Ranking the Top 10 Cornerbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft

Wes StueveContributor IIIMarch 28, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Cornerbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft

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    In the NFL draft, cornerbacks go early and often.

    Few starting cornerbacks are not drafted in the first two rounds, so NFL teams need to address the position early, and they need to hit.

    What cornerbacks are going early this year, and will they succeed?

    Only time will tell on the latter question, but it's not too early to give an educated guess.  

10. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

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    At one point, Alfonzo Dennard was considered a top-15 pick. However, Dennard struggled with injuries as a senior, and his lack of quickness and speed was exposed.

    At 5'10", 208 pounds, Dennard is thickly built and can play physically. Unfortunately, Dennard is too athletically limited to be a great prospect.

9. Leonard Johnson, Iowa State

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    Leonard Johnson's a technically-sound player, but he is limited. Johnson isn't overly fast, and, at times, he struggles in tackling. The Iowa State cornerback also needs to get stronger, and he is weak in run support.

    On the other hand, Johnson is fairly quick, and it doesn't take him long to get up to top speed. His ball skills are also above-average, and Johnson profiled as a solid role player in the NFL.

8. Trumaine Johnson, Montana

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    At 6'2", 204 pounds, Trumaine Johnson is a massive cornerback, and he may move to safety in the NFL. Though he is better suited at safety, Johnson can play some cornerback.

    Because of his height, Johnson doesn't have overly smooth hips, and he struggles to stick with quicker wide receivers. However, Johnson's size, athleticism and instincts make him an excellent fit at safety.

7. Josh Robinson, Central Florida

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    Though he weighs in at 5'10", 199 pounds, Josh Robinson doesn't play like it. Robinson is incredibly fast with great quickness, so he is an ideal fit as a nickelback.

    Robinson is big enough to play physically, but he struggles with bigger wide receivers. He isn't great at jamming wideouts at the line of scrimmage either. He probably needs more time before he is able to play at a high level.

6. Brandon Boykin, Georgia

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    Brandon Boykin is talented, but his 5'9", 182-pound frame limits him to playing in the slot. Boykin is explosive with good ball skills, but he is simply too small and weak to handle the outside. 

    For his size though, Boykin is a solid tackler, and he is adequate in run support. It's Boykin's inability to play physically in coverage that relegates him to being a role player. 

5. Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma

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    There isn't much not to like about Jamell Fleming, but he isn't elite. The Oklahoma cornerback doesn't play as fast as his 40-yard-dash time suggests, and he can be overpowered at the line of scrimmage.

    Fleming has smooth hips, and he is adept in press coverage. His ball skills are also rather impressive, and Fleming can be used in a variety of different ways on defense. 

4. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

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    Based on talent alone, Janoris Jenkins is the drafts' second-best cornerback. Unfortunately, Jenkins has gotten into a heap of trouble off the field, and he is a huge risk in the first round. 

    Jenkins is a superb athlete, and his ball skills are elite. At times, Jenkins is too aggressive, but that's his only big weakness. Because he played three years at Florida, Jenkins's low level of competition in 2011 isn't much of a factor. 

    Despite his issues, Jenkins will hear his name called in the first round of the draft.

3. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina

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    A physical, versatile player, Stephon Gilmore is capable of playing in any defensive scheme. Gilmore plays with a nastiness that is rare in a cornerback, and his athleticism is well above-average.

    Gilmore's technique is sloppy, causing inconsistency from game to game. With time, Gilmore can become a star, but he needs coaching and refinement. 

    At this point, it's almost certain that Gilmore will be a first-round pick. The question is how high of a first-round pick he will be.

2. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

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    Playing on a talented Alabama defense, Dre Kirkpatrick stood out in 2011. He is one of the draft's more talented and athletic players, but his stock has fallen a bit as of late.

    The 6'2" Kirkpatrick doesn't have the smoothest hips in the world, and he is inexperienced in anything other than press coverage. So while Kirkpatrick has the talent to play in other types of coverage, his skills there are a bit unknown.

1. Morris Claiborne, LSU

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    He isn't as talented, but Morris Claiborne is perhaps the better cover corner than teammate Patrick Peterson was a year ago. Claiborne is a great athlete, and his ball skills are easily the best in this draft class.

    Claiborne isn't the strongest player, and he needs to improve as a tackler. His jam technique is inconsistent, but, on the whole, Claiborne is a fantastic prospect worthy of a top-five pick.