Just like that, it has become time to write final scouting reports for the scouting department here at The Draft Network. It’s an exciting moment for several reasons but mostly because the film resumes are finalized and it marks the completion of the most important component of developing that final assessment for each prospect.
As we gain an even deeper understanding of the rising draft class, stacking up and comparing prospects within each position group helps enhance our perspective of exactly what the crop offers. A prominent storyline with the 2022 class is the cornerback talent expected to be available. While the cream of the crop is LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., the conversation for who that second corner should be is interesting.
Over the past few days, I’ve conducted my final film assessment and wrote my final scouting report for some of the prominent contenders to be CB2. Let’s examine each prospect's best argument to be considered the second cornerback off the board next April.
Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
It’s going to be hard for me convinced that Booth Jr. isn’t the second-best cornerback available in the 2022 NFL Draft. He came to Clemson with lofty expectations and those were met. To me, Booth Jr. brings the most impressive overall package of traits to the table. He has terrific size, length, ball skills, coverage instincts, physicality, quickness, and fluidity.
While he can get better in some areas which include zone coverage and tackling consistency, he doesn’t have glaring deficiencies or restrictions due to limitations. He’s an elite competitor that plays a fast and physical brand of football and the enthusiasm he has for the game shines when watching him play. If there’s a cornerback not named Stingley Jr. that has the makeup of a superstar at the next level, it’s undoubtedly Booth Jr.
Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Unlike Booth Jr., Gardner was overlooked in the recruiting process. A Michigan native, the Big Ten teams didn’t have much interest in a scrawny 160-pound cornerback and Cincinnati reaped the rewards of that miscalculation as Gardner has blossomed into one of the best corners in the nation. Gardner’s length and athleticism shine on the football field. He is an explosive athlete with no restrictions in terms of technique or matchups. He’s a standout in press and zone coverage and his three years of starting experience on a terrific Cincinnati defense set him up well for success at the next level.
The key for Gardner moving forward is eliminating his drag-down tendencies as a tackler and eliminating his grabby tendencies in coverage. He’s a superb athlete but I want to see him trust that athleticism more and significantly reduce the amount of tugging he does as routes elongate. Gardner has the makeup of an impact starter in the NFL with a fairly high floor.
Kaiir Elam, Florida
Elam was a three-sport star in high school and hails from a family of athletes. His uncle was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens and his father played for seven seasons in the NFL after playing safety at Notre Dame. His pedigree and athletic background set him up well for success at Florida and he quickly developed into an impact defender for the Gators defense. He is suffocating in tight press coverage when he plays up on the line of scrimmage and in the face of receivers by quickly taking them off the menu for the opposing quarterback. For an NFL defense that wants to play a lot of press coverage, Elam is their guy.
Elam complements his ability in press and zone coverage with exciting ball skills where he is outstanding at locating, tracking, and breaking on the football with ideal timing and technique. I do have some concerns about Elam in off-man coverage or when tasked with twitchier receivers that can win vertically but when used optimally, Elam can thrive.
Like most corners coming out of college, there is additional consistency needed as a tackler. 2021 was a challenging year for the Florida defense and that had an effect on Elam, but he still fared well and what he accomplished in 2019 and 2020 is more than enough to warrant consideration as CB2 in 2022.