Top 5: Shutdown Corner Prospects

NFL draft analyst Ryan McCrystal of reviewed the top players headed into the NFL Draft. As a special to, here are his top five corners who can cover the likes of Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall or Hakeem Nicks...

Top 5 defenders who can cover
Ryan McCrystal,

Scout: Instead of asking for a Top 5 ranking, we asked Ryan if he'd give us a more realistic look at the corners; Guys who can cover (Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall or Hakeem Nicks)

Here's what McCrystal told

To be a true shutout corner, you need pure athleticism. But to match up with some of the game's bigger, more physical receivers takes a different type of skill set. Sometimes the top athletes aren't the players best suited to match up with the likes of Jackson, Marshall or Nicks.

For that reason, this list isn't necessarily about ranking the top cornerbacks, but rather about the players with the unique skill set necessary to take on some of the game's taller and more physical pass catchers.

1. Morris Claiborne, LSU
Despite his relatively small stature (6'0", 185 lbs) Claiborne is the premier shutdown corner in this year's class. While receivers such as Jackson or Marshall may have a significant height advantage over Claiborne, he makes up for it by consistently playing the ball rather than the receiver. No corner in this year's class can match Claiborne's ability to turn himself into the receiver once the ball is in the air.

Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE) 10/1/2011
2.  Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
While Kirkpatrick can't quite match Claiborne in terms of raw talent, he makes up for it with his size. There are a small handful of corners in the league with Kirkpatrick's combination of height (6'2") and athleticism, which will make him a hot commodity on draft day. He isn't a particularly physical player, but  his height alone will make him an asset, especially in the red zone.

3. Chase Minnifield, Virginia
Minnifield doesn't have the size or athleticism to immediately catch your eye, but he is among the most polished prospects in this year's class. He checks in at 6'0", 185 pounds, but is willing to mix it up at the line of scrimmage and never backs down from more physical receivers. He may lack the ability to dominate a one-on-one matchup, but he knows how to be disruptive which is sometimes all you need to be successful against bigger receivers who are used to having their way with smaller defensive backs.

4. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Gilmore is a bit of a project who needs to work on his fundamentals before he's ready to excel at the next level. However, he does possess the size necessary to lock down some of the game's more physical receivers. At 6'1", Gilmore has the ability to cause problems for guys like Vincent Jackson who struggle to separate and often rely on their ability to leap over smaller defenders in jump ball situations.

5. Leonard Johnson, Iowa State
Johnson is the shortest player on this list (5'10") but is well built (202 lbs) and can be extremely physical in press coverage. Like Minniefield, he's a small, pesky corner who does just enough to slow down receivers and throw off their route. He may struggle in the red zone, due to a pure size disadvantage, but has the skills to match up against any receiver in other situations.

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McCrystal's Top 5 exclusive to For more of his NFL Draft coverage, be sure to visit

Ryan McCrystal is the owner of, and has been scouting NFL Draft prospects since 2004. His weekly Heisman Predictor column is also featured on throughout the college football season. Ryan has been a member of the FWAA since 2007.   

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