By Rafael Vela
More cornerbacks have been drafted in recent years than any other position. I expect this year to continue the trend. The NFL is a passing league and teams can never have enough coverage players.
Yet no position offers greater disparity in player rankings than cornerback. The four major draft books on the market cannot even reach consensus on the relative strength or weakness of the position. Consider:
Position PFW SNS Lndy Orlds
Cornerback C- B+ B- Above Average
Safety A A+ B Above Average
Key: PFW = Pro Football Weekly’s Draft Guide; SNS = The Sporting News, which uses The War Room’s reports; Lndy’s = Lindy’s Draft Guide and Orlds is Althon’s Draft Guide, which uses Ourlads’ Scouting Reports.
Keep this in mind when you’re campaigning for a cornerback versus a safety at the 22nd spot or the 54th spot. Every draft book ranks the safety class as either even or much better than the corner crop. Only one service give the corners anything close to a stellar rating.
If the top couple of corners are gone and the top safety or two are gone, do you automatically go corner and move Anthony Henry to deep center? After reading the player ratings, I’m not so sure.
Player PFW SNS Lndy Orlds Avg. ADP
Leon Hall 1st 1st 3rd 1st 1.5 mid 1st
Aaron Ross 4th 2nd 4th 2nd 3.0 late 1st
Darrelle Revis 2nd 6th 1st 3rd 3.0 late 1st
Marcus McCauley 3rd 5th 8th 5th 4.25 late 1st/early 2nd
Tanard Jackson 5th 4th 10th 4th 5.75 2nd rd.
Daymeion Hughes 8th 3rd 2nd 14th 6.75 late 1st/early 2nd
Josh Wilson 7th 7th 6th 11th 7.75 2nd/3rd Rd.
Chris Houston 9th 13th 5th 7th 8.25 2nd Rd.
Eric Wright 10th 11th 12th 10th 10.75 3rd Rd.
Jonathan Wade 13th 23rd 7th 6th 12.25 3rd Rd.*
Fred Bennett 12th 26th 14th 8th 15.0 3rd Rd.
These are the guys who got grades from each book. Four others got high grades but were unranked by at least one book.
Take Texas’ Tarell Brown, for instance. Here’s his line: 6th, Unlisted, 15th, 9th. Read that again. Two books rate him in the top ten. Another in the top 20. Another doesn’t feel he’s worth a draft pick.
Alabama State’s Michael Coe, N.C. State’s A.J. Davis and Auburn’s David Irons suffer the same fate. All four could be first day picks or scrambling for free agent bonuses draft Sunday night. Who’s right?
1. Leon Hall, 5′11″, 193 lbs., Michigan
Best Comments — “… Hall is as sure a bet as there is on the defensive side of the ball.” “Hall is a joy to evaluate because few of today’s cornerbacks play physical in coverage… he’s even willing to punch receivers in the mouth in bump-and-run.”
Worst Comments — “Lacks great foot speed and burst and may never be a true No. 1 cornerback… Does not have great top end speed and it showed when he matched up with Ted Ginn Jr.”
Overall — There is no Deion Sanders, Champ Bailey or even Terence Newman-rated CB in this year’s draft. Hall has been as high as 12 to Buffalo but is slipping a bit in mocks. Pittsburgh looks like a good fit at 15 or the Giants at 20. If Hall slides a little, I’d grab him. He’s played corner and safety for Michigan and one report says he could be highly productive at the safety position. His profiles read a lot like Anthony Henry’s.
2. Aaron Ross, 6′0″, 192 lbs., Texas
Best Comments — “Is adept in all types of coverage. Identifies plays well. Is not fooled by play-action fakes or misdirection.”
Worst Comments — “Has to play outside the numbers — does not have great quickness to carry slot receivers — and may never be more than a #2 corner, but could be a very good one.”
Overall — A legitimate option at pick 22. The one caveat is the recurring line that Ross would be better in a zone-heavy scheme. I expect Wade Phillips to blitz a ton and wonder if Ross has the game to play on an island?
3. Darrelle Revis, 6′0″, 200 lbs., Pittsburgh
Best Comments — “Plays smart, plays with a lot of confidence and has a swagger.” “Has the quickness, footwork agility and speed to stay on receivers’ hips all over the field.”
Worst Comments — “Does not have great foot speed and is more of a long strider.”
Overall — Put this alongside Leon Hall’s profile: “[Revis is] a good sized, physical press corner in the mold of Patriots S Eugene Wilson. Revis might turn out to be a better safety than corner the way he likes to hit.”
Put Hall, Revis and Meriweather together. It looks like any of these three could fill the FS role. We’ve heard of moving Anthony Henry to FS a hundred times, but what if Dallas drafts a CB and moves him to deep center, as the Patriots did with Wilson? You haven’t heard a peep about Revis, but he could fill a need just as certainly as Ross could. They’re rated about the same.
Borderline 1st/2nd Rounders
4. Marcus McCauley, 6′1″, 201, Fresno State
Best Comments — “Capable of running stride for stride with any receiver and has rare agility for a player of his height.” “Receivers struggle to separate [from him]. Always in the receiver’s back pocket.” “Has rare physical traits and is clearly the most physically gifted corner in the draft.”
Worst Comments — “Gets beat over the top more than a player with his ability should and does not play with a lot of confidence.”
Overall — Will get some serious research. He suffered a concussion his senior year and slipped from a strong junior campaign, when he shut down Dwayne Jarrett. He apparently played tentatively after the concussion. With so many other teams looking for defensive backs in the last third of the first round (the Pats, Jets, Eagles, Saints and Chargers) McCauley will probably stay in the first.
5. Daymeion Hughes — 5′10″, 192, Cal
Best Comments — “Excels in tight man-to-man situations … does not bite on receivers’ dips and fakes.” “Very good career production with 15 interceptions. Very confident.”
Worst Comments — “Does not have the kind of speed or burst teams are looking for on the outside… Very susceptible to pump moves and double fakes and does not have the speed to recover once he gets beat.”
Overall — Is all over the map. One book puts him in the mid 1st. Another lists him as a third rounder. The high graders like his competitiveness. The low graders note his lack to top end speed. He may get into the last first if a CB run starts but looks like an early 2nd guy to me.
6. Chris Houston, 5′11″, 185, Arkansas
Strongest Comments — “Has good man cover skills and can press receivers at the line — hemmed up USC’s Dwayne Jarrett.” [Note to self — when you see multiple CBs hang their hats on shutting down Dwayne Jarrett, I have to ask if Jarrett is the one being overrated?] “He’s a gamer who saved his best for last, checking Jarrett, Robert Meachem and Dwayne Bowe.”
Worst Comments — “Not very instinctive and gets beat too much — was repeatedly beaten deep by Sidney Rice… Will be overdrafted after he blazes a fast 40 time and works out well. Houston will take time to adjust to playing off after predominantly pressing at Arkansas.”
Overall — He’s a chic pick. One new mock gifts him to Dallas at 22. I’m wary of late, high risers, especially ones who get a boost from Combine numbers. There are many other CBs who seem like better or lesser risks.