The 2023 NFL Draft’s cornerback class features an electric, versatile, and overwhelmingly deep talent pool of prospects. If you’re in need of roof defenders this spring, you’re sitting pretty no matter where you pick on day one or if you’re waiting until day three. This position group features some high-end CB1s, premier depth pieces, and prospects that could progress into perennial All-Pros in due time.
Here is where my top 10 big board of corners sits with the 2023 NFL Draft just a tick over a month away. To view this big board in list form, please click here.
1. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
My CB1 for the 2023 NFL Draft, there isn’t a more fluid corner in the class. Gonzalez makes everything look easy on the outside. With the size, strength, speed, and length to boot, he has the potential to shut down his side of the field for a long time. He has rare traits that will make him a hassle to target even during the early parts of his career.
2. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
There may not be a defender in the class that operates with a hotter motor than Witherspoon. I love the way he approaches the game as a physically overpowering corner that takes each snap personally. He’s got the hips and feet to carry any route in man, IQ to deflect and bat away passes at the catch point, and will knock your chin strap off when working downhill in zone and in countering the run.
3. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Porter Jr. progressing into the top corner in this draft class 3-4 years down the road wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. An uber-athletic talent that checks off every single box you look for on the outside, it’s just about putting it all together. Teams have effort concerns, but for me, it was just too easy at times for the former Nittany Lion. Facing ‘Xs’ on Sundays will showcase his elite coverage ability.
4. Cam Smith, South Carolina
There’s some stiffness in the lower half and he got a little grabby at times at South Carolina, but I want alphas on the outside and I expect Smith’s game to translate extremely well to the next level. You can’t teach instincts in coverage. His ability to mirror and match at the top of routes showcases an uncanny ability to keep his eyes both on the wideout and QB. That should present him with opportunities to make plays on the football at the NFL level.
5. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
The premier ball-hawk in the class, Forbes’ play weight won’t be more than 170 pounds but that shouldn’t scare away teams. He’s a willing tackler, excellent when pressed vertically, and his body control is one of one when the ball is in the air. He’ll be a target in the ground game due to his thin frame, but his route recognition is rare at the position.
6. Julius Brents, Kansas State
A meteoric rise at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine has seen Brents go from the middle of day two to as high as CB1 on three teams’ draft boards that I’ve spoken to. The longest corner in the class with ridiculous 34-inch arms, Brents has your ideal makeup of a zone corner, but don’t be shocked when a team aligns him in pres- man at times to overwhelm opposing wideouts despite his average lateral agility. His ceiling is as lofty as any corner in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
7. Deonte Banks, Maryland
A glider in space, Banks’ athletic profile matched with his elite technicality will present a team with a high-level aerial stalwart from day one. It starts in the lower half for corners, and Banks’ ability to explode out of breaks, shuffle to re-route targets, and utilize his hands intelligently inside the contact window is impressive. He’ll succeed in either man or zone.
8. Clark Phillips III, Utah
He may be matchup-specific due to his size at 5-foot-9, but what he lacks in verticality he makes up for in his intelligence and physicality—and he is tough as you know what. He’s a player I’d take on my football team any day of the week, and it’s a shame some teams may turn their head because he doesn’t fit the “mold” of a CB1. I love the way Phillips III plays the game.
9. DJ Turner, Michigan
The fastest athlete at the combine (4.26 40-yard dash), Turner plays like he’s a 225-pound safety, which was a joy to watch on tape. An extremely explosive defender that won’t be beaten in a foot race, I have no issue playing him at nickel or over the ‘X’. His ability to stay neutral in his base deep into a route makes it tough for wideouts to separate out of any alignment. Physical wideouts may have their way in press, but Turner’s twitch, footwork, and eyes allow him to quickly re-trace and stay in phase in any type of coverage if beaten at the LOS.
10. Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Depending on who you talked to, Ringo was CB1 for many at the start of the college campaign. While there remain concerns about where he’ll find his most success on Sundays, he’s an elite athlete, excellent when asked to work laterally at the line of scrimmage, and touts all the physical traits to develop into a high-level corner. I want to see improvement in his flexibility in his lower half to smooth out his transitions in man, but the foundation is there for Ringo to succeed for a long time.
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