2014 NFL Draft Positional Breakdowns: Cornerbacks

Justin Gilbert is the standout prospect of this year’s cornerback draft class. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino

How many times have you heard NFL coaches and executives say that you can never have enough good cornerbacks? This year’s draft class provides a host of intriguing prospects who could satisfy the league’s demand for talented cover cornerbacks.

The class is strong throughout, led by five prospects graded as first-round picks and 12 in the first three rounds.

The best corner in the class is Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is a proven performer as a cornerback and special teams contributor who can come in and help a team instantly in both areas. His overall athleticism is very good and he combines that with good length. These traits allow him to mirror his opponents and make plays on the ball. He has good ball skills, as evidenced by his 12 career interceptions and 32 passes defended.

Gilbert is a great kickoff returner—he has the most kickoff return touchdowns in Big 12 history with six—and also excels as a gunner in punt coverage, in which he is consistently the first man to get to the opposing punt returner.

First Round Grades

1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert brings a lot to the table as a prospect. His combination of coverage ability, length, athleticism and return ability puts him in position to be the first cornerback drafted this year.

2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: Dennard is a physical corner who can both cover and play the run well. Simply put, it’s difficult to complete a pass against him.

3. Bradley Roby, Ohio State: Roby has great athleticism and coverage ability. His movements are extremely fluid and explosive. Whether he is covering, blitzing or chasing down ball carriers, his athletic ability and explosiveness are elite.

4. Jason Verrett, TCU: Verrett has the most complete skill set of any cornerback in this year’s draft class. He is pushed down the board by size limitations, but he could be a dynamic slot defender and play outside against certain types of receivers.

5. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: A starting defensive back for the Hokies since his freshman season, Fuller has the versatility to play either cornerback or safety. He has great short-area quickness and ball skills.

Second Round

6. Pierre Desir, Lindenwood: Desir was dominant against small-school competition, making his share of big interceptions and pass breakups during his career at Lindenwood. He has the size to match up with any receiver.

7. Bashaud Breeland, Clemson: Breeland is a long, athletic, physical press cornerback with good ball skills. At worst, he should be an excellent safety in the NFL.

8. EJ Gaines, Missouri: Gaines plays the game with good physicality and an aggressive demeanor. When he is defending a screen or run play, Gaines contributes nicely as a tackler. He is fluid in his motions and has solid quickness and long speed.

9. Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: Mitchell is a long, physical, press cornerback with solid ball skills. He has good short-area quickness and shows the versatility to play all over the defensive backfield.

Third Round

10. Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: Reynolds is a physical press corner with some upside. He competes for the ball well but has some technical issues, as he tends to get flat-footed in his backpedal.

North Carolina State’s Dontae Johnson is one of the cornerbacks worthy of a top-100 selection in this year’s draft. (Photo: Jim Brown — USA Today Sports)

11. Jaylen Watkins, Florida: Watkins is a versatile defensive back who excels in man coverage. He is willing in run support and has solid ball skills.

12. Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State: Johnson has the length and size to matchup with even the NFL’s biggest receivers. He plays with a physical, aggressive demeanor and competes well for the football. He has solid athleticism, quickness, speed and agility.

Fourth Round

13. Dexter McDougle, Maryland: McDougle has struggled with injuries throughout his career but when healthy, he is impressive. McDougle covers well and is a fluid athlete who competes aggressively at the catch point.

14. Keith McGill, Utah: McGill fits the NFL’s demand for tall, long cornerbacks, but he doesn’t consistently use his size to his advantage. If he can develop better overall instincts, McGill has high upside.

15. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt: Hal is a good athlete with good size for his position. He has good footwork and a very smooth backpedal. Hal is competitive at the catch point and uses his length to his advantage. His eye discipline needs work but he enters the draft with a solid resume against SEC competition.

16. Shaquille Richardson, Arizona: Richardson is a competitive prospect with good size and athletic ability. He plays the ball well and has starter upside in the middle rounds.

17. Walt Aikens, Liberty: Aikens has had as impressive a post-season as any player in this year’s draft class. With impressive showings at the Senior Bowl and his Pro Day, and good film to back it up Aikens has proven his worth as a middle-round pick despite his small-school background.

18. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: Jean-Baptiste is a former wide receiver who transitioned to cornerback for the Cornhuskers during the middle of the 2011 season. He is still learning the nuances of the position, but has flashed coverage instincts and has terrific size.

19. Phillip Gaines, Rice: Gaines is a big, athletic corner with excellent ball skills. With more development in his instincts, Gaines has the physical traits and aggressive nature to succeed.

Three Florida cornerbacks, including Marcus Roberson, are projected to be selected in this year’s draft. (Photo: Kim Klement — USA Today Sports)

Fifth Round

20. Marcus Roberson, Florida: Roberson has good ability to break on the football. He mirrors his opponents well and drives off his back foot to make plays. He struggles in press coverage and does not show much physicality.

21. Ross Cockrell, Duke: Cockrell plays with good awareness and a competitive demeanor that makes him an interesting prospect. He has good size for the cornerback position and performs well in zone coverage.

22. Victor Hampton, South Carolina: Hampton plays the ball extremely well and is a solid tackler. He projects as a zone corner who understands coverage concepts very well. His draft stock could be affected by off-field issues.

23. Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida: Purifoy shows he is a much better athlete on film than he showed at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine or at his pro day. He has talent but his football instincts must develop. His draft stock could be affected by off-field issues.

