NFL Draft Early Entries: Cornerbacks

    2016 NFL Draft Early Entries: It's a huge year for cornerbacks with lots of talent, lots of size, and a little something for everyone.

    September 24, 2016

    2016 NFL Draft Early Entries: It’s a huge year for cornerbacks with lots of talent, lots of size, and a little something for everyone.

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    Mackensie Alexander, Clemson, 5-10, 195

    Right Move? While he’s not quite as big as some might like in a class of large corners, his cover skills are peerless and can survive as a shutdown No. 1 guy on an opposing top target. Fluid, confident, and smooth as glass, he’s going to workout just like the NFL types are going to like. Fighting through a bad hamstring injury to play Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship certainly didn’t hurt his stock.
    Projection: First Round

    Eli Apple, Ohio State, 6-1, 200

    Right Move? More of a size corner than a speed one, he’s a terrific athlete who attacks the ball and can beat up receivers. The 40 time will be the difference between the first and second rounds, but he wouldn’t improve his speed if he stayed for another year – it’s his time to take off. He only came up with one pick and made 33 tackles, but he’s a battler who could become a star free safety in time if he can be a bigger tackler. Expect the scouts to fall in love in offseason workouts.
    Projection: Second Round

    Artie Burns, Miami, 6-0, 193

    Right Move? A pickoff playmaker, he came up with six interceptions and 36 tackles on the year. With good size and lightning speed, he’s going to destroy the combine. He could hover around a 4.2 40 and be the talk of the offseason process on tools and upside.
    Projection: Second Round

    Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 197

    Right Move? Is his knee okay? When he’s 100% he has all the tools and talents to be a first round-caliber shut down corner. Throw in the pedigree factor with his brother Kyle on the Chicago Bears and from a family of star defensive backs, he knows what he’s doing and he knows the position. He’s not in the Jalen Ramsey/Vernon Hargreaves high-rent district, but he’s not all that far off if his injured knee is back to normal.
    Projection: First Round

    Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida, 5-11, 199

    Right Move? Jalen Ramsey is probably the best defensive back in the draft, and there are several other excellent corners this year, but it’s Hargreaves who has the shutdown IT factor with the quickness, speed, and big-time attitude to be something special. He’ll tackle, he’ll take on the big assignment, and he’ll play up to every challenge.
    Projection: First Round

    Xavien Howard, Baylor, 6-2, 201

    Right Move? Terrific in the Bear secondary, Howard came up with 42 tackles with five interceptions in a season showing he’s ready to make the jump to the next level. More of a safety than a true corner as a pro, he has the bulk and size but he’s likely going to be a midrange runner throughout the workout process. He’ll make a whale of a free safety.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Damontae Kazee, San Diego State, 5-11, 185

    Right Move? The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year with a ball-hawking eight interceptions to go along with 75 tackles. Quick enough to work as a kick or punt returner, and nasty for his size coming up with stops against the run, he’s a baller who goes beyond the measureables. The Combine probably isn’t going to be kind, but he’ll stick in a secondary.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Jalen Ramsey, Florida State, 6-1, 202

    Right Move? He’s it. He’s the prototype in terms of size, athleticism, and pop with the versatility to play anywhere in the secondary and shine. One of the most physical and tough receivers to come around in a long time with the attitude and fluid cutting ability to match. He looks and plays like a true NFL defensive back who should be a fixture for a long, long time.
    Projection: First Round, probably top ten

    Rashard Robinson, LSU, 6-2, 180

    Right Move? On talent he’s one of the 50 best players in the draft, but off-the-field issues should bounce him deep into the mid-rounds. There’s also the issue of playing time – he hasn’t played in a while. He saw time in his first two years but missed last year after being suspended from the team at the end of 2014 and never got back on. If he blows up the offseason workout circuit, he’ll be one of the most interesting defensive prospects.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Keivarae Russell, Notre Dame, 5-11, 195

    Right Move? Assuming all is right with his broken leg, he has the upside to be a longtime starter somewhere in someone’s secondary. A great tackler who came up with 60 stops this year, he’s not going to blow anyone up as a safety, but he’s reliable as a corner in the open field. The skills are there, but between his leg and missing 2014 with academic issues, there are a few red flags.
    Projection: Third Round

    Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, 5-11, 179

    Right Move? A tone-setter for the OU defense, the veteran made plenty of huge plays throughout his career coming up with seven interceptions last season taking one for a score. A tough hitter, he’s great in the open field making 45 tackles and has the quickness to work as a possible kick returner at times. Here’s the concern – he might be a better college player than a pro considering his raw skills, but he can play in the league.
    Projection: Fourth Round

    Corey Tindal, Marshall, 5-10, 182

    Right Move? A baller, he’s nasty for this size making 64 tackles and doing a great job as a machine when the ball was in the air. He’s got the quickness, and he has the nose for the ball, but the former quarterback doesn’t have elite wheels for his size.
    Projection: Free Agent

    Cleveland Wallace III, San Jose State, 5-11, 177

    Right Move? Wallace came up with a nice year for the Spartans making 44 tackles with three picks including taking an interception for a touchdown, but he’s at best a marginal prospect who’ll need to stick as a special teamer.
    Projection: Free Agent

    Daryl Worley, West Virginia, 6-2, 198

    Right Move? Considering he didn’t really seem into the whole school thing – he missed the Cactus Bowl because classroom problems – he’s more than ready. He came up with a huge year for the Mountaineer secondary making 49 tackles with six picks. He has the right size, but he’s likely going to do more as a nickel back or a safety.
    Projection: Fifth Round

    MORE: 2016 Early Entries: Quarterbacks


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