Kevin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC
**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.
CURRENT CBs on NYG ROSTER
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – 29 Years old – Signed through 2018
Prince Amukamara – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015
Trumaine McBride – 30 Years old – Signed through 2015
Chykie Brown – 29 Years old – Signed through 2016
Mike Harris – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015
Chandler Fenner – 25 Years old – Signed through 2015
Jayron Hosley – 25 Years old – Signed through 2015
Bennett Jackson – 24 Years old – Signed through 2015
Trevin Wade – 26 Years old – Signed through 2016
WHERE THEY STAND
When everyone is healthy, this CB group has everything a defense would need out of the group. We all know that counting on an injury-free season from everyone on that list could be considered foolish. DRC is a favorite of mine when looking at all the CBs around the league without bias. He is the most talented CB NYG has had in a very long time, possibly ever. Amukamara has been up and down, as most young corners are, but he’s struggled to stay on the field and he is expected to hit the FA market next winter. A lot of that will depend on the contract statuses of Manning and JPP, however. McBride is a tough veteran that I trust in the nickel and backup roles. Brown and Harris showed a pretty good level of play in their limited exposure last season. Coincidentally, I wanted the Giants to draft Harris back in 2012. Glad to see he eventually made his way here. Fenner and Hosley could compete for the final CB spot but don’t overlook Jackson, one of my top value picks NYG made last year. He may have some FS in his future though.
TOP 20 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1 – Kevin Johnson – Wake Forest – 6’0/188 – 81
Upside Pro Comparison: Terence Newman/MIN
Strong Points: Easy and fluid mover. Top tier quickness and reaction. Can go 0-60 with a few steps. Shows the speed to pursue and/or catch up with anyone. Has an aggressive style that suits him well against both the run and pass. Quality ball skills, shows the easy hands and eye-hand coordination when going after passes. Strong tackler that makes the attempt to wrap up. All-out hustler when moving downhill while attacking the run. Closes the gap fast. Can play with lateral and vertical range with his smooth hips and light feet. Confident player that plays with a certain swagger on the field, very competitive.
Weak Points: Over-aggressive and takes too many gambles. Fooled by the double moves too often. Very thin and light. Can be pushed around by blockers. Doesn’t have the consistent footwork you want to see in man coverage. Takes too long to diagnose. Doesn’t always see what’s going on around him, looks at things in a tunnel too much. False steps put him in a catch up position to often.
Summary: Thee year starter. Had to redshirt in 2011 for being academically ineligible. This 2nd Team All ACC corner is one of the toughest defenders you can find. Despite a lack of size, he shows no hesitation when attacking the ball and/or ball carrier. He displays outstanding speed and quickness, sticking with some of the best receivers in the country. Johnson’s attitude on the field is that of a player that loves the game and is extremely competitive. He has a lot of tools and skills that make up a quality cover corner in the NFL.
*The first game of Johnson’s that I scouted was against FSU. Despite the teams being on different levels, Johnson looked like he was the best player on the field for both teams, on both sides of the ball. He is very lean but there may not be a more aggressive player in the entire class than Johnson. He attacks each play with a certain level of reckless abandon that I would want every defender on my team to. Johnson is the only first round grade I have at the CB position this year. I think he goes somewhere in the 15-25 range. If he fell to the 2nd, should NYG consider him? I say yes.
2 – Trae Waynes – Michigan State – 6’0/186 – 80
Upside Pro Comparison: Johnathan Joseph/HOU
Strong Points: Fast and quick twitched athlete. Has a wiry but strong frame. Can flip his hips and accelerate with ease. Seamless transitions when changing direction. Good balance and body control when the action is in front of him. Diagnoses the action quickly, reacts well. Rangy defender that can be trusted on an island. Has long arms and good eye-hand coordination. Productive defender. Competitive and aggressive in coverage, has the stop and go quickness to go along with deep speed. Can stick with receivers all over the field. Pursues the action well.
Weak Points: Lacks a true physical presence when it comes to jamming receivers and tackling. Doesn’t deliver a violent jolt when doing either. Struggles to locate and track the ball in deep coverage. Loses body control when playing the ball downfield. Gets too hands on and grabby. Doesn’t trust his feet enough. May not have the ball skills necessary to be an impact playmaker.
