack of reach (29” arms) and lack of ball production. It is actually a non-starter for some teams. I would love to see him in a nickel role off the bat. He specializes in playing sticky on coverage and there is a physical nature that can make a difference lining up closer to the ball. NYG has a question mark at that spot and BUF brought in a couple corners like McDuffie while Schoen was there. Another day 2 target if he falls a bit, but signs point toward him being a first rounder.
6: Roger McCreary – Auburn – 5’11/193
Summary: Senior entry from Auburn, AL. Three-year starter that earned first team All-SEC honors in 2021. While McCreary may not have all the ideal measurables for a starting outside corner, it is hard to look past how well he grades out everywhere else. His techniques from top to bottom are near-flawless and there is a tenacity to his game that plays big. There is little doubt he can be a solid corner at the next level, but the gray area will be where he should be placed. His tool set screams nickel, where his stickiness and physical nature can blend into most schemes right away. The missed tackles and struggles against size could end up hurting him in that role, however. McCreary is the kind of guy you bring in first, figure out later. He is ahead of the curve among most corners when looking at actual coverage responsibilities.
*Similar to McDuffie above, McCreary will be picked based on his quickness and feel for the position. He plays as sticky as anyone. He is a hair below McDuffie speed wise and even though he does play with a physical, aggressive approach, he is a poor tackler. Not a huge knock for a cornerback in general but if he is going to project to nickel for NYG, he needs to get much better there. McCreary has some really good tape against really good corners. I think he can play right away.
7: Kyler Gordon – Washington – 5’11/194
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Mukilteo, WA. Three-year starter that earned first team all-Pac 12 honors in 2021 after finishing with honorable mention honors in both 2020 and 2019. Gordon has the tools to be a very solid cover man at the next level. He has the size and long speed to handle pro receivers down the field, no question. Where he stands out is underneath and intermediate. His short area burst and acceleration can make him a sticky corner and when he brings this kind of length to the table as well, we are talking about a do-it-all defender against the pass. He does struggle to get a solid jam at the point of attack and his presence against the run is inconsistent. He would do best in a zone-happy scheme as he continues to learn the game and pick up more repeatable natural tendencies. His impact may be a year away, but he has a starter’s upside.
*Gordon didn’t run as fast as I thought he would at the combine. It did not change where I had him graded, however. He plays plenty fast enough and the tape proves it over and over. My concern is with physical presence at the catch point. He is not a soft player, but he does come across weak. He struggled to consistently impact receivers in contested situations. I love this kid’s upside, but that needs to improve.
8: Alontae Taylor – Tennessee – 6’0/199
Summary: Senior entry from Manchester, TN. Four-year starter that transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback in 2018. Taylor has had an up and down career when it comes to coverage and production. One thing that never rattled, however, was the energy he plays with. Taylor brings a level of intensity and competitive nature to the field that can help change the personality of a defense. He plays the ball well, plays physical, and has plus-tools. There are issues that show up in underneath coverage and he has been banged up multiple times throughout his career. Taylor will at the very least contribute on special teams as a gunner and presents potential as a starting outside corner in a cover 2/cover 3 scheme.
*Taylor surprised me with his pro day workout. His height, speed, and length are going to be attractive to a lot of teams. But it doesn’t just end there. Taylor is still new to the position compared to other corners, coaches will love his aggressive nature, and he showed glimpses of first round caliber play late in the year. I just never got on board with him though. His struggles underneath that stem from the high-hipped lower body and balance issues aren’t going anywhere, not any time soon. I really think he is destined for a zone-heavy scheme and I’m not sure I trust him in man coverage. There are some that graded him as a safety.
9: Josh Jobe – Alabama – 5’11/182
Summary: Senior entry from Miami, FL. Two-year starter that came into 2021 with big expectations after a strong junior season but failed to deliver. Jobe checks most of the boxes when it comes to triangle numbers and techniques but there is a lack of feel to his game. He does not anticipate routes well and there is some high-hipped, sluggish movement against lateral movement. He may be scheme-specific at the next level, but his ability to turn and run with fluidity and control will help maximize his plus-length. He will provide solid depth initially and has the kind of upside that can end up as a solid starter.
*I’ve been on both sides of the fence with Jobe. I love corners that come from the Saban program. He is an easy mover with plus-length and he looked really solid in 2020 and 2019. If you use his 2021 tape by itself, however, he looked like a day three corner or a guy that needs to move to safety. Now we have to keep in mind there was a foot injury that did not get a lot of attention. Jobe is a good enough athlete to play corner in the league, there is no question. The debate is, does he have the feel? Can he improve the mental side? Saban moved him between safety and corner a bit too. One last note: Baltimore drafted corners from Alabama in back-to-back years while Martindale was there. Keep that in mind.
