Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

The depth of the cornerback position is obvious when some potential second- and third-round picks didn't even make the top 10 for our breakdown. The Vikings will certainly have a lot of options to find a starter in the first two days of the draft. John Holler breaks down his top 10 corners with statistics, measurables and analysis.

VIKINGS CORNERBACKS — Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Benny Sapp, Asher Allen, DeAndre Wright.

VIKINGS NEEDS — It would seem clear that this is an area of need for the Vikings, whether they address that need in the first round or not. Griffin suffered an ACL tear in the NFC Championship Game and is currently rehabbing the injury. Winfield also missed significant time with a foot injury and, given his age, is a question mark heading into the future. Sapp was re-signed in the offseason and Allen got a chance to start during his rookie season and should be better with time. However, the Vikings are in need of a cornerback for the present and future and it shouldn't come as any surprise if they go after one in the first couple of rounds because of the depth and talent at the position.

THE CLASS OF 2010 — This is a deep and talented draft class, but, by the time the Vikings pick at No. 30, there is the possibility that only one cornerback – Joe Haden of Florida – will be off the board. That being said, it would surprise nobody if six, seven or more corners are gone by the end of the second round. In a game that is being transformed more and more into a passing league, teams throughout the NFL are looking to improve their stock of quality corners and this year's class should go a long way to filling some of those needs.


Joe Haden, Florida, 5-11¾, 193 — Third-year junior…Started all 40 games of his college career, making 218 tackles, 34 passes broken up, eight interceptions and three forced fumbles…Recruited as an athlete and started at wide receiver, but moved to cornerback due to injuries at the position during preseason camp…The first Florida true freshman cornerback to ever start a season-opening game…A finalist for the Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football, in 2009…Has a well-muscled physique and has excellent functional field speed…A natural in pass coverage who has the speed to go with receivers deep down the field in man coverage…Very good hips and explodes out of his break when he jumps a route or flips his hips to go deep…Has good hands and attacks passes at their high point and often looks like the receiver on the play…Doesn't mind getting physical in run support…Is in excellent shape and works hard in the weight room to stay strong…Has only 3 percent body fat…Doesn't have great straight-line speed and had a poor Combine time (see below)…Doesn't have great instincts and will to refine his ability to recognize routes and not bite on double moves, which has been a problem…Is not a consistent tackler in the open field and allows too many additional yards…Ran a disappointing 4.57 40 at the Combine with 18 reps of 225 pounds, a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: The top corner in the draft, he has a lot of positive intangibles and most of his weaknesses can be corrected by coaching. He has played against the best competition college has to offer and should be able to step in as an immediate starter. As such, he will be off the board in the first half of the first round.

Devin McCourty, Rutgers, 5-10¾, 193 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in the final 39 games of his college career…In that span, he had 200 tackles, 24 passes defensed and four interceptions…Has a twin brother Jason who was drafted in the sixth round by Tennessee last year and became a special teams standout as a rookie…Also returned kickoffs and punts…Named team Defensive MVP in 2009…Very quick with good explosiveness to turn and run down the field with receivers…Is smart and reads the quarterback's eyes well to jump routes…Closes on the ball quickly…Is quick in run support…Brings versatility as a special teams gunner and return man…Had seven blocked kicks in his career on special teams…Durability isn't a question…Is thin, especially in his lower body, where some scouts believe he will be more likely than most CBs to suffer ankle and foot injuries…Isn't a big playmaker on defense – he had just two interceptions the last two years – and works more to knock balls away than pick them off…Doesn't use his hands effectively to jam receivers…Ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine with 16 reps, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-6 broad jump. PROJECTION: He lets too many passes get caught in front of him, but McCourty has good speed and works well in both man and zone systems (which the Vikings run). He will quite possibly be available when the Vikings pick at No. 30 and could be the player they're targeting.

