The world was your oyster. And you chose cornerbacks. I've started introducing you all to my final top-10 position rankings over the course of the past two weeks and today I came to an impasse. I could not decide which position group to share! The linebacker group this year is weird. As is the cornerbacks. What to do?
As with every important decision I make in life, I made a Twitter poll and let you decide. Cornerbacks it is!
Let me be clear: I like this year's cornerback group. I don't love it. I especially don't think there are a lot of "universal" prospects in this year's group. There aren't too many guys I'd feel good about plugging into every defensive coverage system under the sun. But hey, if you want to run a lot of off-man? There's a corner for that. You want to run predominantly bail-technique in Cover-3? Cool, cool. We got you. My full list of the top-10 corners in this year's class (I scouted and noted 42 of them) is below. But I'll offer you my commentary here.
Four cornerbacks made it into my top-32 players in the 2019 NFL Draft: Washington's Byron Murphy, Georgia's Deandre Baker, Penn State's Amani Oruwariye and LSU's Greedy Williams. Only Murphy lands in the top-20. None in the top-12. Byron was a guy I was super high on when I first watched his film. Lightning quick feet is the way to my heart. But Murphy's testing didn't measure as I'd hope, he's not the elite athlete I'd initially anticipated. And with his size concerns (small corners are risky business), he landed lower than where my heart tried to tell me he would.
Baker and Oruwariye come in back to back slots, but their value to teams will be predicated on their defensive system. Baker must (read: MUST) go to a press-man system. In anything else, he'll be miscast and I fear for his transitional quickness in circumstances where he isn't allowed to feel receivers and flip to carry them while leaning on their frame. Oruwariye is a little bit more diverse, Penn State ran him off the LOS more often and he could feasibly play Cover-3 or press man. But off-man accentuates his long steps, preventing him from getting a rapid click-and-close on routes hitting in front of his face.
Greedy Williams is the tough one for me, because I know the NFL loves him. Explosive. Violent. Long. What's not to like? He put me off with how much effort he gave in stretches of last season, but ultimately I don't matter, I'm not the one picking him. Buyer beware, but whoever picks Williams needs to make sure that the fire under his butt stays lit.
The next mini-tier of corners falls between ranking 33 and 50 on my personal board and it includes two corners: Notre Dame's Julian Love and Clemson's Trayvon Mullen.
These guys are pretty similar players in my eyes. Put them in press-man coverage often and let them put the clamps on dudes on the boundary. Love has a little bit more of an accomplished resume and his film is really strong, so I used those variables to lean Love > Mullen, even though both are considered in the same value tier for me based off of their film.
Corners 7 - 10 is a fun group, because they feature some of the hottest names in the Draft right now. Sean Bunting, Justin Layne and Rock Ya-Sin have all been referenced as of late as potential top-50 selections in next month's Draft. They're a little lower for me, but they're high upside prospects and scheme specific starters in the pros, no question.
Bunting, I favor in Cover-3, he's got loose hips for bail technique and he's got requisite length to reach and extend for the ball. Plus, he's the third most impressive overall athlete in this year's cornerback class when adjusting for size, according to my personal metrics (cheers, Jamel Dean and Ken Webster). A 41.50" vert and a 6.85 3-cone will do that for a guy.
Layne reminds me of former Lindenwood star Pierre Desir, who just got himself a nice contract from the Indianapolis Colts. His ball skills are sublime, but I do think he's a little rough around the edges with his transitions. I appreciate the upside, but not a top-50 player for me personally. He can be a plus starter for a team that asks him to play in the face of receivers quite a bit.
Ya-Sin caught my eye in September when I visited Lincoln Financial Field to see Tyree Jackson and Buffalo take on the Temple Owls. Ya-Sin was a little up and down but he contested a ton of throws in the contest and was impossible to miss. Ya-Sin needs to be more trusting of his technique and not panic with his back to the football. My colleague Benjamin Solak comp'd him to Eric Rowe and I immediately see the angle he's coming from. Rowe has gotten in a bit of trouble thus far in the pros due to grabbiness and Ya-Sin has some similar tendencies. Still a strong Day-2 target, though.
And finally, Michael Jackson of Miami is one of the forgotten men of the 2019 cornerback class. He's dead in the water if he's not playing press man, but he's got strong film playing from in phase and his length (32.38" arms) is *chef's kiss* to die for. Just don't put him on an island.
A lot of press-man type corners in this year's class at the top: Baker, Greedy, Love, Mullen, Layne, Ya-Sin and Jackson are all favorable there. I like Bunting and Oruwariye most in Cover-3 and I like Murphy the most in off-man. Will teams look to box Murphy into the slot based on his size, quick feet and 4.5 speed? Gosh I hope not.