TEAM NEED: The Vikings have used some premium picks on the cornerback position in recent years with Rhodes and Waynes being first-round picks and Alexander being the second-round pick in last year’s draft. The team has gone to the well often here, including re-signing Newman to come back for another season, that it doesn’t seem likely they will use an early pick here, despite losing Captain Munnerlyn to free agency.
POSITION ANALYSIS: A deep and talented class that could see three or four players come off the board in the first round and just as many or more getting snapped up in the second. As the story goes, you can’t have enough cornerbacks on a roster and this year’s class is going to stock the shelves for a lot of teams, starting with Marshon Lattimore and working its way down from there.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State, 6-0, 193 – Third-year sophomore…One-year starter who had 49 tackles, nine passes defensed and four interceptions…Redshirted in 2014 to have surgery to repair chronic hamstring problems…Has elite speed and flexibility to flip his hips and run with receivers deep downfield…Has a second gear to close the gap between him and a receiver and can take a misstep and make up for it…Gets to top speed extremely quickly…Has top-end ball skills to highpoint contested passes…Doesn’t have ideal upper-body strength…Durability is going to be a concern given his history of hamstring injuries…Only a one-year full-time starter…Didn’t lift at the Combine due to a left shoulder injury, but ran a 4.36 40 with a 38½-inch vertical jump and an 11-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: A natural athlete with all the traits needed to be a pure shutdown corner in the NFL, he shouldn’t make it out of the top five picks.
Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, 6-0¼, 197 – Third-year sophomore…Made starts in 29 games of his college career, recording 81 tackles with 14 passes broken up and five interceptions…His father Bobby was a decorated college athlete who was a first-round supplemental pick of the Broncos…Also was an elite track star for the Crimson Tide…Has good size and long arms to match up well with tall receivers as well as being useful in jam coverage…Willing to take on blockers to shut down bubble screens and in run support…Has quick-twitch burst and showed it by running the fastest 20-yard split (2.40 seconds) of any player at the Combine…Has very good adjustment skills to the ball in flight and doesn’t lose many contested battles…Doesn’t have ideal tackling technique and can get sloppy if he doesn’t wrap up…Is far less effective when playing in the slot…Has very small hands and will have more passes knocked away than intercepted as a result…Didn’t take part in the vertical jump at the Combine due to back tightness during the workout, but ran a 4.41 40 with 10 reps of 225 pounds and a 10-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: He has all the prototype size/length/speed tools that coaches look for. He is a little raw in his technique and will need to clean some things up, but once the cornerback run starts in the middle of the first round, he’s going to be involved.
Gareon Conley, Ohio State, 6-0, 195 – Third-year junior…Two-year starter who had 75 tackles, 13 passes broken up and six interceptions in that span…An extremely good cover corner who has the quickness and change of direction to stick to receivers…Has prototypical size and arm length for NFL corners…Can sustain his man-cover speed deep downfield without losing contact with speed receivers…Has elite leaping ability (see below) and fights for contested deep passes…Is skinny and may need to add a little upper-body strength to be elite…Has decent hands, but hasn’t been asked to jam receivers at the line very often, which will have to change at the next level…Will lose a half-step when asked to flip his hips and run with receivers, but has recovery speed…Ran a 4.44 40 at the Combine with 11 reps, a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: A teammate of top pick Lattimore, Conley made himself a lot of money at the Combine looking smooth and relatively seamless in position drills. While he was a No. 2 corner in college, he could be the No. 2 corner taken in the draft, coming off somewhere in the middle of the first round.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Tre'Davious White, LSU, 5-11¼, 192 – Fourth-year senior…Started 47 of 49 career games, finishing with 112 tackles, 34 passes broken up and six interceptions…Wore the prestigious No. 18 – given to the LSU player who represents the ideals of the program on and off the field – the last two seasons…An experienced four-year starter in the SEC, which counts for a lot with coaches and scouts…Has long arms and extremely good footwork and consistently gets himself in position to make plays…A player who does the little things to succeed – working hard in run support and putting in time in the weight room and in film study…Doesn’t have elite deep speed and doesn’t have a top-end second gear…Will get caught looking into the backfield and biting on fakes…Is thin and doesn’t have ideal upper-body strength to jam big receivers at the line…Ran a 4.47 40 at the Combine with 16 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump. PROJECTION: A durable, experienced corner who has almost all of the attributes needed to be a No. 1 corner, he will likely be coming off the board at the end of the first round or very early in the second.
