2018 Draft: Cornerback Rankings


For reference, my thoughts on 2017’s cornerback class can be found here.

Additionally, my top 10, pre-Combine “rankings” can be found here.

Lastly, I highlighted what I deemed as the Raiders’ “top needs” heading into the draft over here.

What does Oakland do?

Was there a worse secondary in the NFL last year than the unit the Raiders put on the field?

“Starting cornerbacks” David Amerson and Sean Smith are no longer on the roster. Both of those transactions should’ve happened last offseason if we’re being honest with ourselves.

Gareon Conley missed a majority of his rookie season with a mysterious shin aliment. What’s more? Although he’s running around now, there still is no clear timetable for his return. The goal is training camp, but this injury has been wacky from the onset so I’m truly holding my breath. His presence on the outside if desperately needed, assuming he lives up to his pre-draft profile.

Oh, fan-favorite slot cornerback T.J. Carrie took money from Cleveland this offseason. So, long story short, Oakland needs bodies back there.

Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie got the ball rolling in free agency by bringing in 28-year Rashaan Melvin, coming off his best year as a professional. Additionally, the Raiders added Shareece Wright (31), Leon Hall (33), and most recently, Daryl Worley (23) in order to bolster their depth. The former Colt will look to lockup the outside corner spot opposite now-sophomore Gareon Conley, but none of these transactions should stop the Raiders from adding through the draft. I’d start at 10 overall if the board fell in such a way.

This year’s class:

Player’s to note:

Denzel Ward isn’t Marshon Lattimore, but I think he’s close enough talent-wise (perhaps better?) to 2017’s other Buckeye cornerback, and Raiders’ first-round selection, Gareon Conley. Ward’s a freak athlete with plus-instincts and sticky cover skills who’ll be able to hold his own on the outside. Weight is a concern, but he plays bigger than whatever he’s listed at. I think he’ll be gone before Oakland’s on the clock.

Quietly, Colorado has churned out some impressive defensive backs over the past couple of years. Isaiah Oliver stood out in 2016-2017 amongst a few NFL players. Another premiere athlete at the position, Oliver’s ideal size is a plus in press, and I think his ceiling is a bit “safer” given the build explosiveness.

Jaire Alexander is a consensus top player at the position. Not sure anyone in this class can match his swag on the field, and that’s important. Elite anticipation skills, coupled with a strong Combine, will have him leaving the board early despite any sort of size concerns (injury history is worth note, too). He’ll standout in the slot, but wouldn’t count him out on the outside either.

Quenton Meeks is a cerebral cornerback. Richard Sherman’s been linking up with him, which gets me even more giddy. They carry themselves in a similar manner on the field (no, that’s not my comparison for the younger Stanford corner). He checks the height and weight boxes (6’1″, 209), while being an adequate athlete at the position. Technique and approach to the game (film room, all the intangibles you want) is top-tier. Coaches son, per Lance Zierlein. Needs to get better in press.

Mike Hughes‘ 2017 was as good as any corner. Four interceptions and another eleven pass breakups. He’s a tone-setter. The big reason why he’s not higher for me is simply his experience. He’s raw. The former Tar Heel was suspended and eventually spent time at community college. He found his way back to Central Florida and here we are. “Smaller” at 5’10”, but he’s got #grit. Physical off the line. Still growing in coverage and as a tackler, needs to be more consistent (often leads with his head down). Upside remains.

Carlton Davis might be the premier press corner for 2018. First-team All-SEC in 2017 with eleven pass breakups. 6’1″, 206, and plays like a bully. Can lineup with bigger wideouts obviously, but could get tied up against the more quick-footed, smaller receivers in and out of breaks.

Josh Jackson was the definition of a “ball hawk” in 2017 with 8 interceptions and another 18 passes defensed. Much like, say, Richard Sherman, the aforementioned Josh Jackson began his career as a wide receiver. Anticipation, instincts, and obviously ball skills, are there. Pure projection puts him at the top of the list off the season he had alone. At the moment, he’s a one-year wonder with some questions about his tackling/technique.

Boston College’s Isaac Yiadom, much like Carlton Davis, looks the most comfortable and effective in press. He’s not the biggest at 190 pounds on his 6 foot-plus frame, but his play strength is “good enough”. Able to contest at the catch-point, and appears willing to work downhill as needed.

Duke Dawson is another tough-minded player, projecting as a slot corner at the next level. First-team All-SEC in 2017 with four interceptions and nine pass breakups. He’s shorter and stockier, so his build is a bit “different” in that regard. We may see his stock slip as a result. Big media members Rob Rang (CBS) and Lance Zierlein (NFL) have noted his “team-first” approach and generally “high-character”. Intangibles matter.

M.J. Stewart should see work out of the nickel sooner rather than later. He’s doesn’t have much in the way of recovery speed, and there are times when his physicality can lead to some pretty frustrating penalties (or rather, no-calls that will surely be flagged on Sunday’s). Still, plus-instincts and recognition skills; I noted his ability out of the slot, but I could see him lining-up outside. Versatility may even spell “safety” at the next level.

Both Avonte Maddox and D.J. Reed stand at 5’9″, but play a lot bigger. Similar players with their tenacious attitudes on the field. Maddox and Reed, respectively, have notable production on the ball (passes defensed) during their time at school. Their stature didn’t slow down their impact.

Is Donte Jackson another Demarcus Van Dyke?

Parry Nickerson looks like a starting cornerback, and per PFF, he’s one of the more underrated players in the group. He’s a legit 4.3 athlete with ball-skills that led to 16 interceptions while at Tulane.

Nick Nelson might’ve been a full round or two higher had it not been for an unfortunate injury during a private workout. Nelson transferred from Hawaii to Wisconsin and kept the production going. With over 40 passes defensed, he did his best Mackensie Alexander impression and failed to log a turnover. Much like Alexander, I’m sure that’ll be a point of contention with some teams.

Holton Hill has the size, speed, and general strength to impact the game early. “He’s a Day 2 talent, but I doubt he goes there.” Many “in the know” bring his maturity (off-field) into question. At 6-foot-plus with traits, someone is going to take that gamble.

Tarvarus McFadden was getting legitimate CB1 praise heading into the 2017 season. That was before the 4.6+ forty, and underwhelming junior campaign obviously.

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