Sixth Round

24. Nevin Lawson, Utah State: Lawson is a sound cover cornerback who stays within the frame of his opponents well and has good reactionary skills. His ball skills and technique need work, but he has upside as a nickel cornerback and special teamer.

25. Osahon Irabor, Arizona State: Irabor is a solid talent who performed well in a standout Arizona State secondary. Like many late-round cornerback prospects, he needs to play more consistently but has moldable traits that are intriguing.

26. Travis Carrie, Ohio: Carrie combines terrific size and athleticism with a balanced skill set. However, he missed two years in his college football career due to injuries, making his durability a major concern.

27. Dashaun Phillips, Tarleton State: A terrific athlete and four-year starter, Phillips performed well against Division II competition. He needs to prove he can compete with the best but has an intriguing skill set that should warrant a selection later in the draft.

Demetri Goodson’s upside and basketball background could lure a team into drafting him in the late rounds, though his age could push some teams away. (Photo: Jerome Miron — USA Today Sports)

28. Demetri Goodson, Baylor: Goodson is a flashy player with good instincts and size. He has a basketball background but will be a 25-year-old rookie. Despite his age, he is a player with developmental upside.

29. Kendall James, Maine: James is a fluid, athletic cover cornerback with excellent physical traits. An experienced player from the small-school ranks, James could be a sleeper and steal in this class.

30. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma: Colvin’s best trait is his instinctiveness as it pertains to football. He has a natural feel for the game and coverage concepts. Colvin plays with good technique and awareness. He has proven himself to be an effective blitzer and a willing run defender. A torn ACL suffered at the Senior Bowl hurts his draft stock.

31. Ricardo Allen, Purdue: Allen is a physical, competitive slot corner who is aggressive and balanced. He is limited by his small frame but can contribute in sub-packages.

32. B.J. Lowery, Iowa: A flashy player who covers short and intermediate routes very well, Lowery lacks long speed but should have an NFL future as a safety and zone coverage cornerback.

33. Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech: Thomas is an extremely physical cornerback who also played safety at Georgia Tech. He plays with good instincts and competes well for the ball. Thomas doesn’t have ideal burst or athleticism, but is worth late-round consideration.

Seventh Round

34. Charles Sawyer, Mississippi: Sawyer has the foot speed, agility and change-of-direction skills needed to defend the NFL’s speedy slot receivers. He has a physical demeanor that shows up in press coverage and when defending the run. Off-field issues hurt his draft stock.

35. Ciante Evans, Nebraska: Evans lacks ball skills but can cover and is a good athlete. He can provide quality depth and add special teams value.

36. Carrington Byndom, Texas: Byndom is a squatty corner who loves to drive off his back foot and disrupt passes. He has a great deal of experience, but his lack of size and consistency push him down the rankings.

37. Marcus Williams, North Dakota State: Williams plays with good physicality and a competitive nature. Very productive at the small-school level, Williams needs to play with more attention to detail, as he tends to get lazy with his technique and give up some easy catches.

38. Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame: Jackson has flashed coverage ability and instincts but has a lot to improve upon. His fluidity and athleticism are below average and he can be overly hesitant in his reactions, which leads to easy completions. His size and physicality still warrant late-round consideration.

39. Jabrari Price, North Carolina: Price is a balanced cornerback who can cover and tackle. He is a solid athlete who has adequate size but lacks ball skills. He can provide quality depth in the NFL.

40. Robert Nelson, Arizona State: Nelson is a quick and athletic slot cornerback who can succeed in either man or zone coverage. He has a slight frame but could provide depth in nickel and dime pacakges.

41. Chris Davis, Auburn: Davis is best when covering short routes, where he can use his quickness to mirror his opponent and play the ball. He is not as successful defending down the field as he is easily out-muscled and doesn’t have great ball skills. He adds value as a return man but lacks physicality in coverage.

Top Undrafted Free Agents

42. Qua Cox, Jackson State
43. Deion Belue, Alabama
44. Gregory Ducre, Washington
45. Sammy Seamster, Middle Tenn State
46. Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
47. Jimmy Legree, South Carolina
48. Lavelle Westbrooks, Georgia Southern
49. T.J. Lee, Eastern Washington
50. Nick Addison, Bethune-Cookman
51. Brandon Dixon, Northwest Missouri State
52. Torin Harris, Southern California
53. Todd Washington, Southeastern Louisiana
54. Keith Reaser, Florida Atlantic
55. Mohammed Seisay, Nebraska
56. Kenneth Acker, SMU
57. Keon Lyn, Syracuse
58. Najja Johnson, Buffalo
59. Albert Louis-Jean, Boston College

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Aaron Colvin, Andre Hal, B.J. Lowery, Bashaud Breeland, Bennett Jackson, Bradley Roby, Carrington Byndom, Charles Sawyer, Chris Davis, Ciante Evans, Cornerbacks, Darqueze Dennard, Dashaun Phillips, Defensive Backs, Demeti Goodson, Dexter McDougle, Dontae Johnson, EJ Gaines, Jabari Price, Jason Verrett, Jaylen Watkins, Jemea Thomas, Justin Gilbert, Keith McGill, Kendall James, Kyle Fuller, Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, Marcus Williams, Nevin Lawson, NFL Draft, Osahon Irabor, Phillip Gaines, Pierre Desir, Positional Breakdowns, Positional Rankings, Rankings, Rashaad Reynolds, Ricardo Allen, Robert Nelson, Ross Cockrell, Secondary, Shaquille Richardson, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Terrance Mitchell, Travis Carrie, Victor Hampton, Walt Aikens

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