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With the emergence of pass-catching tight ends and slot receivers, a defense needs multiple cornerbacks, not just a shutdown cover guy, to stop opposing offenses.
Instead of investing a first-round pick on a corner, it can be beneficial for teams to take a couple of mid-round defensive backs who have the versatility to play as boundary corners, in the slot or at safety.
Looking at the past five drafts, there’s a solid case to be made that teams have fared better by taking corners later in the draft than on the first day. In 2008, five corners heard their names called in Round 1, but none of them have become consistent Pro Bowlers.
Despite his talent, Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Aqib Talib’s off-field issues have stained an otherwise promising career. Mike Jenkins of the Dallas Cowboys once looked like a good player but could be on his way out, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of many Philadelphia Eagles who underperformed in 2011.
The 2009 draft’s best cornerback lasted until the third round when the Baltimore Ravens took Lardarius Webb out of little-known Nicholls State.
Joe Haden has the makings of becoming the next shutdown corner, but his first-round peers from 2010 haven’t panned out like the former Florida Gator.
Kareem Jackson has been a massive disappointment in Houston while Devin McCourty went from rookie Pro Bowler to sophomore bust. The New York Jets’ Kyle Wilson hasn’t made a name for himself, either.
While the past two drafts have some intriguing guys like Patrick Peterson, Jimmy Smith and Morris Claiborne, it’s tough to say whether any of these guys—or maybe all three—will turn out to be shutdown corners.
When teams find guys like Terrell Thomas and Brandon Flowers in the second round, or steal a guy like Richard Sherman or Jason McCourty in the late rounds, it proves good scouting can help maximize value.
Having Darrelle Revis definitely makes you a better football team, but with the rising cost of cornerbacks, and with offensive coordinators avoiding them, the value of shutdown cornerbacks is slowly dwindling.