Patrick Robinson, Florida State, 5-11¼, 190 — Fourth-year senior…Two-year full-time starter who started 20 of 21 games played, recording 78 tackles, 15 passes defensed, one interception and three forced fumbles…Suspended for three games as a junior for his role in an academic cheating scandal…Has excellent size and speed combination…Can flip his hips and mirror receivers deep down the field…Is physical at the line and can play bump-and-run on an island…Holds the corner well in run support…Has an excellent vertical jump and times his jumps well to break up passes deep…Is a good open-field tackler…Has ordinary production and had just one interception in his last two seasons…His best year was as a sophomore, when he had six interceptions and looked much more like a ball-hawk…Isn't nearly as effective in zone coverage, which the Vikings run…Doesn't work on his technique, isn't an especially hard worker and will frustrate coaches with his freelancing, which can result in big plays for the opposing offense…Ran a 4.47 40 at the Combine with 15 reps, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump. PROJECTION: There's no questioning Robinson's talent, but he is ideally suited to be a man-cover corner. He would be a much better fit for a team like Green Bay than he would the Vikings. While his physical attributes are likely going to get him drafted late in the first round or early in the second, he doesn't appear to be a great fit for the Vikings' defensive scheme.


Kyle Wilson, Boise State, 5-10, 194 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who started all 40 games in his final three seasons, making 119 tackles, 22 passes defensed and 10 interceptions…A decorated high school athlete who not only won three state championships in New Jersey, but was named MVP in two of those games…Was suspended for three games due to a team violation in 2006…Became a team captain as a senior…Is very consistent in his performance and rarely gets burned over the top…Has incredible upper-body strength (see below)…Has elite speed and has good technique in pass coverage…Has the agility and recovery speed to close gaps made when he does have a misstep…Uses his hands well to jam and re-route receivers…Durable player who has the tag of being a "safe" pick…Is a little shorter than most scouts like…Despite great strength, he doesn't play with an overly physical style, which will have to change…Isn't ideal in run support because he can get engaged too easily by blockers…Will bite on pump fakes and allow receivers to get separation…Is not overly aggressive on jump balls and seems more willing to get in the way than to try to intercept a pass…Didn't play against top competition with any consistency…Didn't jump at the Combine, but ran a 4.43 40 before pulling a hamstring early and did a position-best 25 reps of 225 pounds. PROJECTION: A fast, aggressive corner who turned a lot of heads at the Senior Bowl, he has the potential to be a first-round pick – perhaps the Vikings' first pick – but the jump from Boise State to the NFL is a big leap and he will likely need time to develop and start his career as a nickel corner.

Kareem Jackson, Alabama, 5-10½, 196 — Third-year junior…Started 40 of 41 career games, posting 159 tackles, 29 passes defensed and five interceptions, in which he averaged more than 32 yards per return…Very limited recruitment and initially signed on with Vanderbilt, but transferred after not meeting academic admission standards at Vandy and spent a year at Fork Union (Va.) College…Has very good awareness and reads the quarterbacks and the receiver routes very well…Has a very athletic body and good measurables…Ideal in a zone coverage system like the Vikings run…A durable player who faced the top competition available on a weekly basis…Uses his hands well…Is a solid wrap-up tackler who is aggressive to the ball…Doesn't backpedal well and his footwork technique will need refining…Has short arms and would be a first-rounder if he was two inches taller…Doesn't hold up as well in space when asked to break down and tackle…Gets beat over the top on jump ball passes…Doesn't have a top change of direction and will lose a step when he has to flip his hips and run downfield…Bites too often on pump fakes and double moves…Ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine with 13 reps, a 37½-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: He made himself some money at the Combine, pushing him from a second- or third-round pick into contention for the first round. He is an ideal fit in the Cover-2 system the Vikings run, because it accentuates his strengths. The question for the Vikings is whether to use a first-round pick on him, which may be a little too high, or try to swing a deal to get him in the second round.

