Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting
Now that Wonderlic concerns have subsided (for good reason) and we can get back to all understanding how elite of a prospect Morris Claiborne is (better man-to-man than Patrick Peterson). Claiborne is the drafts top cornerback, and will be selected anywhere from pick 3 to 6, and likely not further below.
But in a class that features as many as 15 possible outside, starting caliber cornerbacks, here are the "next five" at the position.
1. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
While Janoris Jenkins (later on this list) has had many concerns about his marijuana use brought up, Kirkpatrick was actually caught with a similar amount early in the draft process, adding concerns to his future maturity as well. However, on the field, there isn't a more physical, well-built, consistent zone cornerback in this class.
2. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech
Production for a cornerback can sometimes be inflated, as the occasional poor pass, lucky jump, or elite safety play can really allow a cornerback to get multiple interceptions. However, watching Jayron Hosley these past two years, it's obvious he makes his own big plays, producing with interceptions thanks to his best-in-class ball skills, vision, reaction to breaking routes, and finishing ability in air. Don't bank against cornerbacks who make big plays all by themselves.
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Arguably the second best man cornerback in this class, Jenkins plays physical, consistently gets receivers out of their comfort zone, stays tight and fluid down field, and has had outstanding success against Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Alshon Jeffery over his career. I've spoken with Jenkins himself, people at North Alabama, and others close to him, and I can say the concerns/rumors about his drug use, maturity, and character are far overblown. Check out the great interview Scout.com's Aaron Wilson did with him here: http://profootball.scout.com/2/1178511.html ... and don't believe everything you read from major media.
4. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Recently reportedly "flying" up draft boards, Gilmore has the physicality, fluidity, and willingness to cover all types of receivers as well as filling in run support to make GMs and head coaches thinking he can develop into an elite corner. He's still a bit raw in his drops and can get over-aggressive at times, but he has the skill set to be a solid outside NFL cornerback. More of a late first round talent, don't be shocked if Gilmore ends up in the Top 10 on draft day.
5. Brandon Boykin, Georgia
As Greg Cossell of NFL Films recently pointed out via Twitter, Boykin is the drafts best "nickel cornerback", meaning he can cover the dangerous slot receivers (most notably Patriots' playmaker Wes Welker) thanks to his quick hips, natural athleticism, and quick reaction to the ball in the short area. He can also play outside in the NFL to me, as his size isn't a huge factor against most receivers thanks to his leaping ability, ball skills, and change of direction to stay with all types of receivers.
Others to Watch: Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt), Jammell Fleming (Oklahoma), Chase Minnifield (Virginia), Ryan Steed (Furman), Josh Robinson (Central Florida).
Eric Galko is a contributing NFL scout for Patriots Insider at Scout.com.
Eric Galko is the Owner, Director of Scouting of Optimum Scouting and lead editor for OptimumScouting.com. He has been scouting college football for eight years, and for pro teams and other sports professionals for the last four years. Eric is also a member of the FWAA.
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