2013 NFL Draft: Best Shutdown Cornerbacks in This Year's Class

Stephen SheehanCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: Best Shutdown Cornerbacks in This Year's Class

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    When it comes to shutdown cornerbacks and the 2013 NFL draft, there's Dee Milliner then everyone else. 

    Alabama's No. 1 corner is also the top-ranked CB in a solid class that features a number of accomplished cover men. While Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes could challenge for a spot late in the first round, Milliner is the only lock to go on Day 1. 

    As offenses continue to evolve and the passing game becomes more complex, cornerbacks will only increase in value. 

    Let's take a look at the best shutdown corners in this year's class. 

5. Will Davis, Utah State

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    Will Davis doesn't carry the name recognition of the other four members of this list, but the Utah State product is one of the best cover guys in the country. 

    Despite his small-school pedigree, Davis possesses an intriguing skill set that should translate well to the next level. The 5'11", 182-pounder is fluid when changing directions and has the leaping ability to compete for jump balls. Although he has just average straight-line speed, his aggression and hand usage help disrupt receivers' routes. 

    The knock on Davis is his lack of starting experience (18 games) and his level of competition. However, after posting 64 tackles, five interceptions (one returned for touchdown) and an NCAA-best 22 passes defended, it's clear Davis has the ability to become a reliable cover corner in the NFL.

4. Desmond Trufant, Washington

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    Washington's Desmond Trufant will attempt to become the second Trufant brother to star in the NFL. 

    The younger sibling of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant, Desmond has many of the physical traits that made his brother a premier defender a few years ago. 

    Checking in at a solid 5'11", 190 pounds with 4.49 speed, the Huskies star made an instant impact as a freshman in 2010. Drawing nine starts, Trufant recorded 47 tackles, six passes defended and two picks before posting similar numbers as a sophomore. However, NFL Draft Scout's No. 4 CB took his game to a new level this season, recording 64 tackles, 14 passes defended and a pair of interceptions. 

    According to Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com, Trufant came through with shutdown performances against LSU and Stanford in 2012 and "has natural skills as a man corner as well as the speed to turn and run with receivers."

    Currently projected to go in the second or third round, the younger Trufant has a chance to be even better than his older brother. 

3. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

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    Regarded as the best senior CB prospect in the nation, Johnthan Banks experienced an inconsistent final campaign at Mississippi State. 

    The 6'2", 185-pounder got off to a hot start in 2012, recording four interceptions in the Bulldogs' first seven games, but Banks was shut out in the final six contests. Incidentally, Mississippi State lost five of those games. 

    While Banks lacks ideal quickness and vertical speed for the position, he is simply a playmaker. In four years at MSU, the lengthy corner snagged 15 picks and recorded 41 passes defended. 

    So what makes this speed-challenged corner so good? 

    According to NEPatriotsDraft.com's scouting report, Banks excels in press coverage, uses his hands and body to jam receivers, and tracks the ball well in the air. Those skills, combined with his ideal frame, make Banks one of the best shutdown corners in this year's class.

2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

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    Blessed with length (6'1"), size (217 pounds) and speed (4.54), Florida State's Xavier Rhodes has the complete physical skill set to be the NFL's next shutdown corner. 

    The junior decided to declare early for the NFL draft after a solid 2012 campaign in which he recorded 39 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended. Those stats don't jump off the page, but teams avoided the super-sized corner for most of the season. 

    Rhodes' biggest strengths are his long arms—which he uses to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage—and his ability to drive on the ball and make plays. Although he's not the fastest guy of the bunch, he has terrific instincts and the short-area burst to diagnose and break up a pass. 

    His speed deficiency won't hurt him too much, as he still offers a wealth of skills to develop into a premier shutdown corner.

1. Dee Milliner, Alabama

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    No cornerback prospect boasts the complete game of Alabama's Dee Milliner. 

    After signing with the Crimson Tide as the nation's top cornerback recruit, the 6'1", 198-pounder had a slow start to his career before turning it on in 2011. Paired with 2012 first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick, Milliner burst onto the national scene with 27 tackles, three interceptions and 11 passes defended.

    However, the talented junior truly put it all together in 2012. 

    Earning first-team All-America honors, Milliner totaled 54 tackles, two picks and an eye-popping 22 passes defended. His ability to take out an opponent's best receiver helped the Tide roll to their third national championship in four years. 

    The No. 5 overall player on CBS Draft's board earns high praise for his smooth hips, leaping ability and awareness, but there really isn't anything this guy can't do. Expected to go in the top 10, Milliner is far and away the best defensive back in the draft and will become a premier shutdown corner sooner than later.