Desmond King, Iowa, 5-10, 201 – Fourth-year senior…Started all 53 games of his college career, recording 263 tackles, 47 passes broken up and 14 interceptions…Set the Michigan high school state record with 29 interceptions in his career…Won the Thorpe Award in 2015, given annually to college football’s top defensive back…Has very good strength and power to jam receivers at the line…A physical run defender who seems to relish in getting his uniform dirty and attacking the man with the ball…Has very good body control and balance to fight for contested passes, as evidenced by his high production for both picks and passes broken up…Does not have elite speed and can occasionally get burned for a misstep…Does not play with discipline and will get caught freelancing too often…Holds on to receivers too much and those types of moves will get called for penalties in the NFL…Chose not to run at the Combine by his own choice, but had 14 reps of 225 pounds, a 34-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: An extremely durable, physical corner best suited for a zone scheme, he is going to have a long NFL career if he stays healthy. He is more likely a second-round talent, but could sneak into the back end of the first round for teams looking to upgrade their secondaries.
Quincy Wilson, Florida, 6-1½, 211 – Third-year junior…Two-year starter who had 62 tackles, 13 passes defensed and five interceptions in that span…Has a textbook backpedal and can flip his hips with ease and mirror a receiver downfield…Has violent hands and will give a receiver a stiff jam off the line…Has an ideal combination of size, strength and length…Doesn’t give his full effort in the run game and that will have to change…Has too much downfield contact when he doesn’t have the perfect angle and will get flagged in the NFL for those same plays…Gets lazy in technique and fundamentals and gets by too often on athletic talent…Ran a 4.54 40 at the Combine with 14 reps, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: A big, physical corner, like the type Seattle tends to develop, he is a second-round prospect who has the size to move to free safety in the right system or a corner who lines up with big receivers to fight them downfield.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Adoree' Jackson, USC, 5-10, 186 – Third-year junior…Started 36 of 40 career games, finishing with 139 tackles, 39 passes defensed and six interceptions…He also made an impact on offense and special teams, rushing 15 times for 92 yards, catching 39 passes for 628 yards and six touchdowns, returned 79 kickoffs for a 27.1-yard average and four TDs and returned 46 punts for 578 yards and four more TDs…A state champion high jumper in high school…Against Notre Dame in 2014, became the first Trojan to start on both sides of the ball in 50 years…Won the Thorpe Award in 2016, given annually to the best defensive back in the country…Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016…Incredible versatility, playing at a high level on defense, offense and special teams…Is extremely explosive and a threat to make a big play every time he gets his hands on the ball…Can change direction on a dime and never loses a step when asked to flip his hips and hit high speed…Very skinny, small-framed player who may have problems holding up as a full-time NFL player…Too often plays the receiver instead of the ball and doesn’t react well to a ball in flight, trying to keep the receiver from catching it rather than intercepting it…Is not an aggressive or an effective tackler who tends to shy away from contact…Didn’t jump at the Combine with an ankle injury, but ran a 4.42 40 and had 10 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A defensive version of Percy Harvin, he brings a lot to the table, but his lack of size will result in him becoming a specialist as a slot corner and return specialist. A Devin Hester-type corner who will likely be a premium pick somewhere in the second round.
Teez Tabor, Florida, 6-0½, 199 – Goes by his nickname rather than his first name (Jalen)…Third-year junior and two-year starter who had 74 tackles, 24 passes defensed and seven interceptions in that span…Arrested in July 2014 for marijuana possession and was suspended the first game of 2015 for refusing to take a drug test…Was suspended for the 2016 season opener for a fistfight with a teammate…Has a very nice blend of size and wingspan and uses both to his advantage…Has very good balance and can redirect and flip his hips with ease…Has good instincts and was effective at planting and jumping routes as well as blitzing…Does not have good upper-body strength as shown at the Combine (see below) and his Combine performance was nothing short of brutal…Does not have elite straight-line speed…Takes too many chances and teams are taught to give him pump fakes and double moves because he will bite…Ran a 4.62 40 at the Combine with nine reps, a 31-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: If you strictly watch film, you would say he’s a first-round pick, but he is very undisciplined on and off the field and will have numerous red flags for squeaky clean organizations. His Combine performance killed his stock, but he should be too good to make it out of the second round…although it’s possible.
