B/R CFB 150: Top 25 Cornerbacks

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2017

B/R CFB 150: Top 25 Cornerbacks

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    Ohio State boasts two of the nation's best cornerbacks in Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore. Where do they fall on the list?
    Ohio State boasts two of the nation's best cornerbacks in Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore. Where do they fall on the list?Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Bleacher Report's CFB 150 is an annual ranking of the game's best players, regardless of NFL potential. Authors David KenyonBrian Pedersen and Barrett Sallee have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed down that list and sorted by position. Today, Kenyon presents the top 25 cornerbacks.

    Other CFB 150 Positions

    While standouts at the position are most recognized for glamorous plays like interceptions, if quarterbacks aren't testing a corner, that's just as important. We've weighted coverage ability most heavily, though run support factored into the decisions.

    The following rankings are based primarily on one's skills in college rather than how he would fare in the NFL. Though these players may be using this time to develop their game for the pro level, their goals are centered on helping their teams succeed.

         

    Think we're missing someone or don't agree with how we've ranked them? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Players 25-21: Chachere-Blanchard

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    25. Andre Chachere, San Jose State

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 36 tackles, 14 pass breakups (PBU), four interceptions

    The majority of the nation probably hasn't heard of Andre Chachere, but Mountain West opponents are undoubtedly sick of seeing him. A first-team all-conference pick this season, Chachere was the key component of San Jose State's 19th-ranked passing defense.

        

    24. Arthur Maulet, Memphis

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 72 tackles (7.5 for loss; 4.5 sacks), 13 PBU, two interceptions, two forced fumbles

    Arthur Maulet closed his final college season in style with a three-sack performance in the Boca Raton Bowl. It was a fitting end since Maulet contributed on at least one tackle for loss during each of the final six games. Memphis as a whole struggled in the secondary, but Maulet was a steady presence on the outside.

        

    23. Adoree' Jackson, USC

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 55 tackles, 11 PBU, five interceptions

    Because he won the Thorpe Award, the initial reaction to Adoree' Jackson at No. 23 overall may be confusion. But the bigger question is why he claimed the hardware, since opponents found plenty of success throwing on Jackson compared to other corners. He allowed touchdowns against Utah, Washington and Penn State, among others. Nevertheless, Jackson was a top-25 corner thanks to reliable tackling. 

        

    22. Horace Richardson, SMU

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 32 tackles, eight PBU, six interceptions, two touchdowns

    Last season, SMU sported the fourth-worst opponent quarterback rating. Largely thanks to Horace Richardson, the Mustangs surged to 56th nationally in 2016. The 6'0", 201-pounder could get shaken after the catch, but he didn't give up many receptions and made several big plays. Just three cornerbacks had more interceptions than Richardson's six.

       

    21. Travon Blanchard, Baylor

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 73 tackles (nine for loss), five PBU, one interception

    Few corners were more involved at the line of scrimmage than Travon Blanchard. The nickelback joined the rush a handful of times per game and produced, evidenced by his nine tackles for loss. Blanchard's coverage skills weren't outstanding, but pass-catchers rarely, if ever, burned him.

Players 20-16: McFadden-Alexander

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    20. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

    Class: Sophomore

    2016 Stats: 20 tackles, eight interceptions, six PBU

    It was a tale of two seasons for Tarvarus McFadden. Early in 2016, quarterbacks picked on him and tossed a few long touchdowns. "The first couple games were rough for him," teammate Marquez White said, per Andre C. Fernandez of the Miami Herald. "But we all saw the plays that he was getting beat on, and he was this close from making a game-changing play." McFadden responded and finished tied atop the country with eight interceptions.

          

    19. Howard Wilson, Houston

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 54 tackles, 10 PBU, five interceptions, one TD

    When a non-power-conference program loses a first-round pick, that player is typically hard to replace. Howard Wilson, however, stepped in for William Jackson III and excelled. Quarterbacks seemed to target Wilson often, but he only surrendered touchdowns against SMU and Memphis. Wilson snagged five of Houston's seven total interceptions.

        

    18. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

    Class: Sophomore

    2016 Stats: 36 tackles, five PBU, two interceptions, one TD

    "Inconsistent" is too strong a word, but Marlon Humphrey's best games were really good and his bad moments were rather ugly. His worst showing came against Arkansas, ceding a touchdown to Keon Hatcher and a long reception to Cody Hollister. Conversely, Humphrey helped shut down USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster and locked up Texas A&M's impressive receiving corps.

       

    17. Rashard Fant, Indiana

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 33 tackles, 17 PBU, three interceptions, one TD

    Though completions to Rashard Fant's assignment could result in big gains, getting the ball past him was difficult. He defended the third-most passes in the country (20). Fant's propensity for allowing long completions knocked him down the rankings, but he was instrumental in Indiana's No. 23rd opponent quarterback rating (117.26).

