The 2012 NFL draft starts on Thursday night, and features one of the most talented classes of cornerbacks in the past few years.
Headlined by SEC corners Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore, and Dre Kirkpatrick, the class is as deep as it is strong, and teams will find value at CB in all seven rounds.
Here is a ranking of the top 25 CBs in this year, where you can track the landing spots for each CB as they are taken off the board.
Player: Leonard Johnson
School: Iowa Sate
Pro Comparison: Josh Wilson
Johnson was a reliable starter for Iowa State, and is a good all-around prospect. He is smart and technically sound, but his lack of elite speed will leave him more exposed at the next level, especially considering his 5'9", 196 pound frame.
Player: Chase Minnifield
Pro Comparison: William Gay
Minnifield is an all-around type prospect who played to his strengths effectively at Virginia, while also minimizing his weaknesses. He shows the ability to play in man and zone, as well as make tackles in run support. Minnifield does not do anything exceptionally well, but he has above-average potential and provides very little risk, and should be a solid role player at the next level.
Player: Ryan Steed
Pro Comparison: Jarrod Powers
Steed has excellent skills in man coverage, and the speed and quickness to stay with receivers through the entire play. Steed has decent size at 5'10", 195 pounds, but he shies away from contact and is not a strong tackler. This also hurts him in press coverage and on special teams, so he will need to improve his toughness at the next level.
Player: Coryell Judie
School: Texas A&M
Pro Comparison: Jason McCourty
If playing corner in the NFL were about pure coverage ability, Judie would be much higher on the draft board. Judie has NFL speed and quickness, and displays the ability to cover receivers for the entire play, but he struggles to turn his head smoothly and make plays on the ball. Judie will likely find a home thanks to his abilities in the return game.
Player: Micah Pellerin
Pro Comparison: Derek Cox
Pellerin is an athletic prospect who will need some time adjust to the size and speed of NFL receivers after playing three years at Hampton. With some development, Pellerin has the 6'0", 194 pound body to cover bigger receivers down the road.
Player: Donnie Fletcher
School: Boston College
Pro Comparison: Kevin Thomas
Fletcher is a big corner who is a solid tackler, but lacks top-end speed for NFL corners. His size and overall athleticism could attract teams, however, and he should be able to contribute on special teams thanks to his frame.
Player: Morris Claiborne
Pro Comparison: Joe Haden
Claiborne is the best shut-down corner in this draft, and is an elite prospect who should not last past the top five. He has a solid frame at 5'11", 188 pounds, and uses his hands and length to disrupt routes. He also ran a 4.50 second 40-yard dash at the combine, he has the speed and athleticism to stay with receivers through the entire play, and should be an immediate impact player.
Player: Stephon Gilmore
School: South Carolina
Pro Comparison: Johnathan Joseph
Gilmore impressed scouts at the combine with a 4.40 second 40-yard dash. At 6'0", 190 pounds, Gilmore is the ideal combination of size and speed for an NFL corner. He has some progress to make technically, but he is an excellent prospect.
Player: Dre Kirkpatrick
Pro Comparison: Antrel Rolle
Standing at 6'1", 186 pounds, Kirkpatrick is a tall, lanky corner with outstanding speed and quickness. He has an excellent burst, but scouts question whether he is a pure cover corner. His height and speed may suit him better at safety, but he was not an impact hitter at Alabama.
Player: Janoris Jenkins
School: North Alabama
Pro Comparison: Aqib Talib
Jenkins has the talent to be a top corner in this draft, but his issues off the field are a concern for most teams. Jenkins was a three-year starter at Florida before transferring to North Alabama, and at both schools Jenkins showed great speed, instincts, and explosiveness in the return game. If a team can overlook his character issues, Jenkins will be a great prospect.
Player: Casey Hayward
Pro Comparison: Lardarius Webb
At Vanderbilt, Hayward was asked to play against top SEC talent every week, and he consistently performed against some of the best receivers in the country. Hayward has good speed, but not outstanding quickness, which serves him better in man coverage than in zone. Hayward is a good player stuck in a deep class of corners, and should provide good value to whomever drafts him.
Player: Trumaine Johnson
Pro Comparison: Devin McCourty
Johnson is a big, athletic corner who uses his 6'1", 204 pound frame to disrupt receivers and make plays on the ball. He played in the FBS, so he has not faced much legitimate competition, but his speed, quick reactions and tackling ability make him a solid prospect at the next level.
