NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Cornerback Prospects

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South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Victor Hampton (27). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


12. Victor Hampton, South Carolina: 5-9, 197 (4.69)

Hampton is a physical corner with some playmaking ability, but he lacks the top-end speed and ideal size for the position.

Hampton may be a liability in coverage downfield, so he may have to make his living over the slot in the NFL. Hampton’s affinity for contact and ability to make plays near the line of scrimmage may make him a better fit at safety at the next level.

Hampton’s game needs work, but in the very least, he’s a high-energy player that can make plays in the secondary.

(Draft Projection: Round 3)

Rice Owls cornerback Phillip Gaines (15) celebrates making a tackle against Air Force Falcons wide receiver Ty MacArthur (27). Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

13. Phillip Gaines, Rice: 6-0, 193 (4.34)

Gaines is a small-school speedster with ideal size and athleticism to play cornerback in the NFL. Gaines’ 27 pass breakups the past two seasons were some of the highest out of any collegiate player in that time.

He needs to play with more consistency. He actually surprised people with his 40 time at the combine because on film Gaines doesn’t appear to possess elite speed.

(Draft Projection: Round 3)

Nebraska Cornhuskers defender Stanley Jean-Baptiste (16) intercepts the pass against the Michigan Wolverines receiver Devin Gardner (12). Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

14. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: 6-3, 218 (4.56)

Jean-Baptiste has tremendous size as a defensive back. A team looking for a cornerback in the Richard Sherman-type mold could take a chance on Jean-Baptiste in an early round.

Jean-Baptiste’s game remains raw and it may took him a few years to adjust to the NFL. However, Jean-Baptiste is a long athlete with decent speed. He does a nice job sticking with receivers downfield and contesting passes in the air. His size allows him to be physical with receivers and win in jump ball scenarios.

Jean-Baptiste is an inconsistent tackler, which is why many haven’t considered him at safety in the NFL despite his size and physical play.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4)

Oregon State Beavers cornerback Rashaad Reynolds (16). Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

15. Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: 5-10, 189 (4.51)

Reynolds is an underrated cornerback prospect with good football instincts. As a senior, Reynolds recorded 61 tackles, six interceptions, and 10 pass breakups, showing his ability as a sound tackler against the run and his ability to make a play on the ball.

Reynolds is a bit undersized and seems to get overmatched at times by bigger receivers in coverage. Although he’s physical against the run, he’s not all that physical in coverage. He seems to struggle at times in man coverage.

He seems to be a better fit as a defensive back in a zone-heavy scheme where he can face the quarterback and make a play on the ball. He would be a valuable player for a team that plays a lot of Cover 2.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4)

Missouri Tigers defensive back E.J. Gaines (31). Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

16. E.J. Gaines, Missouri: 5-10, 190 (4.48)

Gaines is an explosive athlete who plays with a ton of energy. He’s very physical both against the run and in coverage. He’s not afraid to lay a hit on the ball carrier and does well as a nickel back and playing up near the line of scrimmage.

Gaines knows how to make plays in the defensive backfield. He recorded five interceptions as a senior and over 14 pass breakups his final two seasons at Missouri. Gaines was also one of the top tacklers on his team each of the past two seasons, which shows how active he is as a tackler.

If Gaines had better size he could be candidate for safety at the next level, but it’s his lack of size that has significantly hurt his draft stock. He could struggle matched up against big physical wide receivers.

Gaines should make his living as a physical nickel back and special teams contributor in the NFL.

(Draft Projection: Round 4)

Texas A&M Aggies tight end Cameron Clear (85) is tackled by Duke Blue Devils cornerback Ross Cockrell (6). Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

17. Ross Cockrell, Duke: 6-0, 191 (4.47)

Cockrell is flying under the radar at the position because the Duke football program doesn’t get the recognition other Division I schools get.

Cockrell is a good option in the mid rounds for a team looking for a cover corner to develop at the next level. Cockrell matched up against the opponent’s top receivers each and every week in college and held his own against some of the top receivers in the ACC, like Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.

Cockrell isn’t overly physical, but he’s athletic, has a nice burst, and plays the ball well. This enables him to position himself in coverage and prevent receivers from gaining too much separation.

Cockrell is a good sleeper pick at the position early on day three of the draft.

(Draft Projection: Round 4)