       

    16. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

    Class: Sophomore

    2016 Stats: 39 tackles, nine PBU, five interceptions

    Jaire Alexander's good easily outweighed the bad. Charlotte, Florida State and Virginia, among others, threw touchdowns against the sophomore, but Alexander also picked off two passes on Clemson's Deshaun Watson and added another multi-interception outing. While giving up touchdowns can be a problem for Alexander, the Charlotte and FSU games were well in hand when his target scored.

Players 15-11: Wilson-Conley

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    15. Quincy Wilson, Florida

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 33 tackles, six PBU, three interceptions, one TD

    Quincy Wilson was a consistent force opposite Teez Tabor, limiting opponents to 16 catches for 227 yards. Now, Wilson wasn't quite a lockdown corner despite the simple numbers. Each of LSU, Florida State and Alabama had a chance at a big play on him before a poor throw ended the threat. Regardless, Wilson had a more-than-respectable 2016 season.

        

    14. Corn Elder, Miami

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 76 tackles (three sacks), 12 PBU, one interception

    Corn Elder did a little of everything for a surprising Miami defense. Under new coordinator Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes ditched a conservative style. That fit Elder well since he's a smart player with a willingness to tackle. Elder consistently stood out as Miami's most reliable corner, and sporadic blitzes regularly ended with pressure from him.

       

    13. Damontae Kazee, San Diego State

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 65 tackles, eight PBU, seven interceptions, one TD

    Whether you want to call Damontae Kazee a ball hawk, playmaker or something similar, he fits the description. San Diego State's defense was an elite unit (No. 11 in total defense) with the pesky cornerback, who posted two multi-interception games. Most importantly, the Aztecs could rely on Kazee because he seldom had a poor showing in coverage or run support.

       

    12. Kevin King, Washington

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 44 tackles, 13 PBU, two interceptions

    If you haven't seen Kevin King's one-handed snag in the end zone, scroll up to watch. The masterful interception was the highlight of his senior campaign, and King shined in coverage on a weekly basis. Plus, during the two biggest games of the season—the Pac-12 championship and the Peach Bowl—King's opponents hardly made a peep.

          

    11. Gareon Conley, Ohio State

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 26 tackles, eight PBU, four interceptions

    The idea that Gareon Conley was Ohio State's third-best defensive back seems absurd. That doesn't make it untrue or any less impressive. During his second year as a starter, Conley posted the nation's No. 1 NFL rating by players with at least 300 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Conley allowed a mere 14 completions for 159 yards on 43 targets and intercepted four passes.

10. Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin

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    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 30 tackles, 12 PBU, four interceptions, one fumble recovery

    The Big Ten was loaded at cornerback in 2016, so Sojourn Shelton flew under the radar. And T.J. Watt's surge onto the national scene pushed Shelton further out of the headlines.

    But he would've deserved any extra attention.

    Shelton was particularly important in Wisconsin's win over Minnesota. The senior picked off two passes during a fourth quarter in which the Badgers scored 21 unanswered points to retain Paul Bunyan's Axe for the 13th straight year.

    Wisconsin ceded a mere 13 passing touchdowns in 2016, and the only receiver to best Shelton was Western Michigan's Corey Davis.

9. Channing Stribling, Michigan

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats28 tackles (three for loss; one sack), 13 PBU, four interceptions, one TD

    Jourdan Lewis received most of the acclaim, but Channing Stribling was a breakout star for Michigan in 2016. After spending the previous season as a borderline starter, he locked down a No. 1 role.

    "He's not in the limelight as much as some other players across the country, but people should not sleep on Channing Stribling," head coach Jim Harbaugh said on WXYT Radio in October, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

    Quarterbacks typically avoided Lewis, yet it was equally as difficult to find success on Stribling. He gave up just 19 catches on 63 targets.

    "I can't say enough good things about him," Harbaugh told WXYT, adding Stribling will probably play 10 years in the NFL. "He's steadily, consistently good. People talk about being consistent, but consistently good is what you're looking for. That's what Channing Stribling is as a football player."

8. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Class: Sophomore

    2016 Stats41 tackles, nine PBU, four interceptions, one TD

    If this whole cornerback thing doesn't work out for Marshon Lattimore, he could run a company's social media account. For now, though, Lattimore is starring on the field.

    "When the ball is in the air, he plays the ball like a receiver," Clemson star Mike Williams said, per Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors.

    Lattimore earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after contributing to a defense that registered the fourth-most interceptions in the country. He grabbed four of Ohio State's 21 picks.

    Lattimore's opponents mustered 18 catches, 226 yards and one touchdown on the season.

7. Tre'Davious White, LSU

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 35 tackles (four for loss), 14 PBU, two interceptions, one TD

    When you don't hear a corner's name, that tends to be a good thing. Rarely was a negative word spoken about Tre'Davious White on a broadcastand especially not from someone in the LSU program.