Summary: Junior entry. One of the top cover corners in the country. Two year starter with consistent production and reliable ability. Waynes can stick to a receivers pocket all over the field, whether it be lateral, underneath routes or deep patterns over the top. He is a quick decision maker that can match it with just-as-quick movement from his hips and feet. He will need to improve his ball tracking downfield while maintaining body control and balance. He is also a penalty flag waiting to happen with how grabby he gets. He is too hands on and won’t get away with it as much in the NFL. Potential NFL starter early in his career with a really high upside.
*I just haven’t seen it with Waynes the way some have. It’s a weak DB group overall and I don’t mind those that label him the top guy, but I see the same holes in his game every time I watch his game tapes. Waynes is a good straight line athlete but the adjustment and reactions appear to be a step slow consistently. I think that is a bad combo for the position. The fact that he ran a 4.31 weighs very little in my mind, as the deep speed is a very small aspect of the position. If he does go in the top 15, I think it is poor value.
3 – Jalen Collins – LSU – 6’1/204 – 78
Upside Pro Comparison: Byron Maxwell/PHI
Strong Points: Tall, lean, and very long. Great body awareness and control all over the field. Covers with an aggressive style, shows no fear or hesitation when squared off against elite-level receivers. Can get his hands on, re-direct and disrupt his man at the point of attack. Long strider with good range underneath. Good instincts, reads the action well. Good eye-hand coordination, can react to wherever the ball is thrown without hesitation. Great leaper. Can close in on the ball carrier and/or receiver with just a few steps. Very good acceleration to his top speed. Easy bender with good flexibility. Confident player that will compete hard every down.
Weak Points: May not have the deep speed to hang with the fast receivers downfield. Lacks the speed to catch up to receivers running deep that initially beat him. Lacks presence as a tackler. Rarely gives a jolt to the ball carrier. Tries to catch the ball carrier and drag him down. Reaction to quick underneath routes is slow.
Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Collins is a smart player that is very aware of himself and the players around him. He has the elite size and body for the teams looking for length at cornerback. His reach radius combined with easy movement make him solid in man coverage. While he does lack power and strength, Collins is aggressive at the point of attack and has shown the ability to disrupt routes with his hands and feet. He has starter potential in any scheme. If his lack of deep speed can be hidden by the safeties over the top, Collins can be a star.
*This is the CB that I think has the most upside of all the guys in the group. He has outstanding length for the position to go along with good-enough movement. There are really good movement aesthetics here and I think there is still a good amount of physical progress to go with him. Collins was in and out of the lineup at LSU because he was inconsistent with assignments and mechanics. If a team can be on the patient side with him, he has the capability of being a top flight CB in the NFL.
4 – Justin Coleman – Tennessee – 5’11/185 – 77
Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Flowers/SD
Strong Points: Consistently aggressive and angry style of play. Shows no hesitation when going at the action whether he is defending the run or pass. Good form tackler as well. Explosive athlete. Has all the speed and quickness a cornerback needs. Has the speed to recover if he is initially beat. Can hang with speed downfield. Good length combined with eye-hand coordination enables him to make plays on the ball without too much contact with the receiver.
Weak Points: Under-developed skill set. Too high with his backpedal. Sloppy after the snap and will rely too much on his speed and quickness. Doesn’t anticipate, won’t read the action around him. Hips are too tight and will need an extra recovery step or two when turning around. Is often a second too late. Dropped too many interceptions. Prone to penalties when facing off with the better receivers,
Summary: Fourth year senior. Finished his career with 35 straight starts. Coleman was shifted in to the nickel role in 2014 because the Tennessee coaching staff wanted to take advantage of his physical brand and tackling ability. Coleman is one of the best athletes in this draft. He is fast, explosive, and strong. At the 2015 East/West Shrine, multiple receivers said he was the top cornerback there. His talent is undeniable. He has all the tools but lacks a lot of skills. His mechanics are inconsistent and he has not yet figured out how to read the action and anticipate routes and throws. He will need time, quality coaching, and dedication to the little things if he wants to meet his high upside.
