2017 NFL Draft: Cornerback Tiers

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 05: Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (#2) defends a Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver during the Big 10 college football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers on November 05, 2016, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, OH. Ohio State won the game 62-3. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).
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This series will go position by position to look at the tiers of where NFL draft prospects stack up against each other. Rankings are great for discussion, but so many factors such as coaching, scheme fit, and usage will affect who will actually have more NFL success. Every player in each tier could easily be the top player in the tier based on these factors. Any prospect not discussed unfortunately did not have enough adequate tape to have a full evaluation. For this edition, we will look at cornerbacks.

2017 NFL Draft: Cornerback Tiers

Tier One

1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

On tape, it is so hard to poke holes in Lattimore’s game. He is a freak athlete and a ridiculously fluid mover. Lattimore has great hips and does well at baiting quarterbacks into throwing his way where he makes strong breaks to knock balls away. He is not a heavy hitter, but he is willing and gets the job done. Lattimore only has one year of starting experience, and has suffered multiple hamstring injuries which has slowed down his progression. However, if he can stay healthy it is so hard seeing him be a miss in this draft.

Tier Two

2. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

Humphrey is a physical presence. He has the height, weight, speed and footwork of a press corner, and hits like a strong safety. He is very scheme versatile with the tackling to play in zone, but the quick movements to play press man. Humphrey is only 20 years old and a great athlete with a huge upside. His ball tracking could use some work, and he has given up some big plays but his upside is as high as any corner, and almost any player in the class.

3. Gareon Conley, Ohio State

Conley is right up there with teammate Marshon Lattimore as a very high upside player. He has the desired height and length to play on the outside, but has experience playing in the slot as well. He has quick feet and is great at route mirroring. Conley is a bit more grabby in coverage, and is less of a force against the run and coming up to make tackles than Lattimore, but does have more experience and versatility making him another high upside thought.

4. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson

Tankersley has great size and some of the longer arms in the class. He is great at keeping plays in front of him and coming down to make stops. He is a bit more stiff in the hips than other corners in the class, and is likely better in zone or off of the ball. However, he does have excellent length and can play press as he shows a desire to get his hands on the receiver first.

Tier Three

5. Quincy Wilson, Florida

Wilson has great size and ball skills. He shows a knack at jumping routes and can set quarterbacks up to make plays on the ball. However, for his size a lot more can be desired from his effort and tackling abilities. He does not have the long speed and likely will play best in zone, but his breaks on the ball in zone give him a great upside should he find the right scheme.

6. Sidney Jones, Washington

Jones likely would have been the second cornerback taken had it not been for an Achilles injury. He is a long, fluid mover and one of the more precise cornerbacks in the class. His injury can be a career deflater for some, and while he hopes to play this season, he should be drafted with the expectation of getting nothing out of him in year one.

7. Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado

Witherspoon is extremely intriguing from a height, length and athleticism point of view. He tested incredibly and at 6’3” can make plays and body bigger receivers on the outside. Witherspoon has very quick feet and is not afraid to press and put his arms on the receiver early. He shows great route recognition, can break on the ball quickly and is clearly a smart football player. What pushes him down is his tackling ability. He showed little to no effort when coming up on the run and had troubles bringing any receiver down. Until this is worked on, he can be schemed around.

Tier Four

8. Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado

Awuzie is a very diverse player. He can play in zone, or man, on the outside or the inside. On the outside, he plays with physicality. On the inside he plays with quick feet. He also blitzes off of the edge like an assassin to get pressure on the quarterback in a hurry. He has issues with form tackling, and can develop better ball skills but there is a lot to like with his versatility.

9. Tre’Davious White, LSU

White has some of the lighter, quicker feet in a deep class. He is great at mirroring routes and can beat the receiver to their spot at times. White is a bit smaller, and may not be as physical to press up against bigger receivers. However, his quick feet and agility make him an option to be an impact slot cornerback which is more important in today’s NFL than ever before.

10. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan

Lewis is a great athlete and a player who is not afraid to get in the face of his opponent and press. He has good closing speed on the ball and is willing to step up and defend the run. Lewis is also likely to stick into the slot, but is definitely quick enough to win in that area. He has an off of the field question of domestic abuse that came up recently in his process, but looking at the player on tape, he is worthy of a top slot option ranking.

Tier Five

11. Kevin King, Washington

King has almost the same profile as Ahkello Witherspoon. The two are uber athletes with height and length. Witherspoon plays a bit quicker on his feet and may be a bit smarter on the field. However, King may be a more dynamic player with some highlight reel interceptions and a more noticeable effort against the run.

12. Teez Tabor, Florida

Tabor is very light on his feet and is a fluid mover. However, at the combine a lot of his red flags showed. He does not have great long speed, and he typically was playing well off of the ball to avoid being beat deep. While he has the feet and the breaks to make plays in front of him, he also is not a high effort tackler, and can get dragged if he does not get in quick enough to break passes up. Add in some other character concerns and he falls a bit, but his feet still give him a chance to see the field early on.

13. Fabian Moreau, UCLA

Moreau is a former running back who is raw but shows all of the natural and raw skills to be a playmaker in the NFL. He shows physicality against the run and in press and as his technique is ironed down he can be an impact player. However, he tore his pectoral during the draft process and now may miss some valuable off-season time early in his career.

