With the NFL Scouting Combine only a couple of weeks away, I would like to provide my early player rankings by position for the 2014 NFL Draft. This will be a brief look at who I believe are the top five players at each position. Granted, the draft landscape can change rather rapidly depending how well these players do in the combine and pro day workouts.
But for now, here are my top five cornerbacks in this year’s draft class.
1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
3. Jason Verrett, TCU
4. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
5. Victor Hampton, South Carolina
Perhaps more than any other position, the cornerback group has more to gain or lose at the combine. Defensive backs are often judged by their 40 times, so look for how well these players do in the 40-yard dash. It will tell you if they will remain top-five prospects or if they’ll drop out of early round contention.
Overall, the cornerback position seems to come down to Gilbert and Dennard at the head of the class. They both appear to be first rounders at this point, as they have the makeup and physical tools to be instant starters at the next level. We’ll see if their combine numbers hold up to these expectations.
Gilbert is a great playmaker as a corner. He led the nation in interceptions with seven last season, and he also has the speed and agility to be a top cover guy.
Dennard on the other hand is a more physical corner that excels at pressing receivers at the line and isn’t afraid to mix it up against the run. Dennard is an outstanding tackler and has true shutdown ability.
Verrett is a bit undersized at 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds, but he’s a tough, aggressive defensive back that know’s how to make plays. He seems well suited for the slot and is a borderline first round guy.
Roby maybe the toughest cornerback of the bunch to figure out. He was dominant as a sophomore and freshman. Many believed before last season he was going to be a top-ten pick, but after a disappointing 2013 season, it seems many analysts don’t necessarily know what to expect from the Ohio State defensive back at the next level.
Roby plays with excellent speed, and many project his 40 time to exceed the 4.4 mark, which would help his draft stock significantly. He could be a player that climbs up draft boards after his performance in Indy.
Hampton is a physical corner that plays more like a safety or linebacker. He can deliver some monster hits, which is surprising for a 5-foot-10, 200-pound defensive back. He plays with excellent energy and really gets after it on the field. He’s a bit raw technique wise, so some see him as a bit of a developmental player going into the NFL.
There are plenty of other cornerbacks to keep an eye on during the draft evaluation process. Players like Florida’s Marcus Roberson and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller could be great finds on day two of the draft and could enter the top-five conversation at the position with good combine numbers.
Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Utah’s Keith McGill are both over the 6-foot-2 mark and have Richard Sherman-like size for the position. However, they both need to prove at the combine they can move fluidly as corners and not be hindered trailing receivers at the next level.
Even mid-round guys, like Purdue’s Ricardo Allen and Notre Dame’s Bennett Jackson, have the potential to be great players at the next level and could boost their draft stock with a good numbers in Indy.
Look for these players and plenty more at the position to impress with their workouts as the NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis on Feb. 22-25th.
Check back here at Lombardiave.com for the next position’s top five draft prospects. Also, look for a more in-depth position-by-position breakdown later in the spring as we get closer to the NFL Draft in May.