Carolina Panthers 2012 NFL Draft Big Board: Top Cornerbacks

Tyler Horner@BR_TylerHornerCorrespondent IIDecember 15, 2011

Carolina Panthers 2012 NFL Draft Big Board: Top Cornerbacks

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    The cornerback position will be a high priority for the Carolina Panthers come this offseason. Chris Gamble is a talented veteran cornerback, but beyond him, the team lacks a quality starter. 

    The Panthers are running more man coverage this season, especially as of late, which changes the thought process heading into the draft. It also makes finding an athletic cornerback on day one or two that much more important. 

    As you'll see, this class of cornerbacks doesn't lack in talent, but finding a complete package will be a challenge for the Panthers, who can help their defense tremendously if they make the right choice. 

5. Chase Minnifield, Virginia

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    Best Traits: Zone Coverage, Effort, Playmaker

    Minnifield plays very well in zone, where he is able to utilize his exceptional instincts and feel for the game. He plays every play with intensity and it shows on film. Minnifield is a guy that you want in the locker room and can trust on a play-to-play basis. His effort will never let you down. 

    The Virginia corner also possesses great ability when the ball is in the air. He has 13 interceptions in his collegiate career and has had his share of highlight plays. 


    Worst Traits: Man Coverage, Speed

    Minnnifield doesn't have impressive recovery speed and would get burned by the faster receivers in the NFL. He also isn't very quick to react in man coverage, but he does maintain good balance and plays with his head. 

4. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

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    Best Traits: Playmaker, Potential

    Hosley presents a danger whenever a quarterback throws near him; he proved that in his sophomore season when he led the country with nine interceptions. He's very athletic and has the ball skills to capitalize when in position. 

    Hosley has higher potential than many of the other cornerback prospects in this class. He didn't always play to the full extent of his skills at Virginia Tech and has a great base of talent to work with. With good coaching, he can be a Pro Bowl player. 


    Worst Traits: Consistency, Run Support

    Hosley picked off nine passes in his sophomore season, but only three a year later. Doesn't play with urgency as the previously listed cornerback, Chase Minnifield, does. If he does play with more effort, he will become a much-improved player. 

    Hosley isn't a well-sized corner, nor is he a physical one. He can get taken out of run plays by most receivers. Doesn't show great willingness to step up and take on the ball-carrier and isn't a great tackler once he does arrive at the ball. 

3. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

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    Best Traits: Man Coverage, Aggressiveness

    Jenkins is extremely athletic and it is tough for receivers to break free from him when he's playing man. Shows good burst and can keep up with the most athletic college receivers in the country. 

    Jenkins also anticipates well and can make a good break on the ball to put himself in an easy position to make an interception. He takes a lot of risks, but is often rewarded. Despite his size, he's not afraid to mix it up with physical receivers. 


    Worst Traits: Size, Character

    Standing slightly under 5'10" and weighing in at under 180 lbs, Jenkins is below average in terms of size. This makes him a less attractive option as an NFL team's No. 1 corner and also limits his flexibility in coverage. 

    Jenkins was kicked off the Florida team earlier in 2011 for drug-related issues. This undoubtedly resulted in his sharp drop in draft stock. He's an elite talent, but off-the-field issues will loom. 

2. Morris Claiborne, LSU

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    Best Traits: Man Coverage, Tackling

    Very quick and smooth in man coverage. Also contains good ability to jam at the line and has room to improve if and when he adds more muscle to his frame. Claiborne is very tough to beat deep and has the potential to be a lockdown corner. 

    He can sometimes get caught off balance against the run, but typically contains very well and is extremely disciplined. One of the best open-field tacklers at the position and breaks down very well against the quicker backs and receivers that he faces. 


    Worst Traits: Strength, Zone Coverage

    Claiborne still has a ways to go to fill up his 6'0'' frame. He is occasionally susceptible to more physical receivers and doesn't take on blocks as well as he would with some added bulk. 

    Claiborne isn't necessarily weak in zone coverage, but it is one of his lesser abilities—mainly due to his lack of experience. He sometimes gives too much room in the zone, but does a solid job of baiting quarterbacks into bad throws as well. 

1. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

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    Best Traits: Zone Coverage, Potential, Size

    Kirkpatrick doesn't get many chances to play zone at Alabama, but when he does, he's spectacular. He has quickly improved his ability to diagnose routes and breaks off of his coverage at the right time. The Alabama cornerback shows great quickness on film and is a playmaker when given freedom in a zone defense. 

    Kirkpatrick is rarely thrown at due to his great combination of talents. He has great size at 6'3" and is a solid 190 lbs. Give him more time to develop his coverage skills and he could be an elite NFL cornerback. 


    Worst Traits: Durability, Overaggressive

    Kirkpatrick suffered a shoulder injury in his senior season in high school and underwent shoulder surgery for the second time in 2010 at Alabama. 

    Kirkpatrick can occasionally get caught out of control and can suffer from mental mistakes. With more mental development, this can be fixed though.