Draft preview: Cornerback analysis

Only Malcolm Jenkins will be a first-round consideration for the Packers in this mixed-bag group of 31 cornerbacks. Every top prospect has a chink in his armor, whether it's size, speed or personality.

Editor's note: This is Part 10 of our 14-part position-by-position breakdown heading to the April 25-26 NFL Draft. We continue with the cornerbacks. The prospects are listed in order based on analysis by Scout.com draft expert Chris Steuber and Packer Report, with the comments that follow them based on the beliefs of league experts and insiders.

The Packers' perspective:

Everyone knows the situation in Green Bay. Charles Woodson is an elite cornerback and Al Harris remains above-average. But, Harris is 34 and Woodson 32, and their time as starting-caliber cornerbacks is running out.

So, the Packers need to be prepared for the moment when that time arrives. Tramon Williams played well in place of Harris last season and seems to be a starter-of-the-future. But the depth behind him is suspect. Will Blackmon hasn't shown much on defense and Patrick Lee didn't do anything before his rookie season ended with a minor knee injury.

There are no sure things at cornerback in this draft. Every one of the top prospects has a major chink in his armor, from speed to height to personality. Because of the flaws, some scouts don't see much difference between the first-round talents and the third-rounders. Only the first player on this list is a consideration at No. 9; the next four are late first-rounders/early second-rounders.

Cream of the crop:

Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State: No player's 40-yard time has been scrutinized more than Jenkins' 4.54 at the Scouting Combine, leading scouts to question whether he's a safety or cornerback. The answer depends on who you talk to and the team's scheme. Since the Packers' coverage scheme is a bit of a mystery, it's hard to say how or if he'd fit in Green Bay. What is certain is this: The 6-foot-1 Jenkins was a three-year starter and won the Jim Thorpe Award last year as the nation's best cornerback. And while his long-distance speed isn't ideal, he had the best three-cone time among corners at the Combine, which shows his change-of-direction skills and short-range quickness. He's a physical player with 11 career interceptions. Met with the Packers at the Combine.

First-round prospects:

Darius Butler, Connecticut: Butler (5-10) is a talented cover man. While he lacks ideal height, he has long arms, can jump out of the building with a 43-inch vertical leap and tied for the fastest 40 among the corners at the Combine (4.46). He finished with 10 career interceptions but none last season, when teams didn't bother throwing at him. Standout at Senior Bowl. Adds juice with 23.5-yard average on kickoff returns last season. Met with the Packers at the Combine.

Vontae Davis, Illinois: Davis (5-11) is perhaps the most talented corner in this draft. He ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine with a 36-inch vertical and a cornerbacks-best 25 reps on the 225-pound bench press. A three-year starter with seven career interceptions, including two last year. Led Big Ten corners in tackles, showing his physicality. Considered hard to coach, just like his brother, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Met with the Packers at the Combine.

Sean Smith, Utah: On the opposite end of the spectrum from many of the corners in this draft is the 6-foot-3 Smith. Ran a 4.51 40 with a 35-inch vertical. With his height come questions about whether he can handle the short-range quickness and stop-and-start skills of an NFL receiver. Played defense just two seasons, finishing with nine interceptions. One scout compared him to former Eagles standout Bobby Taylor. Met with the Packers at the Combine.

Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest: Measurables or production? At 5-foot-9, there are obvious concerns about Smith's height, and he only matched the much-taller Sean Smith in the 40 and vertical. But as a four-year starter, he picked off an ACC-record 21 passes and broke up 66. He had seven interceptions and 31 breakups as a senior. A ballhawk with great skills, but how would the Packers' defense fare with Smith and the 5-foot-11 Williams as the corners?

Just a notch below:

Kevin Barnes, Maryland: Barnes (6-0) is far from a finished product. Two-year starter who missed the final half of last season with a broken shoulder blade. Six career interceptions. Ran a 4.52 40 with an impressive 38.5-inch vertical and fifth-best three-cone. Injury and lack of bulk at 187 lead to questions about his toughness against the run.

Jairus Byrd, Oregon: Byrd (5-10) has NFL genes as the son of former Pro Bowl defensive back Gil Byrd. The elder Byrd continued his NFL life as director of player programs for the Packers and is now a secondary coach for the Bears. So, he knows what he's doing, as his 17 interceptions in three seasons would suggest. Plus, he was one of the nation's top punt returners. Groin injury kept him out of the Combine.

D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt: Serious size concerns at just less than 5-foot-9 but without the long arms and long speed of Alphonso Smith. Third-best vertical at Combine (39.5) helps. Ran the 40 in 4.56. Big-time playmaker with 11 interceptions the last two seasons. Like Byrd, he's an explosive punt returner.

Others to remember:

Asher Allen, Georgia: Size concerns again at 5-foot-9. Ran just a 4.65 40 at the Combine but revived his draft hopes with a sub-4.4 at his pro day. He held up in the speed-heavy SEC, too. Three interceptions in two years as a starter with suspect hands. Averaged 24.6 yards on kickoff returns as a junior.

Mike Mickens, Cincinnati: The 6-footer picked off 10 passes as a two-time all-Big East selection. Arthroscopic knee surgery kept him from running at the Combine. Scouts say he played fast and is a willing tackler in run support.

