Top Returning Cornerbacks For 2017

    These top returning college football cornerbacks will strike the greatest fear in quarterbacks and wideouts in 2017.

    March 6, 2017

    These top returning college football cornerbacks will strike the greatest fear in quarterbacks and wideouts in 2017.

    There are two key elements to slowing down today’s passer-friendly college football offenses, an assertive pass rush and skilled cornerbacks. The latter is the far tougher of the two objectives, because of the paucity of airtight corners who can negate the other guy’s best wide receiver. These cornerbacks will be defensive game-changers in 2017, since they’re capable of cutting off half the field on quarterbacks and thwarting drives with a timely batted ball.

    Top Returning Cornerbacks

    10. Rashard Fant, Indiana

    The Hoosiers and new coach Tom Allen couldn’t be happier that Fant elected to remain in Bloomington in 2017. Fant gives IU a veteran ball-hawk on the last line of the defense. Over the past two seasons, he’s broken up 39 passes, more than any other Big Ten player. After being named to the all-conference second team in 2016, Fant will spend his finale trying to impress pro scouts and preventing the long plays that occasionally stung Indiana last fall.

    9. Quenton Meeks, Stanford

    Meeks flashed evidence of his enormous potential in 2015 and 2016, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 in an injury-shortened sophomore season. This fall, he begins to perform like one of the top corners in the country. Meeks has the requisite athleticism. Which defensive backs don’t at this level? The reason why he’ll stand out is his size, 6-2 and 195 pounds, and his dedication to always be improving on the cerebral side of defending the pass.

    8. Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech

    Stroman is the latest in a long line of Hokies who’ll use Blacksburg as a springboard to the NFL. The 6-0, 180-pounder closes quickly on balls, sticking to receivers and abruptly shutting the window on quarterbacks. Stroman missed three November games with a serious ankle injury, yet he still defended 13 passes, including three interceptions. He landed on the All-ACC Third Team as a junior, which doesn’t do justice to his airtight coverage skills.

    7. Iman Marshall, USC

    Adoree’ Jackson is headed to the NFL. It’s Marshall’s time to assume a starring role in the Trojan secondary. The honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick has two full seasons of starting experience and the knowledge that he too can use his junior year as a catapult to the pros. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, Marshall leans on his physicality to stop receivers, liberally jamming them at the line of scrimmage. In 2016, he chipped in with 51 tackles, three stops for loss, three picks and eight pass breakups.

    6. Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma

    Yes, the Sooners struggled in pass defense a year ago. But they improved markedly throughout the season, led by the frenetic Thomas who was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. He excels in coverage, as evidenced by his five interceptions in 2015 and 17 pass breakups a year ago. With one season of amateur eligibility remaining, he wants to use this fall to tighten up his overall consistency, both on the field and away from it.

    5. D.J. Reed, Kansas State

    What can Reed do for an encore in Manhattan? In his first season out of Cerritos (Calif.) College, he defended 19 passes to earn First Team All-Big 12. Reed isn’t very big, just 5-9 and 188 pounds, but he plays big. He’s flush in confidence, change-of-direction quickness and the hops to neutralize taller receivers in man coverage. Reed is the kind of high-energy cornerback that opposing quarterbacks will want to avoid at all costs in 2017.

    4. Duke Dawson, Florida

    Dawson’s position for his senior season has yet to be determined, though a move from nickel to corner makes sense now that Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are about to get paid handsomely. Dawson will be an impact performer wherever he lines up. He’s experienced, versatile and punishing enough to make receivers short arm throws in their direction. And he’s just itching for the opportunity to join the procession of former Gator defensive backs into the NFL.

    3. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

    Just two seasons into his Cardinal career, Alexander is poised to make a run at becoming the premier pass defender in the country in 2017. The Second Team All-ACC selection is an explosive all-around athlete, both on defense and on special teams, to go along with the confidence needed to survive on an island. Alexander is the epitome of a playmaking defensive back, picking off five passes and breaking up nine others last season.

    2. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

    The Seminoles were looking for a successor to Jalen Ramsey in the secondary last season. McFadden came to the rescue, tying for the nation’s lead with eight interceptions. Best of all, he’s still only two years removed from high school, so the learning and consistency will continue in earnest this fall. McFadden was a little slow out of the gate in his starting debut. But he kept improving in all phases, using his long frame, ball skills and outstanding positioning on receivers to pick the pockets of opposing quarterbacks.

    1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

    There is no single position that defines Fitzpatrick, the most versatile defensive back in the country. He plays the hybrid ‘star’ position for the Tide, which means he harbors the attributes of a corner and a safety. Fitzpatrick’s corner instincts resulted in six interceptions and a couple of touchdowns in 2016. His size, 6-1 and 203 pounds, 66 stops and ability to supplant an injured Eddie Jackson are nods to his potential at safety. Oh, and the junior prepares and studies as if he’s ready to lose his job. Fitzpatrick is the nation’s top DB, regardless of how he’s labeled.

    MORE: Top Returning Defensive Ends For 2017


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