*Coleman is as aggressive as it gets but there is a level of speed and quickness that can allow him to play the finesse game as well. He is very fluid on one play but the next one you’ll see him beat the crap out of a much bigger receiver that himself. What I like a lot here is that when you hear SEC coaches and players talk about their toughest competition, Coleman’s name always pops up. This kid is a gamer that loves to compete and there is more than enough talent.
5 – Ladarius Gunter – Miami – 6’1/202 – 76
Upside Pro Comparison: Sean Smith/KC
Strong Points: Tall and long with big hands. Good speed downfield with the ability to track the deep ball with good body control and balance. Self aware, understands how to use his body to his advantage. Efficient mover, minimal wasted motion. Can turn and accelerate. Changes direction well. Willing to throw his hat in to he mix against the run. Can deliver a violent hit to ball carriers. Smart and savvy in zone coverage, reads the action around and in front of him,
Weak Points: Lacks experience and proven ability to back pedal efficiently. Will bail out of it too fast and leave the underneath routes open. Doesn’t have the quick twitch to stick with the receivers underneath that excel at changing direction.
Summary: Gunter has two-plus years of starting experience for Miami after playing un Junior College for one season. He is a long strider with good deep speed and ball skills. He was visibly avoided by a lot of teams in 2014. Gunter performed cornerback and safety duties for the Miami defense and could likely fit in at both spots on a starter level in the NFL.
*I’m as high on Gunter as anyone you’ll find and to be honest, I’m not sure what position fits him best at the next level. He was a hybrid for the Hurricanes, playing on an island at CB, defending the slot, and dropping in to a center-fielder-type free safety role. Gunter’s game is very much based on versatility but I think his best impact will be felt at corner. He doesn’t have the sexy 40 time but I care less about that when a guy has size and quick acceleration. Gunter reacts as smooth as anyone when defending good route runners. He was arguably the best DB at the Senior Bowl all week. I’ll take a chance on Gunter in round 3 all day.
6 – Marcus Peters – Washington – 6’0/197 – 75
Upside Pro Comparison: Xavier Rhodes/MIN
Strong Points: Big and physical cover corner that loves to get his hands on receivers and push them around at the line of scrimmage. Confident, aggressive, and ultra-competitive player. Can turn his hips, plant his foot and accelerate fast. Explosive out of his breaks. Has a strong punch in jam coverage. Can send a violent jolt to the receiver’s body. Good ball skills and will time his attack on the pass well. Has the long speed to hang with almost anyone down the field. Closes a 10 yard gap as fast as anyone. Consistently explodes downhill against the run and throws his hat in there without hesitation.
Weak Points: Can be over-aggressive at times and be fooled by double moves. Will over pursue ball carriers. Doesn’t make quick decisions in zone coverage. Stands too tall and waits for the action to come to him. Doesn’t stay square to receivers, will get caught looking in to the backfield, not being aware of the action around him. Backpedal is inconsistent, he won’t stay in it long enough. Trusts his own speed too much and will neglect technique to covering receivers. Major red flags off the field that need to be investigated.
Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Might be the most physically talented cornerback in this class. Peters was put in to a press-man coverage scheme in 2013 and he broke out in a big way. His combination of size, speed, and aggression will suit him well at the next level. He shows weakness in zone coverage where he has to move with his head more than his feet. In addition, his technique is inconsistent, as he trusts his athleticism to be good enough. There are issues with his coachability. He was thrown off the team in early November for reasons having to do with his strong, stubborn personality. He was constantly butting heads with the coaching staff and it eventually led to him being dismissed. Talent wise, Peters is the top or one of the top cover corners in this class that can make a difference early on.
*If it weren’t for the temper and coachability issues, Peters could be considered a top 20 talent in this class. But you can’t ignore the fact that he had multiple run-ins with the coaching staff at Washington. The kind of behavior is proving to be something that holds players and teams back in the NFL and NYG has always steered clear of this kind of situation. If he cleaned that up, there is a lot to like on the field. He is physical, aggressive, and smart. I like his game a lot but he needs to prove in interviews that he isn’t a locker room cancer.