Victor Harris, Virginia Tech: "Macho" Harris (5-11) ran a woeful 4.68 40 at the Combine but improved at his pro day. Tied for second-best three-cone at Combine. Second-team All-America in 2008 with six interceptions and two touchdowns. Lined up at receiver and running back on occasion and averaged 9.3 yards on punt returns. Might be moved to safety because of speed.

Coye Francies, San Jose State: Was kicked out of Oregon State on a weapons charge — which was dropped — but is off some teams' draft boards. Good height at 6-0 but suspect speed (4.63). On the plus side, he's a hitter and a good run defender. Picked off three passes in only season at SJS. Met with the Packers at the Combine.

Bradley Fletcher, Iowa: Started just last season, so slow to get buzz. Good size (6-0) and athleticism (4.50 40, 38.5 vertical). Strong finish to season in bowl win vs. South Carolina and East-West Shrine Game, which suggest a good upside. Picked off three passes last year. Met with the Packers at the Combine.

Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina: Another short corner (5-9) with good speed (4.51) and vertical (37.5). He's smooth in coverage with experience in man and zone. Three interceptions when he was first-team all-SEC in 2007 and rarely challenged last year. Proven kickoff and punt returner.

Keenan Lewis, Oregon State: Lewis (6-0) was a four-year starter. Limited production with six interceptions but has 4.5 speed in the 40. Long arms make him a great fit for a press-coverage team. Performed well at the Senior Bowl.

Domonique Johnson, Jackson State: An intriguing small-school talent. Ideal height at 6-1 with 10 interceptions the last two seasons. Ran only a 4.58 at the Combine with a 32-inch vertical, but scouts say he plays faster. Played some safety last season to put him in more of a playmaking role.

Lardarius Webb, Nicholls State: Another small-school standout. A two-time All-American (5-10) who intercepted five passes as a junior and two as a senior. Big-time production as a kickoff and punt returner. Ran one of fastest 40s at Combine (4.46) and eighth-best three-cone. Aggressive and secure tackler. Scouts say he'd be best in zone scheme.

Donald Washington, Ohio State: Boom-or-bust talent who emerged a bit from Jenkins' shadow at Combine. The 6-footer ran a 4.49 40, and his 45-inch vertical jump was tops at the Combine, regardless of position. Started all three seasons but made only two interceptions despite teams staying away from Jenkins.

Joe Burnett, Central Florida: Big-time production. Burnett (5-9) picked off 16 passes as a four-year starter. Also returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. All-Big East corner and returner. His 40 time is OK (4.57) and trailed only Jenkins in the three-cone. Scouts like him in a zone.

Morgan Trent, Michigan: He's got everything you want in terms of height (6-1), speed (4.47) and vertical (38). Picked off three passes as a third-year starter last year. Suspect hands and change-of-direction skills, though.

Cary Harris, USC: Harris (5-11) doesn't test well (4.61 40) and didn't have big-time production, but scouts like his football intelligence and toughness against the run. Three interceptions as a senior and five for his career. Might be moved to safety.

Christopher Owens, San Jose State: Owens (5-10) was kept busy last year with teams shying away from Francies. Runs well with a 4.51 40. Tallied 13 career interceptions, including six in 2007. Aggressive against run and pass.

DeAngelo Smith, Cincinnati: Picked off seven passes as a junior and two as a senior, when quarterbacks tested their luck more often against Mickens. Good height (5-foot-11), long arms and OK speed (4.57). Worst vertical at Combine and second-worst three-cone, so might be best in a zone.

Bruce Johnson, Miami: A sprinter on the track team, the 5-foot-9 Johnson started for the last 1.5 seasons. So-so production with two career interceptions, but scouts like his attitude as a man corner. Ran a 4.46 40 with fourth-best three-cone.

Greg Toler, St. Paul's: Toler's story was told by Packer Report two weeks ago, leading up to his predraft visit. Didn't have grades coming out of high school, got a job at JC Penney, landed with a Division II school that was forming its football team. Word-of-mouth speed caught scouts' attention. Picked off six passes last year.

Don Carey, Norfolk State: Carey (5-11) intercepted eight passes over the last two seasons. Smart enough to be recruited by Yale. Ran 4.54 40. A little too aggressive in coverage, at times. Small-school star who performed well at the East-West game.

Jerraud Powers, Auburn: Powers (5-9) played three seasons, with four interceptions in 2007 and two in 2008. Good bump skills and a quality open-field tackler. Ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine with 36.5-inch vertical.

Brandon Hughes, Oregon State: Hughes (5-10) ran a 4.50 40. Good bump-and-run corner who struggled when not playing bump in East-West game. Started 40 games but picked off just three passes.

Brice McCain, Utah: McCain started 38 games opposite Sean Smith. Wasn't on teams' radars until running a 4.24 40 at Utes' pro day. Just three career interceptions. Some kickoff return ability.

Jason McCourty, Rutgers: The 5-foot-10 McCourty wasn't invited to the Combine but ran a 4.32 40 at his pro day. Visited the Packers two weeks ago. Just two career interceptions. Averaged 25.8 yards on kickoff returns last season.

Chris Steuber's sleeper:

Terrail Lambert, Notre Dame: Lambert (5-10), a three-year starter, had four career interceptions, but none as a senior. Not invited to Combine but ran a couple of sub-4.4 40s at his pro day. His three-cone time would have ranked ninth at the Combine.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport


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