2015 NFL Draft: Top Ten Cornerbacks

It’s the NFL Draft from the college perspective with a simple mindset: can the guy play at the next level or not? What are his chances to succeed, and is he worth the time and effort? What’s his value?

The class is … very, very interesting. There are at least ten fantastic prospects who could and should start, and at least another five who could make most top ten lists. Trae Waynes might be the main man up top, but after that it’s up in the air with lots and lots of options.
The most overrated prospect: Byron Jones, Connecticut
The top underrated prospect: D’Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic
The deep, deep sleeper: De’Ante Saunders, Tennessee State
The best value prospect: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

1. Trae Waynes, Michigan State 6-0, 186
– Everything you’d want in a top corner prospect, he has size, 4.31 speed, and the strength to have all the tools needed – he upped his stock from the mid-to-late first round to a top ten talent in the offseason. It all translates to the field with good hitting ability in the open field and lockdown ability against the speed receivers.
– He’s a wee bit tight in the hips and isn’t always smooth – he looks a wee bit like an athletic safety playing corner at times – and he gets a little too physical at times, but there isn’t anything that can’t be worked on. He’s going to be drafted as an elite, shutdown corner, and that’s what he needs to become right away.
Yes or No?: Is he a corner who can take away half of a field by himself? Not really – that’s not quite his game – but with his tools and his skills he’ll be seen as a cornerstone of a defense. The pressure will be on to be special, but he’s really more of a part-of-the-puzzle type of defensive back. He’s going to be a very big piece, though.
Round Value: First Round

2. Marcus Peters, Washington 6-0, 197
– The only real question mark is his personality. On straight talent, he’s a first round player with the right size, the right speed, and the right athleticism. He’s fluid and can jump out of the stadium, and he has no problems getting nasty and fighting for the ball when he has to. He looks the part.
– But there’s the attitude concerns. He was suspended for a while last year and didn’t mesh with the coaching staff. The skills are all there, but is he going to be worth the potential headaches? It takes a certain type of mentaility to be an elite NFL corner, and he seems like he has that – for both good and bad.
Yes or No?: You take your chances. All the naysaying should be a motivating factor, and with player like Peters, he might be able to channel the No One Respects Me thing and turn it into production. He needs polish, and he’s going to need the right coach, but he has the talent to be a star.
Round Value: Second Round

3. P.J. Williams, Florida State 6-0, 194
– A fantastic athlete, he blew up the combine with his leaping skills and looked the part in every other way with good size and quickness. Strong and physical, he has no problems dealing with the bigger receivers and can push around the smaller ones. He’ll hit a little bit, too.
– The raw wheels are disappointing, coming up with a slowish 4.57 40, but that’s not a big concern. When he wants to turn the light on, he can erase his man and take care of one side of the field all by himself. The only real question is whether or not he’ll keep his focus.
Yes or No?: Even after being charges with a DUI – he plead not guilty – don’t be shocked if someone out there has him as the top corner on the board. He has the right makeup and attitude to become the key to a secondary, but concerns about his consistency could knock him down a bit. Someone will be ecstatic if he falls out of the first round.
Round Value: Second Round

4. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon 5-9, 192
– It’s all about his knee. He might’ve been the No. 1 corner in the draft if he was 100% healthy, but it’s going to require a leap of faith to take him in the second round. Before the injury, he was smooth as silk and a great fighter who always rose up to the challenge. While he’s not all that huge, he’s not bad at getting physical making the tough tackle.
– Does he have the blazing wheels? That was the big question mark before the injury – he plays fast, but everyone wanted to see what he could do in a timed 40. Yes, he’ll tackle, but he’ll also whiff a bit and might be seen as a pure cover-corner.
Yes or No?: It’s not just the knee. He could use a year to figure out how to be a more technically sound corner who can do things at an NFL level. Even healthy he might not be for everyone – at least as a first round prospect – but give him two years and he might be one of the league’s elite defensive backs.
Round Value: Third Round