7 – P.J. Williams – Florida State – 6’0/194 – 75
Upside Pro Comparison: Keenan Lewis/NO
Strong Points: Tall, long and fast cover corner that excels in man coverage. Quick thinker with the ability to diagnose. Can make the quick adjustment. Accelerates in a blink. Can explode downhill or turn his hips and run with receivers. Great tackler who shows no hesitation mixing it up with a ball carrier that has a head of steam. Ultra-aggressive and will throw himself in to traffic full of tight ends and linemen. Quick and efficient back pedal. Can make the transition and break in any direction with balance and speed. Effective in press coverage with a strong jab. Smooth turn and run cover man that can hang with any receiver.
Weak Points: Shows a lack of reading ability in zone coverage, late to react when he doesn’t have a man to man assignment. Will mistime his leaps for the ball. Eye-hand coordination is suspect. Will over pursue and lose track of his lane assignments against the run. Goes for the big hit and will not always wrap up the ball carrier.
Summary: Junior entry. 2nd Team All ACC and 2014 National Championship game MVP. Williams has the physical goods to play cornerback at a high level in the NFL. He has the size, strength, and physical style of play to handle any role thrown his way. His ability to beat up a receiver at the line of scrimmage as well as stay in their hip pocket all over the field is heavily sought after. In addition, he can defend with a presence against the outside run. His aggression and ability to move with balance and precision is the exact combination the NFL looks for in cornerbacks.
*Another guy that could have been a 1st round grade if it weren’t for issues off the field. Williams has an aggressive style that could actually fit in to a safety role if need be. His game speed is what I want out of a corner but he is another one that simply didn’t test well at the combine. He has a natural feel for the game, a he might have the best diagnosing ability of all the corners in the class.
8 – Quinten Rollins – Miami (OH) – 5’11/195 – 75
Upside Pro Comparison: Greg Toler/IND
Strong Points: Quick physical reactions to the action. Displays full body control and balance, can twist and turn his body with ease while maintaining speed. Can change direction quickly, plants his foot and explodes out of his breaks. Physical, hands on cover man that can stick to a receiver underneath. Shows the easy hip movement to stick with his man. Recovers well, doesn’t take long to find his balance and pounce back on to the receiver. Strong tackler that will deliver a pop to the ball carrier. Wraps up and shows consistent technique as an open field tackler. Very body aware with the eye/hand coordination to break up passes within his reach. Times his leaps and lunges for the ball well.
Weak Points: Plays a step behind mentally. Takes too long to read the action. Often caught out of position and will spend most plays trying to recover. His mind speed doesn’t match his physical speed. Does not have the long speed to run with receivers downfield. Has a hard time catching ball carries from behind. Lacks the technique of a drop back corner. Poor footwork and will get too grabby.
Summary: Played four years for the Redhawks basketball team and had an accomplished career. Played just one season of football at Miami and really turned it on the second half of the 2014 season. Rollins has the physical ability to be a player in the league, but will fight an uphill battle when it comes to the speed and complexity of NFL passing games. He was visibly a step behind mentally and showed poor footwork on tape, most likely a result of being away from the game for a few years. He has limited speed and may be best suited for a Cover 2 scheme or nickel type role.
*NYG likes to go after players that have a sense of raw upside to their game as a result of a lack of experience. Rollins has exactly that. Because he played only one year of college football after a more-than-solid basketball career, Rollins has an upward arrow after showing a rather-well developed tool set for the CB position. Some are saying he is more suited for safety in the NFL but I would want to see what he can do at CB first. I think he can hack it there if if can clean up mechanics Worst case scenario he can be a nickel-type but a solid one, a spot that is becoming more and more important.
9 – Steven Nelson – Oregon State – 5’10/191 – 74
Upside Pro Comparison: Buster Skrine/NYJ
Strong Points: Explosive in short space, easy acceleration to top speed. Changes direction with all of his balance and body control. Light feet, explosive hips. Brings a physical nature to the field. Willingly throws his hat in to the action as a run defender and consistently wraps up. Reliable open field tackler. Has the speed to stick with speed receivers down field and the agility to stick with quicker receivers underneath.
