Written by Cody Manning
While edge rushers are a premium position in today’s NFL, cornerbacks can be just as important as more teams are spreading the ball out through the air. Certain teams that like their corners athletic and tall while some like ballhawks that have the tendency to help force turnovers. Every class offers a variety of corners that can contribute because of all the different types of packages defensive coordinators put together to stop the pass. We saw three corners go in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL draft and we should see that matched again. Teams that could address the position on Day 1 or Day 2 include the Bucs, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles, Broncos, Steelers, Texans, and Chiefs. Here are my early Top 5 cornerbacks for the 2019 NFL Draft class!!!
1. Greedy Williams: LSU
Williams trails receivers hips, reads eyes, looks back to bring in interception.
Career Stats: 24 games
Tackles for loss: 1.5
Pass Deflections: 19
Fumble Recoveries: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Andraez ‘Greedy’ Williams was a two-year starter at LSU, a school that could make their case for being known as DBU. As a first-year starter he was able to grab 6 interceptions and got his hand in on 10 pass deflections. It was those numbers that helped grabbed the attention of scout’s eyes which made him one of the top prospects heading into this past season. While his production didn’t see an increase, part of that was that he played a couple less games, and that the quarterbacks weren’t testing him as often compared to his first season. He still managed to just get about 10 pass deflections, so he was breaking up any passes that came his way.
He has All-Pro potential with his coverage skills. He uses his athleticism to his advantage in all aspects in the pass game. He is great in man because he has the length to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage, can flips his hips with ease to run with them, does an amazing job at trailing their hips so he can make a play on the ball. In zone coverage he does a good job at controlling his space, he keeps his head moving so he can cover whoever enters his territory, his initial quickness allows him to make up space, so he can close on a pass deflection or interception. He is a fighter in coverage, doesn't make it easy, and uses the boundary to his advantage.
I have my worries with his lack of effort during certain situations on the field. He has opportunities to come in and make a pop on the runner but will just lay off if his teammate is already making the tackle. Against Alabama, he had a play where he gave up a reception and didn't use his speed to close on the tackle because his teammates where closer at the time. Plays like that make me wonder if he is looking out for himself over the team. He needs a lot of work on his tackling and could be a liability in a defensive scheme that requires him to be a big part against stopping the run.
He can come in and be a team's starting corner from day one. He has elite athleticism which allows him to cover the deep threats that dominate in today's game. He can play man and zone coverage. He can stick with most receivers at the next level, but he can struggle with stronger, bigger body typed players. He won't do much in run support, he can get blocked easily, and his speed is his only advantage, so he can go around blocks to make the tackle. He doesn't look to make hits, he goes low without breaking down or attempting to wrap up the runner. I do have my concerns with the lack of effort on certain plays but that could be addressed by teams during the interview process. If a team is looking for a corner that has one of the best coverages skillsets but doesn't ask for much in run support out of their corners in their defensive scheme, then he would fit that mold. He is a fighter in pass coverage, keeps his hands fighting during press coverage, uses his length to his advantage, and he keeps fighting until the end of the play. Sometimes he can be too hands on which could result in penalties at the next level. During his rookie season he should be able to be placed in the lineup and be someone the team can rely upon on Sundays. As a rookie he may have his mistakes and give up some plays, but his skills will allow him to grow as the season goes on. If he is drafted into the right system that suits his talents and he can continue to show growth as a player, then he could compete to be one of the best corners in the league by his third season. He will be entering the league at the age of 21 so he has so much potential ahead of him if the coaches can tap into his talent.
Projected Round: 1st
Team Fits: Bucs, Broncos, Steelers
NFL Comparison: A.J. Bouye
2. Byron Murphy: Washington
Career Stats: 20 games
Tackles for loss: 7
Pass Deflections: 20
Fumble Recoveries: 0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Byron Murphy really made his presence known this season which helped him rise on scout’s draft board. After only starting in 6 games in his first season, he showed what he was capable of when having a full season under his belt. In his second year he put up 58 tackles (37 solo), 4 interceptions, 13 pass deflections, and even forced a fumble. He was very productive for the limited action that he had during his college career. Teams like what they saw over the past couple of years and if he can continue that growth in production then he could be a stud in the NFL.
He is always looking to make a play on the ball. His initial quickness allows him to make up space, so he can look to break up the pass or grab it for the interception. Even if the receiver has their body boxing him out, he can still manage to fight his way through to get his hands on the ball to knock it out of their hands. He always seems to be making a play. He is very fluid in his coverage as he can turn his hips with ease and uses the field to his advantage while keeping his eyes on the quarterback. He is brilliant when breaking down plays as they happen, and his reaction speed allows him to adjust. Overall, a very effective corner in all coverages.
His size may turn off some teams. He can be blocked easily by stronger receivers and taller ones can use their bodies to their advantage to box him out for the ball. He needs to work on jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage because he can allow easy releases. He finds himself having to turn and run too often when he is pressing his man. His tackling form will need some work because he has a habit of just going low or coming in with his shoulder. He doesn't break down and look to explode through the runner while wrapping them up. He could possibly be a liability against the run.
