Draft spotlight: Top 10 cornerbacks E-MAIL PRINT COMMENTS 3 WATCH THIS TOPIC Posted: March 31, 2009 Russ Lande and his team of former NFL scouts take a quick look at the top-10 draft prospects at cornerback: 1. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (6-0 1/2 , 204) Jenkins is a top-notch athlete with rare quickness and good speed for a 6-foot cornerback. With improvements in his backpedal and ball skills, he could make the Pro Bowl. His talent, size, competitiveness and intangibles make his NFL future bright. He also has the skills to be a great safety, giving his defensive coordinator long-term flexibility. 2. Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (5-9, 193) At first glance, Smith doesn't seem tall enough to be an NFL cornerback. But with more film evaluation, it becomes clear he has enough positive traits to overcome his height and be an elite NFL cornerback. He has the top athleticism, competitiveness and ball skills few cornerbacks have, and he is a big-play threat as a return man. Expect him to contribute early in his career and develop into a good starter. 3. D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (5-9, 184) Moore, a junior, made the correct decision to enter the '09 draft. He lacks ideal height but is consistent in coverage and arguably makes more plays on the ball than any corner in this draft. Despite not running a great 40 or blowing people away at the NFL Scouting Combine, we are confident that Moore's play on film will translate to the NFL. Moore is one of the safer picks in the draft and should make an immediate impact, both as a cornerback and return man. 4. Vontae Davis, Illinois (5-11 5/8, 201) Davis, the younger brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, is a rare athlete with the combination of size, strength, explosiveness and elite speed that few NFL players have. But for all his athleticism, there are concerns about his desire and consistency. Davis lacks the intangibles of a first-round talent but is worth a second- or third-round pick and eventually should become an NFL starter. Some team, though, likely will gamble on him in the first round. 5. Darius Butler, UConn (5-10 3/8, 183) Butler plays with a chip on his shoulder and the type of swagger too few cornerbacks show. He has great athleticism, which is why he also lined up at wide receiver for the Huskies in '08. The only things keeping him from being a firstround pick are his thin frame and inconsistent showing at the Senior Bowl. He might not be drafted as high as he is rated here, but expect Butler to become a solid NFL starter who also contributes on special teams and occasionally at wide receiver. 6. Coye Francies, San Jose State (6-0 3/8, 185) Francies first grabbed our attention with his playmaking ability at Oregon State in '06. But he was then dismissed from the Beavers and had to sit out the '07 season after transferring. His blend of athleticism and speed is hard to find in tall cornerbacks, and he also shows good instincts, ball skills and the willingness to tackle in run support. He played safety at times in '08, and that versatility further boosts his value. A strong Senior Bowl week makes squeaking into the first round a possibility, with a high secondround pick almost a certainty. 7. Jarius Byrd, Oregon (5-10 1/8, 207) Byrd, a junior, made the right decision in coming out early since he accomplished pretty much everything a college cornerback could. He has the talent to be a productive NFL starter at cornerback, but a number of teams would consider a switch to safety because of his lack of elite speed. 8. Sean Smith, Utah (6-3 1/2 , 209) Smith, a junior, could have improved his draft status by staying for his senior season at Utah. NFL coaches love big, physical corners, but for Smith to be productive he'll need to show he can handle the speed at the next level without getting called for penalties. Smith worked out well for teams this spring, assuring himself of being a second- or third-round pick. 9. Cary Harris, USC (5-11 3/8, 187) Harris doesn't blow you away in film evaluation, but he shows the ability to cover receivers all over the field. Despite a thin build, he has good height, long arms and impressive athleticism and instincts-- all traits NFL coaches covet. It's doubtful Harris will be drafted as highly as he is rated here, but in time he'll become a solid NFL starter and be productive in all types of coverage. 10. Ryan Mouton, Hawaii (5-9, 187) Mouton is not a well known prospect by the media, but NFL personnel men have started to move him up draft boards this spring. He is an athletic cornerback with the foot quickness and explosiveness to close on passes in a flash, and he has the ball skills to break up passes. He also is a competitive player who flies upfield to deliver violent tackles. He should be a nickel cornerback as a rookie and a starter in time. -- For more than 450 in-depth player scouting reports and updated Combine and pro day data, go to warroom.sportingnews.com.