Weak Points: Doesn’t make a big physical impact in press coverage. Won’t redirect the receiver at the point of attack. Struggles to read routes and quarterbacks. Allows too big of a cushion in zone coverage. Struggles to anticipate the action.
Summary: Spent two years at Oregon State after his first two seasons in junior college. A two time 2nd Team All Pac 12 player. Nelson has the short area quickness and long speed to matchup with any kind of receiver. He is also a physical player against the run, leading the Beavers cornerbacks in tackles two years in a row. He can be trusted in any kind of role on the field and will likely outperform several cornerbacks that are drafted ahead of him.
*Hard not to like Nelson when you watch him. He outplays his size and it’s hard to find plays where he got overmatched physically. Nelson has all the movement you need out of a guy that needs to shadow receivers all over the field. In addition, he may be the best tackler among all the CBs in the class. He is more physical than you would first assume and he takes a lot of pride in his form. He has a limited upside but he can play right away in the NFL.
10 – D’Joun Smith – Florida Atlantic – 5’10/187 – 74
Upside Pro Comparison: Casey Hayward/GB
Strong Points: Smooth and easy mover. Has the balance and body control to stick with receivers all over the field. Changes direction with ease. Good decision maker, very aware and smart. Has a patience about him. Times his breaks well, never seems over-anxious or unsure of himself. Makes plays on the ball consistently. Has receiver type ability when the ball is in the air. Willing tackler and will throw his hat in to traffic. Pursues the action hard.
Weak Points: Small across the board. Lacks height, length, and girth. Played in a lower level of college football and never stood out when it came to speed and quickness. Doesn’t make much of an impact when pressing the receiver at the line. Lacks the upper body strength and hand power to re-direct.
Summary: Fourth year senior. Made his way on to the national radar in 2013 with 20 passes defended and 7 interceptions, both top 3 statistically in the country. Smith is a competitor that shows consistent skills. He is a smart and savvy defender that appears to be a step ahead mentally in comparison to his counterparts. His athletic ability appeared to be good enough at a lower level of college football, but he may need time to adjust to NFL speed. While he lacks a big time physical presence, he can make up for it by playing with his eyes and feet. Could be destined for a nickel role in the NFL.
*Small school corner that looks as smooth as anyone when he’s on the field. I had limited looks at him this past year but it doesn’t take much to notice his easy movement and body control. Smith locates the ball and pounces with minimal wasted motion, something I always look for in CBs. He will need more time than most but I think he has top 5 upside among this CB group.
11 – Alex Carter – Stanford – 6’0/196 – 74
*Physically there is a lot to like with Carter. He’s tall, long, fast, explosive, quick…all of the above. Teams are going to like his package and I think there is a shot he ends up being a top 45 pick, the upside is huge and teams like to take chances on high-end athletes at this position. Carter underachieved at Stanford, though. He doesn’t have the ball skills and he doesn’t anticipate. Worthy of a 3rd rounder for sure but not much earlier. I think he will be on the NYG roster.
12 – Garry Peters – Clemson – 6’0/191 – 74
*Quicker than he is fast, which I am fine with at the CB spot. He may be best suited for the Cover 2 scheme because he can really anticipate throws and routes. It was common to see him jump routes before receivers made their break. If he didn’t miss 2013 with a foot injury, we could have been talking about him as a 2nd rounder.
13 – Donald Celiscar – Western Michigan – 5’11/197 – 73
*Not sure if he is better suited at S or CB. His athleticism can be questioned when it comes to long speed, although he is more than quick footed and balanced enough for CB. I just don’t think he is a good enough tackler or big enough for safety. Celiscar is a great press corner, he can beat guys up at the point of attack and he shows the initial quick movement to stick with guys underneath. He could be a deep liability but I like him enough to warrant a 3rd/4th round grade.
14 – Craig Mager – Texas State – 5’11/201 – 73
*Mager is a package-defensive back that is becoming more and more popular as time passes. He may not be the ideal press corner due to a lack of length, but he can come in and play mix coverages from the slot. He even has some over the top safety coverage skills to work with. I like the ball skills and I like his approach. He can be drafted as a CB but he’ll show the necessary versatility to play multiple roles within nickel and dime packages.