He has a chance to be a playmaker at the next level. He is a ballhawk that is always looking to get his hands on the ball for the interception, deflection or even forcing the drop. He will keep fighting until the end of the play to jar the ball loose. He does play out of his size, he looks to lay the wood when he hits the runner and will fight with taller receivers to break up the pass. He can play man or zone coverage as his athleticism allows him to stick on receivers and change his direction on the go to keep on his man. He does an amazing job at sitting back and reading the quarterback's eyes, so he can react to the throw. His speed allows him to explode up the field to close space, so he can get all those interceptions and deflections. He does have his flaws he will need some work in small areas in his coverage. He just needs to get tougher at the line of scrimmage and understand if he has a legit chance to make a play because he has given up some catches due to some late reactions. While he isn't afraid to lay his shoulder into the runner, his poor tackling technique could end up being a liability at the next level. Big and strong backs will run through his arms, so teams could possibly look to run his way. Since he does a great job in all facets of coverage, I believe that he can be a good fit in any defensive scheme. But teams that require their corners to have more size may shy away from him. Even if his size limits where he is a fit, he can at least be an elite slot corner because of his athletic ability and smartness. He can improve a corner-needy team immediately. By his third season, if he can improve on his weaknesses then he has a chance to be one of the better corners in the league.
Projected Round: 1st
Team Fits: Bucs, Broncos, Texans
NFL Comparison: Brent Grimes
3. Deandre Baker: Georgia
Career Stats: 36 games
Tackles for loss: 4
Pass Deflections: 23
Fumble Recoveries: 1
Forced Fumbles: 2
Deandre Baker started to see some playing time during his sophomore season which allowed him to get some great playing experience which led to him getting the starting role because of his talent that he showed. In only 8 games, he managed to put up 31 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, and even forced a fumble. It was those numbers in limited action that made his coaches realize he needed to be on the field more. In his last two seasons as a starter he had at least 40+ tackles, 2+ interceptions, and 9 pass deflections. As I alluded to with Murphy, it is this type of growth that teams like to see as well as his consistency in his play when he is on the field.
He can be effective in man or zone coverage. He shows the ability to mirror the receiver when in man coverage and can flip his hips, so he can run side by side with his man. He seems to be very comfortable when he sits back and can react to the quarterback. He reads their eyes very well which allows him to explode to get the deflection or interception. He uses the sideline to his advantage and keeps his body between his man and the quarterback while trying to guide his man out of bounds in coverage. He appears to have some length to him despite his size and will use his long arms to fight with receivers to jab the ball out to force the drop.
He hardly looks to jam his man at the line of scrimmage. He allows an easy release which does allow efficient route runners to get open. Speedsters can be a problem because they can breeze by him and take the top off a defense if he doesn't have safety help. His tackling does need a lot of work. He tends to come in too high, looks to tackle with only his shoulders, doesn't break down or look to wrap up. He also can overrun the ball carrier which allows them to make one easy cut to get by him. He had some moments where he looks like he pulled back on opportunities when he could make a tackle.
He can come in as a starter from Day 1 for a team. He has the athleticism to play at the next level and could help be a boost to a team with a weak cornerback group. He appears to have a good understanding of route trees and what to expect from the man he is lining up across. He can tail receiver's hips in man coverage which allows him to always be around to make a play on the ball. He excels when he can sit back and read the quarterback's eyes which shows his reaction speed when he breaks up balls. He will be hit and miss with his run support skills. He shows the ability to fight through blocks, close space up field, and will look to lay the boom. But he also will get blocked easily by stronger receivers, doesn't use his speed to his advantage as much as I would like, and his tackling form needs major improvement. As I have alluded to, one of my favorite things about him is how he mirrors the receivers and reads their bodies well, so he can stick on them. As a rookie he can come in as a defensive unit's CB2 which will allow him to develop as his first season progresses. Elite receivers could be a problem during year one as he can struggle with the best route runners if he doesn't work on jamming them at the line of scrimmage. By his third season, if he not only develops, but he can grow his confidence then he should be able to be a man that his coach won't mind lining up across the opposing team's best receiver. If he finds the right defensive fit that will allow his skill set to flourish, then he can be a key part of a team's defense for a long time.
Projected Round: 1st
Team Fits: Colts, Eagles, Chiefs
NFL Comparison: Bradley Roby
4. Julian Love: Notre Dame
Career Stats: 38 games
Tackles for loss: 6
Pass Deflections: 39
Fumble Recoveries: 4
Forced Fumbles: 2
Julian Love was a three-year starter for the Fighting Irish defense. In his first year as a full-time starter he was able to grab 45 tackles, an interception, 3 pass deflections, recovered a fumble and even forced one. He made a big jump in his production during his second year as his tackles climbed to 68 on the season, grabbed 3 picks, and go all the way up to 20 pass deflections on the season. It was these numbers that really started to have some scouts look his way. In his last year he didn’t see an increase, but his numbers were on par which showed his play didn’t fall off. He can be a consistent player at the next level.
