NFL Draft

Scouting the Top 5 Cornerbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft

Greg GabrielFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2014

Scouting the Top 5 Cornerbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Year after year we see corners get a huge amount of money once free agency starts. This year former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Darrelle Revis got a two year $32 million dollar deal from New England. Former New England Patriot Aqib Talib got a multi-year deal worth  reported $57 million.

    The amount of these contracts shows you the value of the position. For a team going into the draft with a need at corner, they are much better off drafting a player and letting him develop than going into the free-agency market. It can obviously be less expensive and at the same time you get a talented and much younger player at the position. This gives teams time to think if they want to keep the player when his contract is up.

    This year's corner class is very good and we could see three or four go in the first round. In most drafts, there are an average of 12-15 corners selected in the first three rounds. I see no reason for it to be any different in this year's draft.

    That said, here is a close look at my five top rated corners this year.

     

5. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Roby was a three-year starter for Ohio State and usually lined up on the short side of the field. He was a consistently productive player and had eight career interceptions.

    At 5'11", 194 lbs he has just about ideal size. He also has long arms that allow him to play taller than he measures. He has the speed (4.39), quickness, turn and body control needed to excel at the next level.

    Ohio State doesn't play as much press man as some schools but when asked, Roby showed a good jam and can turn and run with just about any receiver. When in off and zone coverage, he showed top receiver awareness and anticipation. He was seldom out of position and will help out others when free.

    Roby has good ball skills, showing the skills to track the balls either in front of him or when his back is to the ball. He consistently catches the ball cleanly.

    Like the others in this group of corners, Roby is an excellent run support corner who can shed blocks and tackle. He shows he can be a big hitter, but he needs to do a better job wrapping up.

    Overall, he should be able to play to come in and play early in any scheme. He has the talent to ascend to a very solid No. 2 corner for most teams in the NFL.

4. Jason Verrett, TCU

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    Verrett making a play on the ball.
    Verrett making a play on the ball.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    The only thing keeping Jason Verrett out my top three corners is his lack of height. At just a shade under 5'10", Verrett doesn't measure up to the standards that many NFL clubs have.

    There are a number of clubs that won't draft a defensive back who is shorter than 5'10". Which is too bad because Verrett is one hell of a football player.

    Verrett lines up on both sides of the field and plays press, off and zone coverage. While he may be short, he has speed (4.38), quick feet and loose hips. He is a very competitive player with a fearless mentality. This shows up in the run game where he can shed blocks and is a strong tackler.

    In press man he shows a good jam and can mirror receivers off the jam. He consistently keeps good position and is able to stay with his man through moves. 

    He has top instincts and is very alert in zone and off coverage. Once the ball is in the air, he can track it, move quickly in transition and make a play. His hands are excellent and after an interception he can be dangerous with the ball in his hands.

    While Verrett's lack of height will hurt him with some clubs, I still see him being drafted high in the second round. He should play right away in nickel packages and should become a full-time starter by his second year. His play on tape says he is a first-round pick but the height bias may hurt him on draft day.

3. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

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    Kyle Fuller playing the ball.
    Kyle Fuller playing the ball.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Fuller was a fourth-year senior and three-and-a-half-year starter for the Hokies. He has also contributed as a valuable special teams player.

    Fuller has all the tools necessary to play at the next level. He has size  (5'11" 190 lbs) and the speed (4.46) required to play against all the top receivers in the NFL. He is very quick, sudden and athletic. He also has very good hip flexibility and leaping ability.

    He usually lined up on the short side of the field and was used in press, off-man and zone coverage. He is an alert and aware player who knows exactly what is going on around him. Like Darqueze Dennard, he is an aggressive run support player. He sheds blocks as well as any corner in this draft and is a very good tackler.

    When in coverage, he shows a good jam to go along with excellent mirror skills. He has the speed to cover deep and the suddenness to stay with his man through moves. He reacts very well to the ball in the air and is quick to transition.

    Overall, I like the way Fuller plays the game. He is very instinctive and has the toughness to play a physical game. I expect him to be a starter right away.

2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

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    Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
    Darqueze Dennard, Michigan StateAndrew Nelles/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Aggressive press-man corners can be hard to find in college football. Michigan State played an aggressive form of defense with Darqueze Dennard being the leader of the group.

    Dennard has good size, measuring 5'11'' 191 lbs with long 30 1/4" arms. Like most good corners. He has speed (4.51), quick feet and can stay low in his pedal and turn. He plays a very physical game and is very effective with his jam.

    He can redirect a receiver with that jam and also has the suddenness needed to mirror his opponent through moves. In both zone and off coverage, he doesn't give his opponent much room and is very quick with his transition. His hands and ball skills are excellent.

    While many corners have cover skills, few will support the run as well as Dennard. He reacts quickly to the run and is aggressive shedding blocks and tackling. He doesn't let the play come to him, he attacks!

    If Justin Gilbert isn't the first corner drafted, Dennard will be. He will become a starter the day he signs his contract.

1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

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    Justin Gilbert at the Scouting Combine.
    Justin Gilbert at the Scouting Combine.Michael Conroy/Associated Press/Associated Press

    At 6'0" and 202 pounds, Justin Gilbert has ideal size to play corner in the NFL. He has sub 4.40 speed which was evidenced by his 4.37 official time at the combine. He also possesses good flexibility and body control. Gilbert stays low in his pedal and has a good turn with a very good burst coming out of his turn. His transition is excellent with no wasted steps.

    In the Oklahoma State defense, he plays press man, off and zone coverage. In press he has a strong jam and can mirror receivers through multiple moves. He has the speed and burst needed to stay with speed receivers on deeper routes. He can play a little loose in off and zone, but he still has the anticipation and closing quickness to make the play.

    Gilbert has very good hands and can track the ball. He can adjust to the ball like a receiver and knows how to high point the ball. He finished the season with six interceptions

    Where Gilbert can use a little work is in run support. While he is willing and he flashes, he needs to be more aggressive to be a top run support corner in the NFL. He is a "hitter" as a tackler but needs to do a better job wrapping up.

    Gilbert is a very talented player and will be one of the first corners to be drafted this year.

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