NFL Draft Positional Rankings 2012: This Year's Top Options at Cornerback
This year's NFL draft is steeped in talent at several positions, cornerback included.
NFL fans and franchise owners alike are eagerly awaiting to see who will emerge as the next Joe Haden or Darrelle Revis. Will it be Morris Claiborne? Dre Kirkpatrick?
Or will it be Trumain Johnson from Montana? Or Josh Norman from Coastal Carolina?
The last two are a bit of toss ups in the mix but in a league where a sixth round quarterback who was drafted to be a backup becomes a three time Super Bowl Champ and future Hall of Famer, anything can happen.
But for those not putting their money on a Tom Brady at corner, here are the top five picks in this year's class.
5. Trumaine Johnson: Montana
Now I know I put Trumaine Johnson in the toss up class in the intro, but due to two exemptions I made to the top five cornerbacks, he moves into the No. 5 slot on this list.
Despite being on a less than outstanding football team in Montana, Johnson has a good base to build what could be a solid NFL career.
Johnson is a very good athlete above all else. He uses his long limbs to get in front of receivers and disrupt plays in stride and at the line of scrimmage.
He possesses good speed and recovers quickly from risks or mistakes he tends to make while in coverage. Most importantly, though, is that he's a very sound tackler, a skill that is in high demand nowadays, as most tacklers rely too heavily on dropping a shoulder or dragging the ball carrier down.
Johnson tends to get caught up on blocks and doesn't possess the physicality to shed them. His biggest shortcoming is that he hasn't been tested against the top receivers in the country like the rest of the players on this list have.
He's going to need to put in a lot of hard work and accept a backup role for a while before he gets his time to shine in the NFL.
4. Jayron Hosley: Virginia Tech
Jayron Hosley has a lot going for him as he enters the upcoming draft.
His supreme awareness and quickness allows him to thrive in zone coverage. Hosley also has game at the line and while jockeying for position with opposing receivers.
His small 5'10" frame is deceptive and holds a lot of power, which allows him to execute disruptive jams at the line and to deliver devastating hits when given the opportunity.
Hosley has some room to improve, though; he needs to gain some serious beef to avoid getting beaten up by the bigger, more physical receivers in the league.
He also should fix his unconventional footwork, a weakness that can be easily exploited by veteran, more technically sound, NFL receivers.
His technicality will also come under fire due to his short stature. He will need to be fine-tuned so he can put himself into the best position possible so he won't get beaten out on jump balls.
3. Alfonzo Dennard: Nebraska
Not many bad things can be said about Alfonzo Dennard. He's a big, strong corner who excels in all facets of the position.
He's strong enough not to get bullied by the bigger backs. He's also quick and fluid enough to react to the run and pass while in zone and to keep up with his receiver and make plays while in man. He is strong on the line and rarely gets pushed out of position.
Dennard is easily one of the most NFL-ready corners on the board this year.
The only stumbling block for Dennard is that he's 5'10" and has a tendency to get beaten on jump balls. He's going to have to be very keen on how he plays at the next level in order to overcome being vertically challenged.
2. Stephon Gilmore: South Carolina
When a corner has to cover Alshon Jeffery in practice every day, he comes into the draft with a bit more experience than the next guy.
Besides this hands-on training against one of the best wide receivers in this year's class, Stephon Gilmore brings a lot more to the table.
Gilmore possesses very good footwork despite his unconventional methods. This method allows for greater mirroring ability and keeps him a step ahead of the receivers he is defending against.
He was born to play in man coverage, but his quickness and natural ability allow him to react quickly and make plays in the zone as well.
Before Gilmore can say "Aloha" in a Pro Bowl, he's going to need to adopt a more conventional form of footwork and get away from relying on raw talent to make plays.
That stuff may have worked in college but in the big leagues, the veteran receivers will be able to technically outplay him.
1. Morris Claiborne: LSU
Surprise! Surprise everyone! Morris Claiborne is the best cornerback prospect in this year's draft. If this actually surprises you, than chances are you thought I would be talking about Real Madrid or Barcelona in this football article.
Claiborne has everything that a dominant NFL corner needs. There isn't really anything he can't do. He excels in the zone and in man, jams off the line, has quick hips and great footwork. He uses his strength and superb body control to cut off receivers to make plays and to step up and deliver sound tackles.
If a franchise has a reeling secondary, it would be foolish to pass on Claiborne.
As long as he keeps his pads up and doesn't get too confident and become lazy, Claiborne will do just fine in the NFL.
Top Prospects Who Were Not Mentioned but for Good Reason
Dre Kirkpatrick: Kirkpatrick showed very solid play at corner while playing for Alabama, but his petite size will be the undoing of him as an NFL cornerback. He lacks the physicality and beef to withstand the beating he will receive by NFL receivers.
He would thrive at safety, however, a rumor that has been tossed around by a lot of people and makes sense to just as many.
I think Kirkpatrick would be much more successful, and healthy, if he were to move over to safety. The move would allow him to use his strength and quickness to support the defense, opposed to taking the brunt of the abuse as a corner.
Janoris Jenkins: Jenkins did not make the list because I feel like he is too much of a loose cannon off the field. Jenkis has three arrests to his record during his college career. He was such a problem that his former coach at Florida, Will Muschamp, released him from the team. This release led to his transfer to North Alabama.
Jenkins has been arrested twice for marijuana use and one for a fight outside of a night club. On top of these incidents, Jenkins spent a good deal of his time with North Alabama recovering from a shoulder injury. Between the injury and the history of off-the-field violence and drug use, he's just too much of a liability to keep on any NFL roster.
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