Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions to contribute to at the NFL level from day one. Rookies will struggle to adapt to the physicality, the speed and the officials. A lot of corners get away with illegal contact or pass interference in college, solely because the officials are a lot more relaxed when it comes to contact. Some of the corners won't be used to facing the likes of A.J Green and Brandon Marshall. They'll struggle at the line and they will get beat. It's as simple as that. However, usually in season two, you start to see dividends, and we're all hoping we see that with Dee Milliner. This year, I see a ton of potential at the cornerback position. There are over 10 that I believe could well turn into a good to very good NFL starter.
The Jets need a corner, so don't be surprised if they select their 3rd first round corner in five years at the 2014 NFL draft. Let's have a look at who they could target. I'm going to tier them, and I'm sure many people will disagree, but the object of this article is to make people understand just how deep the talent pool at corner is this year.
Justin Gilbert - Oklahoma State (Projected: Top 15)
Darqueze Dennard - Michigan State (Projected: Top 20)
Kyle Fuller - Virginia Tech (Projected: First Round)
My Take: Justin Gilbert for me is the best corner in the draft, but Dennard may be the best fit for the Jets. Gilbert is probably the best athlete in the entire draft - great backpedal, good speed, good length, excellent awareness. However, Dennard has the smooth hips, and while he doesn't have the speed of Gilbert, he is the most physical corner in this draft. He'll play man-to-man better than anyone and his run support is fantastic. The more I watch of Dennard, the more I like him. I would absolutely love to see him in green next year. I'm putting Fuller in here as well because I love his ability to go up and attack the ball, and he is extremely smooth in the transition from back-pedal to full out. He's also got great recognition and reads the game as well as any corner in this draft. I'd take any of these guys in a heartbeat, but If I had the pick........It would probably be Dennard for the Jets.
Bradley Roby - Ohio State (Projected: Top 50)
Marcus Roberson - Florida (Projected: Top 50)
Jason Verrett - TCU (Projected: Top 50)
Lamarcus Joyner - Florida State (Projected: Top 60)
Bashaud Breeland - Clemson (Projected: Top 60)
My Take: For some reason, the Jets seem smitten with Roby from Ohio State. I like him as a second round guy, but if we take him at #18, I'm not sure I'd be all that pleased. He's a quick twitch athlete who possesses excellent speed and fantastic closing acceleration. He can get beat deep, but that's why he's in tier 2. Why are people sleeping on Breeland? For me, he has a ton of potential. He's a smooth athlete with excellent footwork to mirror receivers. Good length and height too. He doesn't suit the Jets' physical man coverage scheme, but someone is getting a good corner. Roberson is another guy I really like. He has excellent recognition and he reads the routes before they are even out of their break. Excellent body control and balance. Verrett has excellent short area quickness and his break on the ball is elite. However, his lack of length at the position keeps him out of the first tier for me.
Keith McGill - Utah (Projected: Top 90)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste - Nebraska (Projected Top 90)
Victor Hampton - South Caroline (Projected Top 120)
Phillip Gaines - Rice (Projected Top 100)
Jaylen Watkins - Florida (Projected Top 100)
Pierre Desir - Lindenwood (Projected Top 120)
Rashaad Reynolds - Oregon State (Projected Top 120)
Louchiez Purifoy - Florida (Projected Top 120)
My Take: I've decided to stick quite a lot of guys in here. This tier represents your 3rd and 4th round guys. Guys that won't be able to come in immediately and make a massive difference, but guys who have a lot of talent. Right at the top of tier 3 we have the two big corners, McGill and Baptiste. You know this league is a copycat one, and with Seattle having so much success, maybe these two have their names called earlier. McGill is my favourite here. He played a lot of press in college, and he has excellent straight line speed. With his length and vertical, would he not be perfect for this system? Absolutely, in my opinion. I haven't had the chance to see Desir play, but I've heard some great things. Phillip Gaines has intriguing speed, and Watkins is a corner who went to safety who could probably do a job at both positions in the NFL. Reynolds is my wildcard. He's fast, fluid and physical. He's undeveloped as a pure cover corner, but I think he has real talent to nurture at the next level.
E.J Gaines - Missouri (Projected: Round 4)
Nevin Lawson - Utah State (Projected: Round 4)
Ricardo Allen - Purdue (Projected: Round 4)
Ross Cockrell - Duke (Projected: Round 4)
Chris Davis - Auburn (Projected: Round 4)
My Take: I really like E.J Gaines, and if I had to choose a cornerback in the fourth, then he would be my man. He's long and athletic and he played a lot of press-man coverage at Missouri, so it would make a lot of sense to see him here next year. Who's gonna attack me for saying Allen reminds me of Richard Sherman? Not in his physicality, as obviously Sherman is a lot bigger, but Allen talks like he's the best player on the field. And he's aggressive; he'll try and get his hands in on everything. Nevin is a smaller guy who plays with more physicality than most of the bigger guys. I saw him twice this year, and both times I went away impressed with his fluidity in flipping the hips to run with receivers.
A select few from the rest of the pack:
Walt Aikens - Liberty (Projected: Round 5-6)
Bennett Jackson - Notre Dame (Projected Round 6-7)
Carrington Byndom - Texas (Projected Round 6-7)
My Take: Byndom started every single game for Texas last year and he was 2nd in pass break-ups. He is very lean and will need to put on a bit of muscle if he hopes to stick outside in the NFL. However, for a 7th round guy with that pedigree and experience, it's not the worst selection in the world. As a Notre Dame fan, I've seen a lot of Jackson and I really like him - excellent short area quickness with good length. He really goes up and attacks the football at the point of attack with active hands, and he has special teams experience as a cover man. And he did a hell of a job on specials, too. Another guy who comes with a lot of pedigree and wouldn't mind adding him to the squad late in the draft.
So there we have it. My thoughts on the cornerback position. I personally feel there is a ton of talent to be had here, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Jets double dip at the cornerback position if they feel the value is there.