NFL draft preview: Cornerbacks
LSU's Morris Claiborne waits for his turn to return punts during the 2012 NFL Combine. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images / April 18, 2012)
This cornerback class features better quantity than quality. Teams will be able to find good values between the third and seventh rounds. Morris Claiborne and Stephon Gilmore are expected to go early, and there could be a dropoff before the next corner is selected.
1. Morris Claiborne, LSU, 5-11, 188. He does everything well. He can cover in man-to-man or zone. He has size, speed and athleticism. He has played wide receiver and can make plays on the ball. He also is a very good return man. Much has been made of reports that Claiborne scored a 4 on the Wonderlic exam, but NFL teams say he is football smart. Claiborne has a learning disability. He was a quarterback and a baseball, basketball and track star in high school. He won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back last season.
2. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, 6-0, 190. Gilmore is an athletic corner with ball skills. He has size and tackles well. He can fit in any scheme but might be better in zone than man. He shows good instincts with the ball in the air. He is considered a clean prospect, and his stock is on the rise. After starting for three years, Gilmore left school early.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, 6-2, 186. He has the height and long arms to match up with bigger wide receivers. Kirkpatrick was a very productive college player before leaving early. He is very effective pressing. He is better in zone than man. He anticipates well and has decent hands. Kirkpatrick does not have elite speed or movement skills. He did not work out as well as he played. Teams are a little concerned about his personality and judgment.
4. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama, 5-10, 193. He is one of the best cover men available but is considered a wild card on draft day because of off-field concerns. Some teams have him off their draft boards. Jenkins transferred from Florida after two marijuana-related arrests and three overall. He is athletic, fast and tough. Jenkins attacks the ball and the ball carrier. He also has return skills. He doesn't have ideal size.
5. Trumaine Johnson, Montana, 6-2, 204. He has a lot of potential as a Cover-2 corner. Johnson is big and athletic and runs and jumps well. He played quarterback in high school and also has experience at receiver. Johnson can make plays on the ball. He is an inconsistent tackler and doesn't always play intensely. He has had some injury issues. Johnson will have to get used to a much higher level of competition.
6. Josh Robinson, Central Florida, 5-10, 199. He was the subject of a lot of attention after running a 4.29 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Robinson has good feet and movement skills. He can play man-to-man. He has a good burst to the ball and plays explosively. He is shorter than ideal but is well-put-together and tackles well. He has experience as a punt returner.
7. Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina, 6-0, 197. This small-school prospect has a lot of ability. He can turn, run and high-point a football. He has great ball skills. He is built well for the position, with long arms. Norman breaks on the ball very well. He has quick feet and can play in any scheme. He helped himself at the East-West Shrine Game, showing he can hang with talented receivers. Some scouts question his maturity level.
8. Trent Robinson, Michigan State, 5-10, 195. He was a college safety, and some teams project him there. However, he doesn't have ideal size for safety and appears to have the ability to be a very good cornerback in a zone scheme. He isn't quite as fast or fluid as you'd like a man-to-man corner to be. Robinson is an explosive player who doesn't mind mixing it up. He was a four-year letter winner who made plays. He should be a good special teams contributor.
9. Brandon Boykin, Georgia, 5-9, 182. Boykin broke his right leg in the Senior Bowl and has not been able to work out for scouts. His stock is down as a result. He is a top athlete with excellent feet for the position. He is not overly physical or instinctive. He was not the most consistent cover man in college. His lack of size might reduce him to a nickel role in the NFL. He also can be a return man.
10. Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt, 5-11, 192. An instinctive corner who can make plays on the ball, Hayward has potential. He is pretty solid in every area. He tackles well but could use more muscle. He might have a hard time matching up in man against elite receivers.
11. Coryell Judie, Texas A&M, 6-0, 194. He has a nice combination of size and speed. Judie is athletic and tough. He plays with a good feel for the game. His hands are good. A zone scheme would fit him best. He has been hurt quite a bit and could be a durability risk.
12. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, 5-10, 204. This is a short, strong corner who is built more like a running back. He is a good athlete and plays physically. He is limited covering receivers downfield because of his lack of size and speed. Dennard would be best off playing in a Cover-2 scheme. He played better in 2010 than 2011.
13. Omar Bolden, Arizona State, 5-10, 202. Durability concerns will cost him in the draft, but he has ability. Bolden is quick, athletic and tough. He plays the ball well. He shows confidence in his coverage and will get physical with receivers.His man-to-man skills are questionable. He has experience as a return man.
14. Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma, 5-10, 206. Fleming is a zone corner prospect with good closing ability. He can break up a lot of passes. This is a strong, tough corner who tackles well. His athleticism, instincts and hands are average.
15. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, 5-10, 178. He lacks size but not athleticism. Hosley can make plays on the ball and could be best suited over the slot receiver. He competes hard and plays physically for his size. He left school early after an injury-filled season. He also can return punts.
16. Coty Sensabaugh, Clemson, 5-11, 189. He is a one-year starter who had a great combine workout (4.33 40, 37-inch vertical jump) and has been rising on boards. He has man-to-man cover ability. His tackling needs improvement. His instincts are average, but he has a chance to develop because he has fine athleticism.
