NFL draft preview: Cornerbacks
LSU's Morris Claiborne waits for his turn to return punts during the 2012 NFL Combine. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images / April 18, 2012)
This cornerback class features better quantity than quality. Teams will be able to find good values between the third and seventh rounds. Morris Claiborne and Stephon Gilmore are expected to go early, and there could be a dropoff before the next corner is selected.
1. Morris Claiborne, LSU, 5-11, 188. He does everything well. He can cover in man-to-man or zone. He has size, speed and athleticism. He has played wide receiver and can make plays on the ball. He also is a very good return man. Much has been made of reports that Claiborne scored a 4 on the Wonderlic exam, but NFL teams say he is football smart. Claiborne has a learning disability. He was a quarterback and a baseball, basketball and track star in high school. He won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back last season.
2. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, 6-0, 190. Gilmore is an athletic corner with ball skills. He has size and tackles well. He can fit in any scheme but might be better in zone than man. He shows good instincts with the ball in the air. He is considered a clean prospect, and his stock is on the rise. After starting for three years, Gilmore left school early.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, 6-2, 186. He has the height and long arms to match up with bigger wide receivers. Kirkpatrick was a very productive college player before leaving early. He is very effective pressing. He is better in zone than man. He anticipates well and has decent hands. Kirkpatrick does not have elite speed or movement skills. He did not work out as well as he played. Teams are a little concerned about his personality and judgment.
4. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama, 5-10, 193. He is one of the best cover men available but is considered a wild card on draft day because of off-field concerns. Some teams have him off their draft boards. Jenkins transferred from Florida after two marijuana-related arrests and three overall. He is athletic, fast and tough. Jenkins attacks the ball and the ball carrier. He also has return skills. He doesn't have ideal size.
5. Trumaine Johnson, Montana, 6-2, 204. He has a lot of potential as a Cover-2 corner. Johnson is big and athletic and runs and jumps well. He played quarterback in high school and also has experience at receiver. Johnson can make plays on the ball. He is an inconsistent tackler and doesn't always play intensely. He has had some injury issues. Johnson will have to get used to a much higher level of competition.
6. Josh Robinson, Central Florida, 5-10, 199. He was the subject of a lot of attention after running a 4.29 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Robinson has good feet and movement skills. He can play man-to-man. He has a good burst to the ball and plays explosively. He is shorter than ideal but is well-put-together and tackles well. He has experience as a punt returner.
7. Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina, 6-0, 197. This small-school prospect has a lot of ability. He can turn, run and high-point a football. He has great ball skills. He is built well for the position, with long arms. Norman breaks on the ball very well. He has quick feet and can play in any scheme. He helped himself at the East-West Shrine Game, showing he can hang with talented receivers. Some scouts question his maturity level.
8. Trent Robinson, Michigan State, 5-10, 195. He was a college safety, and some teams project him there. However, he doesn't have ideal size for safety and appears to have the ability to be a very good cornerback in a zone scheme. He isn't quite as fast or fluid as you'd like a man-to-man corner to be. Robinson is an explosive player who doesn't mind mixing it up. He was a four-year letter winner who made plays. He should be a good special teams contributor.
9. Brandon Boykin, Georgia, 5-9, 182. Boykin broke his right leg in the Senior Bowl and has not been able to work out for scouts. His stock is down as a result. He is a top athlete with excellent feet for the position. He is not overly physical or instinctive. He was not the most consistent cover man in college. His lack of size might reduce him to a nickel role in the NFL. He also can be a return man.
10. Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt, 5-11, 192. An instinctive corner who can make plays on the ball, Hayward has potential. He is pretty solid in every area. He tackles well but could use more muscle. He might have a hard time matching up in man against elite receivers.
11. Coryell Judie, Texas A&M, 6-0, 194. He has a nice combination of size and speed. Judie is athletic and tough. He plays with a good feel for the game. His hands are good. A zone scheme would fit him best. He has been hurt quite a bit and could be a durability risk.
12. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, 5-10, 204. This is a short, strong corner who is built more like a running back. He is a good athlete and plays physically. He is limited covering receivers downfield because of his lack of size and speed. Dennard would be best off playing in a Cover-2 scheme. He played better in 2010 than 2011.
13. Omar Bolden, Arizona State, 5-10, 202. Durability concerns will cost him in the draft, but he has ability. Bolden is quick, athletic and tough. He plays the ball well. He shows confidence in his coverage and will get physical with receivers.His man-to-man skills are questionable. He has experience as a return man.
14. Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma, 5-10, 206. Fleming is a zone corner prospect with good closing ability. He can break up a lot of passes. This is a strong, tough corner who tackles well. His athleticism, instincts and hands are average.
15. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, 5-10, 178. He lacks size but not athleticism. Hosley can make plays on the ball and could be best suited over the slot receiver. He competes hard and plays physically for his size. He left school early after an injury-filled season. He also can return punts.
16. Coty Sensabaugh, Clemson, 5-11, 189. He is a one-year starter who had a great combine workout (4.33 40, 37-inch vertical jump) and has been rising on boards. He has man-to-man cover ability. His tackling needs improvement. His instincts are average, but he has a chance to develop because he has fine athleticism.