Player: Josh Robinson
School: Central Florida
Pro Comparison: Mike Jenkins
Robinson ran the best 40-yard dash at the combine, with a time of 4.33 seconds. Robinson is similar to Bentley and some of the other undersized corners in this draft—he displays excellent zone skills, but struggles in man coverage because of his size. Robinson is still an athletic prospect who could develop into a strong corner if he can improve in man.
Player: Jamell Fleming
Pro Comparison: Brandon Flowers
Fleming is another prospect with excellent athleticism at the position, and has NFL speed, strength, and leaping ability. A man cover specialist, Fleming could use some technical improvement, but he should develop into an excellent player.
Player: Dwight Bentley
Pro Comparison: Leodis McKelvin
Bentley is an undersized corner at 5'10", 182 pounds, but he ran a 4.43 second 40-yard dash at the combine and showed off his athleticism. Bentley's main issue is that he mostly played zone in college, where he used his speed and athleticism to make plays on the ball. Teams will be concerned with his ability to cover in man, and he may fall on draft day because of this.
Player: Jayron Hosley
School: Virginia Tech
Pro Comparison: Jabari Greer
Hosley is a strong athlete who had three great years at Virginia Tech. An excellent zone defender, Hosley has the speed and quick reactions to close gaps and make plays on the ball. However, at 5'10", 178 pounds, Hosley is undersized and thin, which could be problematic against bigger NFL receivers.
Player: Omar Bolden
School: Arizona State
Pro Comparison: Devin McCourty
Bolden is one of those players who had excellent production when he was on the field for Arizona State, but is lower on the draft board because of his injury issues. A torn ligament caused him to miss time last year and only allowed him to bench press at the combine, where he did show off top strength for the position. If Bolden could stay healthy in the NFL, the team that drafts him will get great value out of the pick.
Player: Brandon Boykin
Pro Comparison: Brent Grimes
Boykin is an excellent athlete who consistently faced top talent playing in the SEC. At 5'9", 182 pounds, Boykin is a smaller corner who has trouble tackling, but he is a tremendous athlete with good speed and quickness in coverage. He projects as a nickel corner because of his size, but he could develop into an outside presence for whomever drafts him.
Player: Ron Brooks
Pro Comparison: Richard Marshall
Brooks was both lucky and unlucky to play in such a stacked LSU secondary—he never actually started for LSU, but he was able to develop as a nickel corner while learning from stud prospects Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. Brooks is largely untested and needs to gain experience, but he has the athletic ability to be effective at the next level if he is given time. A 4.37-second 40-yard dash will certainly help his draft stock.
Player: Josh Norman
School: Coastal Carolina
Pro Comparison: Lardarius Webb
Norman is a complete prospect who will hear questions about the competition he faced at Coastal Carolina. At 6'0", 197 pounds, Norman is a good size, but lacks NFL speed. He is an athletic prospect in other respects, however, and should make contributions on special teams and add depth to a team's secondary.
Player: DeQuan Menzie
Pro Comparison: Sean Jones
Menzie was somewhat of a ball-magnet at Alabama, where he could take chances and rely on strong help over the top from the likes of Mark Barron. Menzie makes quick reads and makes good plays on the ball, but those gambles occasionally cost him, and his 4.74 second 40-yard dash at the combine will concern potential suitors.
Player: Shaun Prater
Pro Comparison: Patrick Robinson
Prater is a fairly athletic corner who proved himself as a reliable starter for Iowa for three years. Prater is fast, quick and makes athletic plays on the ball in zone, but he lacks a certain comfort in man coverage, which will concern NFL teams.
Player: Asa Jackson
School: Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo
Pro Comparison: Lardarius Webb
Jackson is a developmental prospect who showed flashes of NFL-quality play as a four-year starter at Cal Poly. He is an athletic corner who can play in man or zone and defend the run, and with some improvements in coverage technique, Jackson could become a solid NFL corner.
Player: Mike Harris
School: Florida State
Pro Comparison: Tim Jennings
Harris mainly played as a nickel corner at Florida State, which may actually improve his value to NFL teams. Harris has good speed, but sometimes reacts slowly to receivers' breaks. He could make an immediate impact for a team that needs a prospect with excellent experience covering and blitzing from the nickel position.
Player: Alfonzo Dennard
Pro Comparison: Charles Tillman
Dennard is a slightly undersized corner with an all-around game. He has good speed and leaping ability, but he does not have a huge body of work at Nebraska to judge him on. Dennard is a nice prospect who could provide depth at corner and immediate help on special teams.