    "Very early on, you could see he was the leader of the defense," first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said, according to Scott Rabalais of The Advocate. "I think the guy that everyone listens to on defense is Tre'Davious. When he decides to speak, he has the full attention of the team."

    Though a blown assignment against Ole Miss sticks out, White made precious few mistakes in coverage this season. His most impressive performance was a four-breakup day against Florida.

    In addition to being named a finalist for the Thorpe Award, White received a first-team All-SEC nod.

6. Teez Tabor, Florida

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats33 tackles, six PBU, four interceptions, one TD

    Although the offense stumbled through the campaign, Quincy Wilson, Teez Tabor and the nation's No. 5 defense carried Florida to a second consecutive SEC East crown.

    Tabor entered the season with massive expectations and didn't disappoint. Well, he almost didn't. He surrendered the go-ahead touchdown during Tennessee's comeback win over the Gators, slipping and watching Jauan Jennings race 67 yards to the house.

    However, Tabor atoned for that glaring mistake throughout the final nine games. After the loss, the NFL-bound corner broke up five passes, intercepted two more and did not allow a score.

    Tabor joined White as a first-team All-SEC performer.

5. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan

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    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 25 tackles (3.5 for loss), 11 PBU, two interceptions

    "I always wanted to be one of the best Michigan players to come out of here, out of the program," Jourdan Lewis said, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "Hopefully I can leave that stamp, to be one of those people."

    There's no "hopefully" about it.

    Being responsible for Florida State's game-winning touchdown in the Orange Bowl may sting, but Lewis—who in 2015 set a program record with 22 pass breakupsassembled a terrific senior campaign.

    After returning from injury, Lewis faced 41 targets in 10 games. He allowed a mere 13 catches—the exact number of total passes Lewis knocked down or picked off, too.

4. Rasul Douglas, West Virginia

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 70 tackles, eight PBUeight interceptions, one TD

    His tape isn't spotless, but it's not fair to assign Rasul Douglas full blame for three explosive gains, either.

    A teammate's missed tackle turned a 15-yard screen pass into a 75-yard touchdown for Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook. Iowa State used a pick play to free Allen Lazard for a 67-yard gain. Miami's Ahmmon Richards sliced through a handful of Mountaineers for a 51-yard score.

    Each of those letdowns was a team failure. Otherwise, Douglas finished 2016 with an FBS-best eight interceptions and only five missed tackles. Oklahoma State's James Washington and Baylor's KD Cannon, two of the country's best deep threats, combined for one catch opposite Douglas.

    "Rasul is the kind of guy you can just put somewhere, because he's going to be able to hold up no matter where you put him," West Virginia cornerbacks coach Blue Adams said, according to Mike Casazza of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

3. Sidney Jones, Washington

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Class: Junior

    2016 Stats: 39 tackles, six PBU, three interceptions

    His box-score numbers aren't impressive. But when quarterbacks aren't throwing at Sidney Jones, it doesn't matter.

    Jones established himself as the most feared member of Washington's elite secondary. During the opening half of the season, he was the definition of a lockdown corner. Then, Cal and Washington State tested Jones, yet he ceded a single big play and zero touchdowns.

    In the Peach Bowl, none of Jalen Hurts' 14 passes found Jones' responsibility. It was a dominant ending to a stellar campaign, despite Alabama's defensive headlines because of the win.

    Jones, who recently declared for the 2017 NFL draft, capped his college career with a first-team All-Pac-12 honor.

2. Desmond King, Iowa

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 58 tackles, seven PBU, three interceptions, one TD

    Desmond King returned for his senior season because Iowa had unfinished business. The Hawkeyes fell short of making playoff noise, but the cornerback continued taking care of his personal goals.

    Lauded for physicality and regular contributions in run support, King is the complete package. Despite checking in at 5'11" and 200 pounds, he never shied away from contact. That may seem like an obvious trait, but it's not a given for the position.

    En route to first-team All-Big Ten honors, King faced 53 targets yet gave up a mere 23 catches, 261 yards and one score. He returned one interception for a touchdown and should've had another during a win over Minnesota.

    "The guy is the best," teammate Greg Mabin said, according to Land of 10's Bobby La Gesse. "The absolute best."

1. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson

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    Class: Senior

    2016 Stats: 52 tackles (six for loss), 11 PBU, four interceptions

    Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was so confident in Cordrea Tankersley throughout the 2016 season that he'd call a zone and leave the senior on an island in man-to-man coverage.

    That's the description of a shutdown corner.

    Tankersley played a pivotal role in Clemson's allowing a 100.2 quarterback rating, which ranked No. 4 nationally. Tankersley ceded 30 receptions and just one touchdown on 64 total targets.

    One negative is the number of penalties—five pass interferences and one holding—and that'll affect how Tankersley is viewed through the ever-critical scouting lens.

    But his prowess in coverage overshadowed a few mistakes. Without Tankersley, the Tigers wouldn't have reached the national championship game for the second straight season.

         

    Advanced Stats via Pro Football Focus.