Power Ranking Top 10 DB Recruits in Class of 2015

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystMarch 5, 2014

Power Ranking Top 10 DB Recruits in Class of 2015

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    California cornerback Iman Marshall
    California cornerback Iman MarshallCredit: 247Sports

    Premier collegiate defensive back prospects must be among the most versatile athletes in America. Demands in both pass coverage and run support necessitate a balanced skill set and competitive edge.

    The 2015 class of safeties and cornerbacks is deep in talent and immediate-impact potential. We examined game tape from across the country to pare down a lengthy list of recruits to our top 10 at this stage of the process, noting speed, aggressiveness and coverage fundamentals.

     

    All prospect information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

10. Garrett Taylor

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    Size: 6'1", 188 pounds

    School: St. Christopher's School (Richmond, Va.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Garrett Taylor finished third on the team with 47 tackles, according to the school website. He also recovered a pair of fumbles and picked off a pass.

     

    Scouting Report

    Taylor owns opponents in one-on-one coverage schemes. His size allows him to go high for incoming passes, eliminating air space for receivers.

    The cornerback fights through blocks to aid the rush defense. He is a fierce tackler in the open field and does an excellent job of anticipating where the ball is headed.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He is projected to sign with Sanford by 100 percent of predictions in 247Sports' crystal ball. Michigan, Michigan State and Miami each offered this winter.

9. Jamal Peters

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Size: 6'3", 200 pounds

    School: Bassfield High School (Bassfield, Miss.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Jamal Peters helped push the Yellowjackets to a state championship, ranking second on the team with 72 tackles, per MaxPreps. He added five sacks and also caught four touchdown passes as a receiver.

     

    Scouting Report

    Peters plays like a linebacker in the box, bullying blockers en route to the ball-carrier. He provides outstanding perimeter containment against the rush and hits hard.

    In pass coverage, he's a difficult matchup for most receivers. His height and physicality help snuff out opportunities, although he can be beaten downfield by players with elite speed.

    He is a promising strong safety prospect.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Mississippi State and Ole Miss entered his recruitment process at an early stage. He is also heavily considering Alabama, where he attended a junior day in February. ACC powers Clemson and Florida State are in the mix as well.

8. Shaun Crawford

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    Size: 5'9.5", 170 pounds

    School: St. Edward High School (Lakewood, Ohio)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Shaun Crawford came up big on both sides of the ball throughout a journey to the state semifinals. He collected 82 tackles and two interceptions on defense, adding more than 1,000 total offensive yards and 10 touchdowns.

     

    Scouting Report

    Crawford is a ball hawk who brings solid receiving skills to the secondary. He identifies routes and chases down pass attempts with time to spare.

    His size will be a concern in coverage, but he competes with tenacity and doesn't back down from physical confrontations.

    He hunts down tacklers with excellent angles in the open field. He can be an every-down cornerback at the next level.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Crawford committed to Michigan last summer. Wisconsin and Notre Dame are among the programs that have offered since his pledge. Don't expect Ohio State to give up a top in-state prospect without putting up a fight.

7. Minkah Fitzpatrick

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    Size: 6'0", 185 pounds

    School: St. Peter's Prep High School (Jersey City, N.J.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Minkah Fitzpatrick contributed mightily to team that was a state champion. He shined at receiver and cornerback, where he broke up 21 pass attempts, picked off four passes and secured 62 tackles.

     

    Scouting Report

    Fitzpatrick is the latest in a long line of highly touted athletes to emerge at St. Peter's Prep, a Northeast powerhouse. He plays stride-for-stride coverage and operates with smooth footwork.

    His hands are soft from taking substantial reps at receiver. He isn't physically overpowering but shows impressive leaping abilities, interfering with downfield passes.

    Fitzpatrick does a nice job of cleaning up in perimeter coverage when running backs reach the edge.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He attended junior days at Alabama and Georgia. Fitzpatrick's expansive offer list includes Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Michigan. 

6. Derwin James

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    Size: 6'2", 201 pounds

    School: Haines City Senior High School (Auburndale, Fla.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Derwin James was a first-team all-state selection. He spearheaded a Bloodhounds defense that surrendered just 18 points during a four-game win streak at the end of the regular season.

     

    Scouting Report

    James is a thumper who serves as a lynchpin in the defensive backfield. The safety flies to the football and dishes out devastating hits.

    He makes up ground in a hurry to stifle rushing efforts at the line of scrimmage and reverses field to halt a darting ball-carrier at full speed.

    James is athletic enough to patrol the secondary at either safety position. He is able to lunge at the last second to swat down pass attempts.