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado, 6-0, 202 – Fourth-year senior who started 42 of 48 career games, finishing with 255 tackles, 34 passes broken up and three interceptions…His 2014 season was cut short with a lacerated kidney…Team defensive MVP in 2016…Has a history of turf toe injuries…Is a tough player who has played through injuries and started 42 of 48 career games…Changes direction smoothly and has good burst and acceleration…A smart player who reads the quarterback extremely well and can jump routes to break up plays…Doesn’t have elite deep-game speed despite being able run a tremendous 40 time and can get burned over the top…More of a pass breakup guy than a ballhawk, he had just three interceptions in 48 career games…Will struggle against big, physical receivers and doesn’t knock them off their routes consistently enough in man press coverage…Ran a 4.43 40 at the Combine with 16 reps, a 34½-inch vertical jump and an 11-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: A versatile, tough player who may end up being better suited to play free safety in the pros because he has a lot of good intangibles. He likely won’t be on the board at the end of the second round.
Sidney Jones, Washington, 6-0, 186 – Third-year junior…Started 39 of 40 career games, finishing with 145 tackles, 30 passes defensed, nine interceptions and six forced fumbles…Tore his left Achilles during his pro day March 11 and the rehab schedule likely won’t allow him to play in the 2016 season…Has very quick feet and can change direction and flip his hips in deep routes…Has a solid hand punch and holds up well in press coverage in the pass-happy Pac 12…A high football IQ, he was always heading to the ball in run support and rarely bit on fakes or misdirection…Has a small frame that will be difficult to add much in the way of bulk or mass…His football career is on hold with the significant Achilles injury that could adversely impact his speed…Is a willing tackler, but not overly effective because of his size…Didn’t lift at the Combine by his choice, but ran a 4.47 40 with a 33½-inch vertical jump and a 10-3 broad jump. PROJECTION: Was on track to push to be a first-round pick, but his Achilles tear is going to sideline him the entire 2016 season given the 6-8 month recovery timetable. As a result, a lot of teams are going to take him off their boards before Day 3. He still may go in the second or third round to a team with current depth and the understanding that he’s a gift that late if he comes back 100 percent.
Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson, 6-1¼, 199 – Fourth-year senior who attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy in 2012…Two-year starter who had 125 tackles, 22 passes broken up and nine interceptions in that span…Has very good size and long arms and uses them to rough up opposing receivers…Had very good production and was a true ballhawk in the secondary…Will play on an island and run with receivers deep downfield without giving any ground…Despite his strength, he isn’t a technically sound tackler and slides off tackles he should make far too often…Can get too aggressive downfield; in the NFL, that will draw contact penalties too often if not corrected…Lets passes get into his body too often…Ran a 4.40 40 at the Combine with 13 reps, a 29½-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump. PROJECTION: A player who is tall, physical and capable of taking receivers one-on-one down the field, he’s the type of corner that teams like Minnesota and Pittsburgh like in their defense. In a deep corner class, he likely will remain on the board until the middle of Day 2.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Rasul Douglas, West Virginia, 6-1¾, 209
Corn Elder, Miami, 5-10, 183
Shaquill Griffin, Central Florida, 6-0¼, 194
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State, 5-10¼, 184
Kevin King, Washington, 6-3, 200
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan, 5-10¼, 188
Fabian Moreau, UCLA, 6-0½, 206
Channing Stribling, Michigan, 6-1¼, 188
Cam Sutton, Tennessee, 5-11¼, 188
Marquez White, Florida State, 5-11¾, 194
Howard Wilson, Houston, 6-0¾, 184