14. Rasul Douglas, West Virginia

Douglas is a long, physical cornerback who is not afraid to stick his head in and make plays as a tackler and against the run. He is a smooth mover, but does not break on the ball quick and does not have long speed. He is much better off keeping the play in front of him to make tackles, so the scheme he fits in will matter to him more than some others.

15. Adoree Jackson, USC

Like Moreau, Jackson is still very raw in his technique and fluid movements. However, he is also a stud athlete, and played on offense and returned kicks for USC. He is a bit undersized and may get bodied by big receivers, but also does not have the technical footwork or experience to man the slot early. Jackson will be drafted higher because of his do everything ability and upside, but as a cornerback there is still some work to be done.

16. Howard Wilson, Houston

Wilson makes great breaks on the ball. He shows good recognition and ball skills with the ability to jump routes and break passes up. He is pretty slender, and does not have much deep speed, but if he can keep plays in front of him, he has a good chance to be a playmaker.

Tier Six

17. Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

Sutton is a quick athlete who has played safety, slot and outside cornerback as well as being a punt returner. He shows good instincts and plays with good route recognition. Sutton played his senior season with a high ankle sprain and it seemed to affect his speed and athleticism. He is also a good effort tackler, but is not a precise player in that area by any stretch. Still, his versatility and the thought that a healthier version of himself can bring more deep speed and athleticism makes him an interesting case and a player who could find the field in some role early.

18. Damontae Kazee, San Diego State

Kazee is a high effort player and one of the more fun tacklers to watch among this year’s corner prospects. He is not the athlete that some others in this class are, and lacks the deep speed and size to play on the outside. However, keeping him in the box to defend the run and to take on slot wide receivers could be a great spot for the quick and shifty cornerback.

19. Corn Elder, Miami

Elder is another player who plays with a mean streak. He is a bit bigger than Kazee, but is not as fluid of a tackler. He plays bigger than his size but is unlikely to have the deep speed or size to lineup on bigger outside threats. Still, he is a fluid mover and can match up on any slot or possession receiver.

Tier Seven

20. Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tennessee State

Cutrer was affected by Hurricane Katrina in high school and it threw his path to the NFL and ability to play at an SEC school off. Cutrer was homeless a lot of his childhood and is very thin, and did not have much of an educational background. He went from Junior College to Middle Tennessee State but showed his high recruit abilities off when given the chance. He has great feet and ball skills, and shows the dog of him as a player who knows what this opportunity means. If he can get in an NFL weight room his ceiling is much higher than other later round picks.

21. Shaquill Griffin, Central Florida

In most draft classes, Griffin is the small school guy getting round one talk. However, the depth and talent makes him a bit of a sleeper. Griffin has great size and athleticism, and is a hard-nosed tackler against the run. Griffin is a bit stiff in his hip turn, and may not have great long speed to be a press man corner. However, in a zone scheme where he has to tackle the catch, he has most of the skills desired and could see the field early on.

Tier Eight

22. Jalen Myrick, Minnesota

Myrick wins with speed. He ran a 4.28 40-yard dash, leading cornerbacks in the NFL combine. He has quick feet and breaks well on the ball, but aside from that he lacks fluidness and technique. At the worst, Myrick can return kicks and is a problem. However, he does have upside to be taught up the nuances of the game as well.

23. Will Likely, Maryland

Likely is a great athlete who possess fluid movement, and shows great route recognition and mirroring ability. While he is a solid tackler, and plays bigger than his size, he is still very small by NFL standards. He stands at 5’7″, 180 pounds and has major durability concerns with ankle, ACL and shoulder injuries in college. With a bigger frame, he is at least two tiers higher, but may be a special teams player in the NFL due to his size.

24. Jeremy Clark, Michigan

Clark has everything you want from a height, weight and speed aspect. He is huge, at 6’3”, 220 pounds with long arms. However, he is a bit slow out of breaks, and tore an ACL recently that ended his senior season. The injury is an issue in itself, but if he is to lose a step from his already slower than average speed for the position, he may have to look at a move to safety or to full-time special teams player.

Tier Nine

25. Nate Hairston, Temple

Hairston is a very raw player with the most upside of this tier. He is a three-year wide receiver, with only one season of experience at cornerback. He is raw in just about every facet, but has the height, speed and athleticism needed to be an outside cornerback.

26. Channing Stribling, Michigan

Stribling plays a physical press style and likes to jam his receivers at the line. However, he is not the smoothest mover and when he does not win at the line, can get beat by deep passes and shifty receivers. He only won a starting job when Clark got hurt, and is a former basketball player which makes him pretty raw coming out.

27. Aarion Penton, Missouri

Penton is a playmaker who plays the ball extremely well and has a high number of pass breakups and interceptions. However, he does not have the quick feet to play the slot, and while he held up in college, he is a bit short and does not have the playing strength to man up on bigger outside wide receivers. He should likely be looked at as a depth guy who can play on the outside in a pinch.

28. Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin

Shelton displays great athleticism and fluid movement. He is very sound in his breaks and every step is precise, and comes with great speed. However, he is very undersized, at 5’9”, 177 pounds, and he plays to his size as a tackler and physical presence. If he was four inches taller, he would be up a few tiers, but without the toughness to stick his head in on special teams or defend the run from the box as a slot guy, his role is questionable.

29. Marquez White, Florida State

White shows good route anticipation and is not afraid to press. However, he lacks physicality, has no interest in defending the run, and has not displayed good ball skills. In a deep cornerback class, he is a late round pick and and back end of the roster player.

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