10: Cam Taylor-Britt – Nebraska – 5’11/194
Summary: Senior entry from Montgomery, AL. Three-year starter that began his career as a safety and moved to cornerback in 2019. Two-time All-Big Ten, second team in 2021. Taylor-Britt is a twitched up defensive back with some versatility to wear multiple hats in sub packages. His size is average, but he plays both quick and fast enough cover in multiple schemes. He plays sticky underneath and has the catch-up speed to play the vertical route tree. The former safety also shows plus-aggression as a tackler and run defender, albeit he needs to clean up techniques. His ball skills are another pull on the grade sheet. Taylor-Britt is an ideal fit for a nickel role that can be transitioned inside-out based on matchups. He is a smart and dependable player that should be in the league for a long time.
*I am a little higher on Taylor-Britt than what is out there. This is another version of Julian Love. Safety/corner hybrid that has the juice to play outside. There is some tightness to him, but I think it has more to do with learning the nuances of route concepts from a corner perspective. Olave from Ohio State (1st round WR) ate him up a bit. But remember, he only really played corner for a couple years. I would like to see him as a sub-package guy for a year or two and see where it takes him. It is possible he moves back to safety.
11: Coby Bryant – Cincinnati – 6’1/193
Summary: Fifth year senior from Cleveland, OH. Four-year starter that earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021. Capped of his career by winning the Jim Thorpe Award and finishing as an All-American. Byrant’s production is noteworthy, and it is easy to be drawn to his instinctive play style. He obviously does his homework, as he shows pro-caliber ability to forecast and put himself in position. While the tool set is less than ideal across the board other than his height, Bryant can be a solid starting corner for a defense that runs a lot of zone-based coverage. He is not a fit for every defense, but Bryant will have starter-grades with multiple teams based on what they ask out of their corners. If he is protected from specific possibilities, he will make plays.
*If you could put Bryant’s feel and instincts into some of these guys above him, you are looking at a 90+ grade (All-Pro projection). Bryant is a couple tiers below athletically than you want from a starter and it will likely prevent him from getting a look from some teams. That said, there are corners in the league (good ones) that profile the same way as Bryant. I’ve learned to slot these guys different that I used to, but I still have a solid outlook on corners that play the way Bryant does. He just needs a specific scheme and role.
12: Marcus Jones – Houston – 5’8/174
Summary: Senior entry from Enterprise, AL. Spent one year at Troy where he started and earned All American honors as a returner. Played two seasons for Houston as a starter and continued his return-prowess, earning first team All-AAC and All-American honors. Also earned second team all-conference honors as a corner and won the AAC Special Teams Player of the Year award in 2021. Jones could be a day two pick based on his return ability alone. As a corner, he is well below the ideal standards for the position, but he shows potential as a sticky slot defender. His margin for error is incredibly low and he simply does not show the technique-discipline yet. He will be a bit of a project but can uniquely still bring value to the table because of the return skills immediately.
*There is a lot of interest in Jones, and I think he will go before where I have him. The return value just is not what it used to be, so I kept him day three. And in addition, I’m not sure he will perform well enough on defense to be anything more than a returner. He has to be uber-special if you are going to use an early to mid-pick on a returner. Thus, a risky proposition that I don’t see NYG going for considering the state of their roster.
13: Tariq Woolen – UTSA – 6’4/205
Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Worth, TX. Two-year starter at cornerback after spending his first three seasons at wide receiver where he also started six games. Honorable Mention All-Conference USA in 2021. Woolen is an incredibly unique prospect that will force NFL decision makers to look deep into their crystal ball. His blend of elite size and speed to go along with a more than his fair share of quality tape can easily override some of the current ugliness in his game. The speed shows up and it comes with quality plant and go burst out of his breaks. This is a corner that can truly transfer his tools to quality play on the field. The former receiver is just a couple years into playing on the defensive side of the ball and it is natural to expect his upward progression can be steep if he gets the right coaching and he applies himself. Woolen is a true boom or bust prospect.
*In all my years of scouting, I cannot recall a cornerback with this physical package. Every bit of 6’4 wit plus length AND a sub 4.3 forty? Watch the right film and you will a kid with a real skill set too. The defensive coaches that are overly in love with length are going to be drooling over Woolen. I thought I was a little aggressive with the fourth-round grade, but I bet he goes a little earlier. The upside is so high, but I would bet against him reaching it. There is a long way to go here, and the odds tell me he won’t get to a high enough level with his skill set.
