NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Cornerback Prospects

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Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins (14) tackles Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Marquez North (8). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


6. Jaylen Watkins, Florida: 5-11, 194 (4.41)

Brother of top receiver Sammy Watkins, Jaylen is flying under the radar a bit as a defensive back. He’s an outstanding athlete, and with experience at both corner and safety, Watkins brings versatility to the secondary.

Watkins lacked “splash” plays at Florida (only three career interceptions), which is leading many to overlook him as a cornerback prospect. He also split time between corner and safety and played nickel behind starters Louchiez Purifoy and Marcus Roberson in 2013.

Many believe, however, Watkins’ athleticism, ability in coverage, and versatility make him project better at the next level than Roberson or Purifoy.

(Draft Projection: Round 2)

Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) runs between Florida State Seminoles linebacker Terrance Smith (24) and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner (20). Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

7. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State: 5-8, 184 (4.55)

Like Watkins, Joyner is a defensive back with experience at both corner and safety, and this versatility should help him come draft time.

Joyner is a physical defensive back with playmaking ability. He recorded 69 tackles, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 5.5 sacks as a nickel corner in 2013.

Playing over the slot near the line of scrimmage seems to be the best fit for Joyner at the next level. He’s physical against the run and has the quick burst to stick with receivers running across the middle of the field.

Joyner does lack the height and top-end speed necessary to matchup downfield against the bigger and faster receivers of the NFL.

(Draft Projection: Round 2)

Utah Utes defensive back Keith McGill participates in pass catching drills during the 2014 NFL Combine. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

8. Keith McGill, Utah: 6-3, 211 (4.51)

McGill has tremendous size and athleticism for the position, which makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft.

McGill knows how to use his size and length to his advantage in coverage. He can easily get his hands on receivers and be physical with them both at the line and to breakup a pass.

McGill is also a strong tackler, which has led some to wonder if he’ll make the switch to safety in the NFL.

McGill could be an early-round option for a team looking for either a safety or corner, but his game will take some time to develop at the next level.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3)

North squad defensive corner Pierre Desir of Lindenwood (30) celebrates after an interception against the South squad. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

9. Pierre Desir, Lindenwood: 6-1, 198 (4.59)

Desir is another tall college defensive back who may get a look at safety in the NFL.

He possesses better ball skills than McGill, however. Desir recorded 13 interceptions and 26 pass breakups in his final two seasons at Lindenwood. And his length helps him blanket receivers in coverage.

Desir excelled at college as a read and react defensive back in Lindenwood’s zone-heavy scheme. This allowed Desir to use his excellent football instincts to make plays; however, many have doubts on how effective Desir can be in man coverage at the next level with his back to the quarterback.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3)

Florida Gators defensive back Marcus Roberson (5). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

10. Marcus Roberson, Florida: 6-0, 198 (4.62)

Roberson is a physical corner with good size and cover ability. However, Roberson has some limitations as an athlete.

Roberson may struggle sticking with NFL receivers, especially downfield. Roberson could do well for a team that plays a lot of Cover 2 or deep shell schemes.

Roberson’s strengths are his football instincts and his ability to react to the play in front of him. He’s also a willing tackler in the run game.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3)

Auburn Tigers wide receiver Emory Blake (80) makes a catch while being defended by Clemson Tigers cornerback Bashaud Breeland (right). Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

11. Bashaud Breeland, Clemson: 5-11, 197 (4.59)

Like Roberson, Breeland lacks top-end speed and athleticism, but he’s a physical corner who holds up well in coverage because he knows how to get his hands on receivers and keep them from gaining separation.

Breeland plays with good instincts and shows a quick burst to the ball, recording 13 pass breakups and four interceptions in 2013.

Breeland has plenty of upside and would be a nice find at the position late on day two of the draft.

(Draft Projection: Round 3)

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