5. Jalen Collins, LSU 6-1, 203
– In just about any other year he’d be seen as the sure-thing No. 1 corner, but this just so happens to be a great class at the position. He’s the prototype with tremendous size, elite leaping ability, and outstanding quickness for a player of his body type. Give him time, and he might be something truly special.
– But he needs time. He might have all the skills the NFL types want, but he needs time and he needs coaching. At the moment, he’d be a whale of a No. 2 cornerback on the other side of a star, but in time he needs to be the guy who erases the other team’s top target.
Yes or No?: Faster than shifty, he’s a talent who hits well and can move, but he’s not quite a sure thing considering where he’ll be drafted. His upside is through the roof, but there’s a chance that he’s a better athletic prospect than an NFL football player.
Round Value: Second Round

6. D’Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic 5-10, 187
– While he might not be an elite NFL corner prospect, there’s little downside considering his speed, quickness ans strength for his wiry frame. Coaches rave about him as the type who’ll do everything needed to improve his game and get better, but he already has the tools in place to be great.
– A baller. He has the needed speed and he knows how to attack the ball and go make plays, and he’ll fight to get the job done against the run.
Yes or No?: A steal. He’ll go after the first wave of top corner prospects, but he’ll have a long career as a very good, very sound defensive back who adapts to whatever scheme he’s in. Some team will be happy to get him.
Round Value: Third Round

7. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest 6-0, 188
– A phenomenal athlete, he lit up the combine by showing off his explosion and his quickness. The 40 was a bit slowish, but he has elite raw tools to make up for his 4.5 speed. He won’t have any problems moving with any NFL receiver in any style.
– Can he toughen up? He’s not a hitter and could get pushed around a bit much, but he’s a veteran who knows how to handle himself. He’ll be a speed bump from time to time in the open field, and he’s not going to help out against the run, but that’s not why he’s being brought in.
Yes or No?: One of the biggest defensive back calls in the draft, he has decent height and great quickness, but is he a true NFL No. 1 corner who can take out a team’s top receiver? He’s good enough to be a strong starter, but he’s not going to be a superstar.
Round Value: Second Round

8. Alex Carter, Stanford 6-0, 196
– He has the size to eventually grow into a safety, and he knows how to provide a little bit of a pop when dealing with the bigger, stronger targets. Great against the run, he’ll step up and get his nose dirty and will be able to come up with plays in the open field.
– He can jump out of the stadium, but he’s a little bit stiff and he’s not an elite athlete. While he might not be smooth as silk, he’s a true cornerback who could be terrific on the other side of a star corner on the other side. However, he’ll have a problem against the speed receivers.
Yes or No?: While he won’t be a superstar, he’ll be an ultra-reliable starter who’ll have a long career working in a variety of roles. He could turn out to be the most versatile defensive back in the draft.
Round Value: Third Round

9. Ronald Darby, Florida State 5-11, 193
– Like most top Florida State prospects, he looks like the prototype. He has the right height, the right all-around size, and the right sub-4.4 speed. An elite athlete, he’s a blazer who’s one of the fastest players in the draft, and he’s smooth as silk when he has to cut and move. There’s a central casting aspect to his game.
– Runs like a track star, and tackles like one. No one will really care if he’s a blow up hitter or not, but he’s not great in the open field and he won’t help out much against the run. In terms of pass coverage, he still needs polish and technique help – but there’s a lot to work with.
Yes or No?: Yes, but he needs a little time. He’s a true NFL athlete who can find a role and a home in some secondary, and there’s still plenty of upset. He might be beaten up a bit by physical running teams, but no receiver will out run him.
Round Value: Second Round

10. Senquez Golson, Ole Miss 5-9, 176
– He’s not big enough for a league that likes taller corners, and he can get pushed around a bit, but he’ll fight and claw to make a play. Throw out the tools and the concerns about size – he’s a football player and a peerless ball hawk.
– Is he a lockdown corner? He’s more like a safety/nickel defender who plays corner, and he might end up being moved around a bit. It shouldn’t be a problem considering the Ole Miss defensive style, but it’s going to take some tweaking to his style.
Yes or No?: If you don’t care about his lack of height, he should be fantastic. A secondary is going to need a bigger, taller corner on the other side, but Golson is a tough guy defensive back who plays bigger than his size – you can’t put him on an island against Dez Bryant.
Round Value: Fourth Round