2014 NFL Draft: Updated Cornerback Rankings with Draft Grades

Curt PopejoyContributor IFebruary 17, 2014

TCU cornerback Jason Verrett (2) reacts after an incomplete pass to West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White (11) during the second half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Fort Worth, Texas. West Virginia won 30-27. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

It has been a real treat to study and break down this 2014 group of cornerbacks. It's become evident that the cornerback position has evolved. The best athletes on these teams are finding their place to the defensive secondary.

Going over this list, you see lots of very similar body types. These long, lean athletes are the physical ideal for the NFL, as everyone seems to just be getting bigger, faster and stronger every year. And those who don't quite match that ideal make up for it with great technique and work ethic.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

If your favorite team is looking for a cornerback in this draft, it is going to have its pick; whether it's in the first round or the sixth round, there is going to be talent to be had. Not every one of these players is prepared to step on the field and contribute as a rookie.

However, most of them have those characteristics that even great coaches can't help them with. Whether it's the size or just how fluid they are athletically, this group makes defensive coordinators swoon.

While there is no consensus top cornerback in this class, the top for these rankings is Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Gilbert's got a combination of size and speed that no other cornerback in this class can quite match.

His ability to play off man is elite among this group, and he is exceptional at using his body without getting himself in trouble. He's got long arms and excellent hands, and does a nice job of tracking the football in the air.

Gilbert exudes confidence, and the Oklahoma State program understood it. It was rare to see Gilbert with deep safety help, and although he isn't the most physical corner in this draft, he never backed down from a challenge.

Moving to that middle-round player who is a notch below Gilbert but still with a high ceiling, we have Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner is significant because physically he is the antithesis of what Gilbert is. At only 5'8", Joyner doesn't have the physical advantage of some other corners.

Where Joyner more than makes up for it is with correct technique, exceptional athleticism and a natural knack for the position. Whether it is cornerback or safety, there's little doubt that Joyner is just too good of a football player to keep off the field.

Moving to the third day of the draft, there are some really nice developmental prospects to be had. One in particular who stands out is Phillip Gaines of Rice. 

Dec 29, 2012; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Rice Owls cornerback Phillip Gaines (15) celebrates making a tackle against Air Force Falcons wide receiver Ty MacArthur (27) in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium.  Rice beat Air Force 33-14. Mandatory Cred

Gaines has terrific size for the position, and while he is long, he plays a very compact game, especially on short and intermediate routes. He's got a nice back pedal, and this allows him to cover a lot of field quickly on inside routes. This would be particularly useful as a nickel cornerback on the slot.

Gaines is fast but doesn't always show it as a boundary corner. At the next level, he is going to have to learn to flip those hips open better so as not to lose ground on outside wide receivers.

All in all, this is a deep and talented group. While this is a list of 24 draftable players, don't be shocked if it is updated to close to 30 as the offseason progresses.

Cornerback Rankings
1Justin GIlbertOklahoma State6'0"200lbs1st
2Jason VerrettTCU5'10"176lbs1st
3Bradley RobyOhio State5'11"192lbs2nd
4Darqueze DennardMichigan State5'11197lbs2nd
5Kyle FullerVirginia Tech6'0"194lbs2nd
6Jaylen WatkinsFlorida6'0"195lbs2nd
7Marcus RobersonFlorida6'0"194lbs2nd
8Stanley Jean-BaptisteNebraska6'3"215lbs2nd
9Pierre DesirLindenwood6'1"195lbs3rd
10Lamarcus JoynerFlorida State5'8"190lbs3rd
11Loucheiz PurifoyFlorida6'0"190lbs3rd
12E.J. GainesMissouri5'10"195lbs4th
13Keith McGillUtah6'3"214lbs4th
14Antone ExumVirginia Tech6'0"220lbs4th
15Bashaud BreelandClemson6'0"185lbs4th
16Victor HamptonSouth Carolina5'10"202lbs5th
17Ross CockrellDuke6'0"183lbs5th
18Chris DavisAuburn5'10"201lbs5th
19Terrance MitchellOregon6'10"190lbs5th
20Ricardo AllenPurdue5'9"187lbs6th
21Aaron ColvinOklahoma6'0"186lbs6th
22Dexter McDougleMaryland5'10"195lbs7th
23Phillip GainesRice6'1"195lbs7th
24Andre HalVanderbilt5'11"190lbs7th
NCAA.com for heights and weights