NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Cornerback

Cornerback is another position that the Eagles will need to address early in the 2022 NFL Draft. While Darius Slay turned in a Pro Bowl season in 2021 and Avonte Maddox is an asset in the slot, the other perimeter position is a huge hole to fill. Luckily for the Eagles, there are a handful of cornerback prospects who could step right in. Here are the best cornerbacks in this year’s class.

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Derek Stingley Junior, LSU6 ‘, 190 Pounds

What he does well: There is not one area that feels lacking in Derek Stingley Jr.’s game. In coverage; Stingley has the athleticism to run with anyone on the field, the physicality to challenge receivers at the line and catch point, and the ball skills to make big plays in coverage. He flashes great tackling ability and willingness to come up and make run stops. When he is on, he is one of the best players in the class.

Where he can improve: Due to injuries, Stingley has only played 10 games in the last two seasons so his jump to the NFL will mean some questions about readiness. He can be aggressive to a fault sometimes, both with his jam at the line and playing the ball in coverage. He is so hungry for big plays that he ends up allowing some.

Pro Comparison: Stephon Gilmore

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati, 6’2 ”, 190 Pounds

What he does well: Sauce Gardner has been a factor in the Bearcat secondary since he took the field in 2019. The athletic, long limbed cornerback used his size, speed and physicality to blanket receivers in coverage. With each year, Gardner became more aggressive, more consistent and more refined. He was a major figure in Cincinnati’s recent success.

Where he can improve: Gardner is a bit lean at his size, and it will be possible that it hurts him at the next level. He is already only an “okay” tackler and could be ran over by NFL skill players. He too often depends on physical gifts to cover receivers and more refined NFL receivers will take advantage of that early in his career.

Pro Comparison: Patrick Surtain II

Cairo Elam, Florida, 6’1 ”, 191 Pounds

What he does well: Size, speed and physicality is the name of the game for Kaiir Elam. He does a good job winning at the line of scrimmage as a press corner and has the speed to run with any receiver. His burst and football IQ allow him to play well in the zone as well.

Where he can improve: Not a lot of ball production and feast or famine mentality when pressing, which can allow for quicker receivers to eat him up early in the route. Needs to develop patience and not panic on deep routes.

Pro Comparison: Jaylon Johnson

Andrew Booth Junior, Clemson, 6 ‘, 194 Pounds

What he does well: Size and speed cornerback who plays best with the game in front of him. Has the burst and physicality and click / close on targeted receivers, making their life difficult at the catch point. Does not allow yards after the catch. Has the talent to be a complete cornerback.

Where he can improve: Good, not great in man coverage. Can lose receivers on short routes. Physicality can be a bit uncontrolled at times, leading to grabby coverage and poor tackle attempts.

Pro Comparison: Trevon Diggs

Trent McDuffie, Washington, 5’10 ”, 193 Pounds

What he does well: On tape there are not a lot of holes in Trent McDuffie’s game. He is a competitive, feisty cornerback that never lets aggression overtake his technical approach to the game. He is extremely dependable in coverage and has no problem coming down the hill to attack the run. He kept up with all competition in the Pac-12. Washington has been producing starting level defensive backs for quite a few years now.

Where he can improve: McDuffie’s downside is completely out of his control. He is a small, light cornerback with worryingly short arms. While it was never prohibitive in college, there are legitimate concerns about his ability to play outside in an NFL defense. He projects as an extremely good slot cornerback.

Pro Comparison: Mackensie Alexander

Roger McCreary, Auburn, 5’11 ”, 190 Pounds

What he does well: McCreary is a tough, nasty cornerback that will get in the heads of opposing receivers. He forced SEC receivers to play at his speed. He is technically sound and plays with good awareness in the zone and does a good job coming up against the run.

Where he can improve: McCreary lacks the size and speed of a typical outside NFL cornerback. He wins with a high football IQ and a competitive intensity. He will probably play better in the slot than on the outside.

Pro Comparison: Cortland Finnegan

Kyler Gordon, Washington, 5’11 ”, 194 Pounds

What he does well: Gordon flashed in coverage at Washington over and over and over again. His moments of brilliance show a cornerback who can lock up receivers and make impressive plays on the ball. Plays with the physicality needed at the position.

Where he can improve: Consistency is still missing from Gordon’s game. There is a reason McDuffie was more often covering the other teams’ top receivers. Gordon has the tools to thrive in the NFL but needs more experience.

Pro Comparison: Rodarius Williams

Marcus Jones, Houston, 5’8 ”, 174 Pounds

What he does well: Playmaking athlete in all senses of the term. Dynamic physical gifts means he can run with any receiver. He has a playmaking mentality that turned targets into turnovers. Rare ability with the ball in his hands and a sensational return specialist.

Where he can improve: Lack of size might keep him off the field of most defenses. Teams could and should draft him high based on special potential teams, but it will take a leap of faith for Jones to end up in a defensive lineup. Not because he can’t play defense, but because teams might stick to strict prototypes.

Pro Comparison: Adoree Jackson

Derion Kendrick, Georgia, 5’11 ”, 194 Pounds

What he does well: Derion Kendrick was a key player on two National Title defenses during his college career. He is a technically sound cornerback with good size and playing speed. He has the versatility to play outside and in the slot and plays solid football in man and zone coverage.

Where he can improve: Not really dominant in one aspect of the game. Good all around player lacking an outstanding trait. Could play a much more physical brand of football given his size and lost reps to receivers willing to push him around. Dismissed from Clemson due to off-field issues, but no signs there is anything beyond the single incident.

Pro Comparison: Levi Wallace

Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska, 5’10 ”, 196 Pounds

What he does well: Cam Taylor-Britt was a team captain and emotional leader on the Nebraska defense. He has a safety experience that shows up with the level of toughness and physicality he plays with. He is an aggressive tackler and coverage defender. Very good athlete

Where he can improve: Aggression is a bit hit or miss in terms of yielding results. High variance defender. Size and frame might be best suited as a slot cornerback who can provide help in the run game.

Pro Comparison: Bradley Roby

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