NFL draft preview: Cornerbacks 10:40 AM CDT on Thursday, April 16, 2009 By RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News rgosselin@************** STRENGTH: 6 WEAK STRONG A cornerback has not been drafted in the Top 10 since 2005. The Class of 2009 likely will extend that drought to four consecutive drafts. There's plenty of size and speed on the cornerback board but so few of the prospects have both. Player School Ht. Wt. Noteworthy Malcolm Jenkins Ohio St 6-0 204 Thorpe Award winner Vontae Davis Illinois 5-11 203 4.40 speed in the 40 Darius Butler Connecticut 5-10 183 4-year starter Alphonso Smith Wake Forest 5-9 193 21 career interceptions Jairus Byrd Oregon 5-10 207 Son of former NFL CB Gill Byrd Sean Smith Utah 6-3 ½ 214 Biggest corner in the draft Kevin Barnes Maryland 6-0 187 4.45 speed in the 40 Bradley Fletcher Iowa 6-0 196 152 career tackles Jerraud Powers Auburn 5-9 188 16 career passes broken up Chris Owens San Jose St. 5-9 ½ 181 13 career interceptions Asher Allen Georgia 5-9 ½ 194 Also returns kickoffs Keenan Lewis Oregon St 6-0 ½ 208 Started 47 college games Coye Francies San Jose St. 6-0 185 Oregon State transfer Brandon Hughes Oregon St 5-10 ½ 182 4.40 speed in the 40 D.J. Moore Vanderbilt 5-8 ½ 192 Two-time All-SEC Potential first-round draft picks in bold Spotlight on: Chris Owens, San Jose State Competition brings out the best in any athlete. It certainly brought out the best in San Jose State cornerback Chris Owens. Owens started for three seasons – two opposite his former roommate Dwight Lowery and last year opposite Coye Francies. They all drove each other to become better. "We were really competitive," Owens said. "In practice we'd really go at it, see who could get the most picks, who had the most hits, who had the most tackles. ... Then we just carried it over into the game." Lowery led the NCAA with a school-record nine interceptions in 2006. Owens picked off four passes on the other side of the field. Lowery intercepted four passes in his senior season in 2007 and Owens led the WAC with six. Lowery became a fourth-round pick of the New York Jets last April and wound up starting 10 games as a rookie, intercepting one pass. Owens benefited immensely from playing those two seasons with a future pro. "I saw his work ethic and study habits," Owens said. "We'd go home and watch film and that was something new to me. Dwight helped make me a better player." Owens served as team captain as a senior and earned All-WAC honors, despite intercepting a career-low one pass. Francies earned second-team All-WAC acclaim with his three interceptions. Both project as mid-round draft picks. The Best: Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State Malcolm Jenkins started three years at Ohio State and was an All-Big Ten pick each season. He has the size the NFL covets to line up against players like Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Because of the physical nature of his game (173 career tackles) and borderline speed (4.51), some NFL teams project him as a safety. But cornerback or safety, Jenkins is all about winning. In his last six football seasons as a starter, he played in three state title games in high school and two national championship games in college. Sleeper: Don Carey, Norfolk State Carey started 42 games in his four seasons and was a two-time All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference selection. He also was a three-time academic All-MEAC. He started his first 1 ½ seasons at safety, then moved over to corner. His ability to play two positions increases his value on draft day. So does his productivity – he intercepted 10 career passes. Best of Texas: Brice McCain, Utah The Terrell product started three years and was selected second-team All-Mountain West in 2008. He's the fastest cornerback on the draft board with a 4.33 clocking in the 40-yard dash at his campus workout. McCain (5-9, 181) also returns kickoffs, averaging 22.8 yards in his career. Draft projection: Mid-rounds Notable: Family affair: Jairus Byrd isn't the only CB in this draft with a father who played in the NFL. Western Michigan CB Londen Fryar is the son of Irving Fryar, the NFL's 13th all-time leading receiver. Others with family connections: Vontae Davis is the younger brother of San Francisco TE Vernon Davis. Darius Butler is the nephew of former Saints S Gene Atkins and the cousin of Ravens RB Willis McGahee. Miami's Bruce Johnson is the nephew of Seahawks CB Kelly Jennings. In a rush: Virginia Tech's Victor "Macho" Harris was a 2,346-yard rusher in high school at Highlands Springs, Va., and Boston College's Kevin Atkins was a 2,065-yard rusher as a prep in Lansdale, Pa. Underclassmen: Eight juniors bolstered the cornerback board: Asher Allen, Jairus Byrd, Vontae Davis, D.J. Moore, Jerraud Powers, Sean Smith, Captain Munnerlyn of South Carolina and Donald Washington of Ohio State. Legends: Alphonso Smith leaves Wake Forest as the leading interceptor in school history and the leader in ACC history with 21. Central Florida's Joe Burnett and Cincinnati's Mike Mickens were also their school's all-time leading interceptor. Top 10: Smith also set marks for passes broken up (40) and passes defensed (61). Here's a list of the top interceptors in this draft: Player School Int. Alphonso Smith Wake Forest 21 Jairus Byrd Oregon 17 Joe Burnett C. Florida 16 Macho Harris Va. Tech 15 Mike Mickens Cincinnati 14 D.J. Moore Vanderbilt 13 Chris Owens San Jose 13 DeAngelo Smith Cincinnati 12 Malcolm Jenkins Ohio St. 11 Speed to burn: Malcolm Jenkins was a state 400 meters champ as a high schooler in New Jersey and Mike Mickens won the 300 meters as a prep in Ohio. Stanford's Wopamo Osaisai was the Pac 10's 100-meter champ in 2008. Mr. Versatility: D.J. Moore was an all-state performer at wide receiver in football, point guard in basketball and as a high jumper in track at Broome High School in Spartansburg, S.C. He won state championships in all three sports.