He can fit most defensive schemes because he is solid in majority of the areas of his craft. He can line up across his man and flip his hips, so he can run side-by-side with him. When he is off or in zone coverage, he excels at breaking down routes as they develop which allows him to use his quickness to close space to break up the pass or get the interception which has led to touchdowns at times. He is a solid tackler as he will look to explode through the ball carrier and wraps up to make sure they go down. He also has plenty of football experience which shows because his play recognition skills help him be in place to make a play.
He does need to be feistier at times when he is pressing because sometimes when he allows an easy release his footwork can be off which allows an easy chunk play for the quarterback. He also can be suspect to allow a deep pass down the field because he can get lost in space at the top of some vertical routes. He also can be more effective against the run if he would get rid of blocks. He can be blocked easily once he is locked on and he can be drive down the field. He just needs to show more effort. He could break down more when he is going for the tackle, he can leave his feet too early.
Love offers teams at the next level a cornerback that has plenty of game experience, some athletic traits that allow him to excel, and the intelligence to come in and be a contributor in a secondary. He is a player that a coordinator can line up in the slot or on the outside. He can play man or zone coverage but tends to play his best when he can get back into coverage, so he is able to process the play and the routes which allows him to put himself in a position to make a play on the ball. He will need more refinement to his man coverage skills as his footwork can be off which allows receivers to get separation which makes it an easy toss for the quarterback. He can be a guy that helps force turnovers at the next level with his ability to jump routes for picks or deflections and showed the ability to scoop up a fumble to take it in for a score. He isn't the biggest guy or the most athletic player, but his competitiveness will allow him to play at the next level. He might not be the flashiest corner, but he gets the job done and always seems to be in place where he is needed. As a rookie he will be able to compete for the slot or CB2 position, depending on what a team is drafting him for. He should be able to pick up the scheme quickly and if he does then he could help improve a secondary immediately. I don't know if he will ever develop into one of the best corners in the league but if he is able to work on his technique while developing more size and speed then he has the capability of being a team's best corner by his third season. Overall, a team will be getting a solid player who understands his role and what it takes to get the job done.
Projected Round: 2nd
Team Fits: Chiefs, Texans, Cardinals
NFL Comparison: Jonathan Joseph
5. Trayvon Mullen: Clemson
Career Stats: 31 games
Tackles for loss: 3.5
Pass Deflections: 7
Fumble Recoveries: 0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Trayvon Mullen is an interesting prospect because he has all the tools and size that teams would like in the corners, but his production doesn’t match the expectations. But like players on the Alabama defense, numbers could just be down due to playing on a defense that is loaded with talent. His best season came during his sophomore year when he put up 40 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3 pass deflections. While he still has the National Championship to play in, his tackling numbers were down this year and he hasn’t forced a turnover in any way as well. When a team drafts him, it will be because of his potential, not the production he did in college.
He does a great job at using his long athletic frame to his advantage. He can line up across receivers and give them problems releasing at the line of scrimmage. He will lock under their shoulders and drive them backwards. He can also open and get back into coverage. He can lock onto his man's hips and trail him on the route. He is a great tackler in the open field because of his tackling form is close to polished. He will breakdown, make himself wide, explode through, and wrap up to bring down the ball carrier. He also uses his body well to help block the space between his man and the quarterback. He does attempt to contest balls.
If he doesn't get a good jam or allows a release, he has his moments where he will open too much which allows him man to run a slant route for an easy catch and go. He also can show delayed reactions when he is in off coverage as he struggles with underneath routes or anything intermediate that is right in front of him. Even though he will jump for blocks and he has his long body, he doesn't get enough deflections. He really needs to work on his ball skills otherwise he won't help turn the ball over at the next level. He does need to show some consistency with his effort on certain plays.
Mullen is a cornerback prospect that has all the athletic tools that teams want at the next level. He shows the capabilities of being a corner on a defense that could help a unit on Sundays. He will be more effective as a rookie if he is in a scheme that demands more man coverage over zone. He can line up against all types of receivers because of his size and athleticism. He can fight with the big and tall players while going trailing speedsters that are trying to take the top off defenses. He is a fighter at the line of scrimmage and is difficult for receivers to get an easy release on him if he gets a good jab in. He does have his moments where his technique is off which allows easy routes and completions. His play recognition could also need some work because he can arrive just a tad too late at times, but he also has his flashes where he will jump routes and use his body to his advantage. As a rookie he should be able to come in and compete for a starting job. His athletic ability allows him to play right away at the next level, but his mental processing may be a concern. If he can’t read and react to plays at a faster rate, he could be suspect to giving up easy first downs or big plays as he develops as his first season progresses. Teams that love long and athletic corners will love this kid because he can be a great fit if he is able to show progress as he careers goes on. He has a high ceiling if he can work out some kinks and refine his craft for the next level. If he can, then by his third season he could end up being the best corner from this draft. His athleticism alone will allow him to at least be a contributor in a secondary but could be a cog for a defense if a team taps into his potential.
Projected Round: 2nd
Team Fits: Cardinals, Chiefs, Broncos
NFL Comparison: Dre Kirkpatrick