    He is also an explosive special teams asset.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He became the first member of Florida State's 2015 recruiting class when he verbally committed as a freshman. James already has the Seminoles logo tattooed on his arm.

5. Rico McGraw

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    Size: 6'0", 190 pounds

    School: Ensworth High School (Nashville, Tenn.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Rico McGraw played a pivotal role during the Tigers' run to a state title. He tallied 29 tackles and three interceptions while also contributing on offense with six rushing touchdowns.

     

    Scouting Report

    McGraw will secure his fair share of interceptions because of quality hands and an ability to adjust mid-air. He shadows receivers, displaying precise footwork and exceptional timing.

    Among cornerback prospects, he must be considered one of the best one-on-one defenders in America. He isn't targeted nearly as frequently as his teammates because his reputation and effective play cause quarterbacks and coaches to look elsewhere when putting together an offensive game plan.

    His largest improvements will come near the line of scrimmage, where McGraw can become increasingly stout against the run.

     

    Recruitment Status

    McGraw committed to Georgia in January, days after former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt joined the staff. Ohio State and Alabama are among his viable options elsewhere.

4. Kendall Sheffield

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    Size: 5'11", 180 pounds

    School: Fort Bend Marshall High School (Missouri City, Texas)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Kendall Sheffield earned first-team all-district honors for a squad that finished 8-3.

     

    Scouting Report

    He is a nationally renowned high school hurdler, and that athleticism transitions seamlessly into football. He is a dangerous kick returner and should be in the mix to field punts in college.

    He is combative in coverage and doesn't allow receivers to feel comfortable at any stage of their downfield approach. The cornerback is committed in his pursuit of the ball and can track down speedy running backs in the open field, preventing touchdowns.

    There aren't many receivers in America who can leave Sheffield behind in coverage.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Texas A&M is a strong front-runner and holds 100 percent of predictions in 247Sports' crystal ball. The Texas Longhorns hope to sway him toward Austin. Sheffield recently received offers from USC, Michigan and Florida State.

3. Kevin Toliver II

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    Size: 6'2", 185 pounds

    School: Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Kevin Toliver II enjoyed a career-best campaign for the Florida state champions. He tallied 36 tackles and picked off a pair of passes.

     

    Scouting Report

    Toliver turns and bursts as soon as he identifies where the ball is headed. The savvy defensive back is likely to remain at cornerback in college but could easily transition to free safety.

    His long strides enable him to gain steam and make up ground in coverage. He presents a physical mismatch in any phase of the second level.

    He still has room to develop as a tackler and leaves a little to be desired in that category. However, he remains in the conversation as best coverage corner in the country and takes ownership of his role as a shutdown defender.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Toliver committed to LSU as a sophomore. He remains a Tigers pledge but plans to visit Virginia Tech, Auburn and UCLA, according to 247Sports Keith Niebuhr (subscription required).

2. Tarvarus McFadden

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    Size: 6'3", 185 pounds

    School: American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Tavarus McFadden tallied 31 tackles for the state champions, per MaxPreps. He ranked second on the squad with 10 passes defended.

     

    Scouting Report

    McFadden is a scintillating secondary star who projects favorably as a safety in college. His long frame and phenomenal speed help him establish range and control at the back of a defensive unit.

    He is an electric kick returner who makes defenders miss in the open field and is off to the races when he reaches the sidelines.

    He aims low too often on tackles, but he still does a nice job of delivering hits and wrapping up. He can shut down the flat depending on which side of the field he lines up. 

     

    Recruitment Status

    McFadden attended a January junior day at Miami. Fellow in-state options Florida and Florida State are firmly in the mix. LSU, Georgia and Auburn have also come calling from the SEC.

1. Iman Marshall

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    Size: 6'1", 190 pounds

    School: Long Beach Poly High School (Long Beach, Calif.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Iman Marshall excelled for the Jackrabbits during a journey to the league title. He totaled 64 tackles and an interception, earning defensive player of the year from the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

     

    Scouting Report

    Marshall's fluidity on the move allows him to stay locked on any variety of receiver. He is patient and understands the nuances of intermediate and extended coverage.

    Elite acceleration puts him in position to compete for every pass that is sent in his direction. He routinely shut down the opponent's top receiver as a junior.

    Marshall takes on blocks while maintaining his vision and quickly disengages to make a play. He could step in as an effective slot corner during his freshman season at college.

     

    Recruitment Status

    USC, UCLA and Stanford are all clamoring for Marshall. His options beyond state borders include Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU and Oregon.