15 – Kevin White – TCU – 5’9/181 – 73
*There is one cornerback that faced off against West Virginia’s WR Kevin White that won the matchup from start to finish. And that is TCU’s Kevin White. Confusing, I know. White is an easy mover with the right blend of patience and aggression. He can run with anyone downfield and stick to anyone’s hip pocket underneath. I think there is a good shot he can outperform several of the guys in front of him on this list.
16 – Quandre Diggs – Texas – 5’9/196 – 73
*After a former favorite of mine Kenny Vaccaro left Texas for the NFL, the belief was that Diggs would step in and take over his role and production. It didn’t work out as planned, as Diggs simply doesn’t have the frame and skill set for safety. He does impress me as a nickel corner though and I think he is going to stick somewhere in the NFL. There is a lot of demand for these smaller, but quicker athletes that can run with the slot receivers underneath. He is limited role-wise but I would trust him as much as anyone in that specific role.
17 – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – 5’9/192 – 73
*He suffered a serious injury this past December and there is a good chance he will miss some, or even all of the 2015 season. Because of that I had to downgrade him by a few points. Without the injury, Ekpre-Olomu would have been a 2nd round grade. He has natural cover ability and instincts with the necessary make up speed and underneath change of direction. As an athlete, he has everything you want out of a CB. The issue is his size and it does show up on tape when he’s faced off with more physical receivers. He had a couple rough stretches in 2014 but all corners have them. If he comes back healthy he will present good value for where you can get him.
18 – Byron Jones – Connecticut – 6’1/199 – 72
*Jones is one of the best athletes in the country. He stole the show at the combine this year and because of that, some people are putting a 1st round grade on him. I think that is irresponsible. When you watch Jones on tape, and I’ve seen a lot of him, you don’t see anything more than a 4th rounder. He has long speed and size, yes. But he had a hard time sticking with guys all over the field. He shows poor adjustments and reactions and was too often playing a game of catch up. I understand potential based on physical gifts, but he is a clear example of a guy that keeps getting boosted by some people the further away from the actual game you get. Someone will overdraft him.
19 – Doran Grant – Ohio State – 5’10/200 – 72
*Grant lacks a little in the tools department. He isn’t tall or long, and his long speed can be rightfully questioned. What I love about his game and it boosted him quite a bit is the consistent approach he showed to compete. He plays as hard as anyone. He loves to play a physical game at the point of attack and he will tackle hard and consistently. Grant will compete his way on to the field and he’ll create a role for himself somewhere.
20 – Josh Shaw – USC – 6’0/204 – 72
*I really don’t know what to make of Shaw. I had to watch his junior tape because of his year-long suspension as a result of that weird situation last summer. Shaw looks the part, no doubt. But I watched him at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl and he looked rusty, which was to be expected. But then I watched his junior tape and he looked similar. Kind of stiff and unsure. But every now and then he makes a play on the ball that makes you raise your eyebrows. He has the upside I want but just not sure how long it will take for him to get there. He is risky. Some may view him as a safety.
Cornerbacks are a tough grade to dish out. So much of a player’s success is based on scheme and surrounding players. Sure, you have your elite corners that will excel within any defense, but the majority of these CB prospects will have a wide range of grades across the league. It is very likely a prospect will carry a 2nd round grade in one war room, but a 7th/UDFA in another. It happens every year. This year’s class has a good amount of physical corners that may lack some elite movement ability. Teams that have their corners in a lot of Cover 2 roles will really like this group. What is NYG looking for, though?
NYG doesn’t need a CB, but it’s a spot that should always be added to every year with young talent. It has become such a vital position and there are a few examples around the league where this group has just destroyed a team’s chances of winning games. Personnel wise they don’t need to over-draft any of these guys, but it’s on the list of positions that should be considered. I like the idea of bringing in one of these guys that can possibly project to safety if things either don’t work out, or are too crowded at cornerback. Give me Gunter, Celiscar, or even Shaw on day 3 and I would be happy. There is some talk floating around with people I trust who are not just headline makers that NYG is going to consider Waynes at #9 overall.