17. Shaun Prater, Iowa, 5-11, 190. A tough, physical player who can tackle, Prater has good awareness for a zone scheme. He might be a little tight to play in a man scheme. He is a solid special teams player. He needs to learn to play with more discipline.
18. DeQuan Menzie, Alabama, 5-11, 202. He is a safety-cornerback tweener with average speed and athleticism for corner. Menzie would be best in a zone scheme. He has decent size and instincts. He is a solid hitter and good tackler. He plays with solid technique.
19. Dwight Bentley, Louisiana-Lafayette, 5-10, 182. Because of his lack of size, Bentley might be best in a nickel role. He is an instinctive corner who plays hard. He was a four-year starter with good production. He guesses and gets fooled at times and will have to play with more discipline in the NFL. He is not a great tackler. He helped himself at the Senior Bowl.
20. Tavon Wilson, Illinois, 6-0, 205. He probably lacks the athleticism and speed to be a true cover corner, but Wilson could be a Cover-2 corner or free safety in the NFL. He is tough, physical and smart and has good size. He knows how to make plays on the ball. He was a very good college player.
21. Ron Brooks, LSU, 5-10, 190. His speed has some teams interested. He helped his stock with an excellent combine performance, including a 4.37 40. He was not a full-time starter, and there isn't a lot of good tape to evaluate him. He has potential to develop.
22. Robert Blanton, Notre Dame, 6-0, 208. His size, strength and ability to press will get him drafted. He is a tough player who tackles well. Blanton doesn't have top man-to-man cover skills, but he runs well enough. He needs to be in a zone scheme. Some see him as a potential safety.
23. Cliff Harris, Oregon, 5-11, 175. He is an exceptional athlete with fine cover skills. He is slightly built and not a great tackler. He had eight career interceptions, including two of Andrew Luck. Harris is a better prospect as a returner than a cornerback. Some off-field concerns (he was suspended once and thrown off the team) are likely to affect his stock.
24. Chase Minnifield, Virginia, 5-10, 183. A crafty cover man, Minnifield has a feel for playing zone. He might not have the size and deep speed to play a lot of man. His tackling skills are pretty solid. His instincts are average. He has a knee injury that could affect his stock. His father, Frank, was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Browns.
25. Asa Jackson, Cal Poly, 5-10, 191. He performed well against lesser competition but didn't perform as well during Senior Bowl week. Jackson isn't the fastest, but he does have some burst and explosion. He is quicker than he is fast. Jackson also is a punt returner.
26. Donnie Fletcher, Boston College, 6-1, 199. This is a zone corner with decent size and strength. His quickness, speed and change of direction are so-so. He struggles in man-to-man. Fletcher is physical and can make plays on the ball. He played better as a junior than as a senior.
27. Ryan Steed, Furman, 5-11, 195. His stock has dropped after he ran a 4.64 40 at the combine. Steed is athletic and physical but doesn't move like an NFL cornerback. Level of competition is an issue. He has developed and could develop further, but his lack of speed is concerning. He was an outstanding high school basketball player. He made a lot of plays on the ball in college.
28. Chris Greenwood, Albion, 6-1, 193. He has good size and ran a 4.42 40, so he has been getting some attention late in the draft process. He will have to adjust to a major jump in competition. His technique needs work, and Greenwood has to be viewed as a developmental prospect.
29. Leonard Johnson, Iowa State, 5-10, 196. He is a zone corner who tackles well. His toughness is outstanding. He has below-average speed and gave up a lot of receptions in college. Johnson also is a kick returner.
30. D'Anton Lynn, Penn State, 6-0, 206. He lacks speed and needs to be in a zone scheme that would minimize his inability to run with elite receivers. He plays with good awareness. Lynn has good size and is physical. A switch to safety is possible.
31. DeAndre Presley, Appalachian State, 6-0, 185. He was mostly a college quarterback, but a shoulder injury forced him to play wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner as a senior. Presley is a very good athlete with top intangibles. He has a lot to learn and will take some time before he is ready to play.
32. Gary Gray, Notre Dame, 5-10, 193. He has decent cover skills and athleticism, but he tends to misplay balls. He has been beaten on some jump balls. His lack of size is an issue. Some see Gray as a safety prospect.
33. J.J. Jones, Wayne State, 5-9, 197. This little corner plays big. He is tough, strong and aggressive. He flies around the field and is not afraid to get beat. He will be at his best in a nickel role.
34. Chaz Powell, Penn State, 6-0, 203. A former wide receiver with some cornerback attributes, Powell flashed coverage skills at times but also was beaten quite a bit. He still is raw in his technique.
35. Charles Brown, North Carolina, 5-9, 202. He lacks height and top speed, but he is a tough, aggressive corner who has potential playing over the slot. He is built like a running back. Brown needs to improve his consistency.
36. Trevin Wade, Arizona
37. Micah Pellerin, Hampton
38. Antonio Fenelus, Wisconsin
39. Mike Harris, Florida State
40. Emanuel Davis, East Carolina
41. Keith Tandy, West Virginia
42. Greg McCoy, TCU
43. Terrence Frederick, Texas A&M
44. Lionel Smith, Texas A&M
45. Derrius Brooks, Western Kentucky
46. A.J. Davis, Jacksonville State
47. Anthony Mosley, Kentucky
48. Dion Turner, Southern Utah
49. Jeremy Lane, Northwestern State