14: Jalyn Armour-Davis – Alabama – 6’1/197
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Mobile, AL. One-year starter that earned second team All-SEC honors in that lone season. A former special teamer, Armour-Davis’ career got off to a rough start, tearing his ACL in pregame warmups as a true freshman. He did not see a lot of time at cornerback until 2021 but did make some noise as a gunner on special teams. Once he earned that starting spot on defense, however, Armour-Davis shined. His speed and size can make a difference if he develops a more consistent skill set. The tools are there but he simply does not have the experience under his belt. He is very much a projection on the next level, but one with a high enough ceiling to warrant a potential starter label.
*As I said earlier, I am always going to feel some extra pull toward an Alabama corner. Armour-Davis only started one season, but in this program that is not the red flag that it is in some others. I make it a point to watch guys both early in the year and late in the year. There are a few reasons why, but for a player like Armour-Davis it is even more important. That game experience made him a better player and one must believe that progression will continue the more he gets on the field. There will be some growing pains, maybe more than typical young corners, but I think the upside is higher than most day three corners. In such a deep group of 4th-5th rounders, I bet he gets taken near the top of that section.
15: Joshua Williams – Fayetteville State – 6’3/195
Summary: Senior entry from Fayetteville, NC. Three-year starter that had his 2020 season cancelled due to Covid 19. First team All-CIAA in 2021. Dripping with tools that are ideal for outside corner, Williams is a long-term project that may not be able see the field in 2022 because of how steep the climb he will be making in competition. With that said, his performance at the Senior Bowl softened the notion significantly. He is smooth as butter as he turns his hips and accelerates to his top speed, showing minimal loss of balance and control. Add that to his size and presence at the catch point, Williams can make the case to be projected as an eventual starting cornerback within his rookie deal. The speed does not jump off the screen, but he does have some extra length to fall back on and he took on the Senior Bowl receivers the way he did at the lower level of college football.
*There are a few guys I respect a lot when it comes to their view on cornerbacks that really like this kid. One that “slipped through the cracks” as a high school recruit. They all said top 100 picks and I agree he has a shot at cracking it. The adjustment in play will be enormous for anyone coming from Fayetteville State. Making that jump at a position where speed is more important than anywhere else likely spells redshirt year for him. Maybe we see him on the field late in the season, but a lot needs to go right. Schoen did help Buffalo make a valuable pick on a corner from a small school a few years ago. Some decision makers are afraid to pull that kind of trigger, he is not.
BEST OF THE REST:
16: Damarri Mathis – Pittsburgh – 5’11/196: 75
17: Akayleb Evans – Missouri – 6’2/197: 75
18: Cordale Flott – LSU – 6’0/175: 75
19: Zyon McCollum – Sam Houston State – 6’2/199: 75
20: Vincent Gray – Michigan – 6’2/192: 75
21: Tariq Castro-Fields – Penn State – 6’1/197: 74
22: Martin Emerson – Mississippi State – 6’2/201: 74
23: Chase Lucas – Arizona State – 5’11/180: 74
24: Mario Goodrich – Clemson – 6’0/176: 73
25: Josh Thompson – Texas – 5’11/194: 73
26: Decobie Durant – South Carolina State – 5’10/180: 72
27: Jaylen Watson – Washington State – 6’2/197: 71
28: Montaric Brown – Arkansas – 6’0/196: 71
29: Kalon Barnes – Baylor – 5’11/183: 71
30: Isaac Taylor-Stuart – USC – 6’1/201: 71
For the second straight year, the cornerback is incredibly deep. While many grades will be scheme-dependent, the notion will be the same for everyone. If you are looking to add depth to your corner group with the potential of that guy being a starter within a couple years, you can get your guy round 4 or 5. Does that mean you should wait until then? No. However, I do think it would be foolish to reach for a guy day 2 even though the position is really important. NYG is going to consider one of the top corners early on, Stingley and Gardner. I think they will prefer the clean bill of health that Gardner brings to the table. I have them graded very closely and I will acknowledge that Stingley brings extra risk to the table. Injuries to knees and feet at cornerback worry me, too. My main reason for stacking him slightly above Gardner has a lot to do with who these guys matched up against in college and the proof Stingley has on his resume that he can make plays against the best NCAA had to offer, and I am including the LSU receivers he got to practice against. That said, the whole “…smart, tough, dependable…” line from Schoen makes me think they lean toward Gardner if they opt to go for a CB. If they do wait until day three, which would be my preference unless the board shook up weird in the top 7 with other teams, I think this is a good spot for Vincent Gray from Michigan or Zyon McCollum from Sam Houston State. They have the tools required for the scheme, they play smart and tough, and they will not be rushed into action. Much of this will depend on whether or not NYG trades Bradberry or Jackson or….both.