Jerome Murphy, South Florida, 6-0¼, 196 — Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 144 tackles, 13 passes defensed, six interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in that span…Redshirted in 2005 with a broken leg…Played behind Cowboys first-round pick in 2008 Mike Jenkins prior to his junior season…Is a good man-coverage physical corner…Has excellent size and long arms…Has excellent acceleration and can plant and drive…Is a quick-twitch athlete who wowed people at the Combine with his broad jump (see below)…Returned kicks and punts, which helps boost his value…Plays with intensity and likes to hit people…Is quick in run support…Has excellent closing speed on the receiver or the ballcarrier…Will battle for jump balls…Has had problems with the coaching staff in the past and could be deemed by some as a potential locker-room cancer…Inconsistent technique…Will freelance too often and open himself up to get burned for a long touchdown…Character will be a red flag for some teams…Ran a 4.59 40 at the Combine with 16 reps, a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: Murphy is the kind of confident/borderline cocky player that can make plays, but may rub some teams the wrong way. Ideally, he would fit in a system of man coverage teams like the Jets, Raiders and Packers play. He has second-round talent, but may stay on the board longer than he thinks he should.


Chris Cook, Virginia, 6-2, 212 — Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in 30 of the 33 games he played…In his final three seasons, he had 137 tackles, 17 passes defensed and six interceptions…Was forced to sit out the 2008 season because he was ruled academically ineligible, but came back in 2009 to be named a team captain…Has prototype size and very good speed…Has long 32½ inch arms…Has good first-step burst and had a crazy-good broad jump at the Combine (see below)…Is strong in run support and tackling in the open field…Plays both man and zone coverage effectively…Doesn't have elite speed…Some have questioned his commitment, letting his team down when being suspended before the Gator Bowl in January 2008 and then missing the entire 2008 season…Loses a step on speedy receivers when forced to flip his hips and mirror them deep…His per-game tackle production was the worst of his three-year career as a starter…Has very little upper-body strength…Ran a 4.46 40 at the Combine, but managed just seven reps of 225 pounds…However, he did have a 38-inch vertical jump and an 11-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: He helped his cause at the Combine and the Senior Bowl, where he performed well at both. He grades out as a second- or third-round pick, but the value given to size in the NFL could drive him past a few of the players we have ranked ahead of him – perhaps even sniffing around the end of the first round.

Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State, 5-11½, 195 — Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 68 tackles, 27 passes defensed and six interceptions…Returned both kicks and punts…Has three children…Was arrested in August 2009 for driving with a suspended license...Was suspended from the Cotton Bowl for a curfew violation…Has good size and athletic ability…Has excellent natural cover skills and the speed to stay on a receiver's shoulder all the way down the field…Played against top receivers on a consistent basis…Led all college corners with 19 passes defensed in 2009…An explosive return man who scored six touchdowns – four on kickoffs and two on punts…Has very thin legs and has been susceptible to ankle injuries…Isn't adept at a backpedal in pass coverage and will need to improve his technique…Has short arms by NFL standards (30 inches)…When playing zone coverage, he is often late to read and react…Doesn't flip his hips naturally and will lose a step in deep coverage…Is cocky and may be difficult to coach…Ran a 4.63 40 at the Combine with 12 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump. PROJECTION: On film he often looked like a first-round talent, but really hurt his stock at the Combine with less-than-expected numbers in the 40 and agility drills. He is a free-lancer that will likely get drafted higher than we have him, but shouldn't be given the risk/reward until late in the second round. Because of his zone coverage problems, he doesn't project as well as a fit with the Vikings.

Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest, 5-11¾, 192 — Fifth-year senior…Redshirted in 2005 and was ruled academically ineligible in 2006…Started 33 of 35 career games, recording 150 tackles, 25 passes defensed, one interception and five forced fumbles…Suffered a torn MCL prior to the 2009 season, but started all 11 games he played last year…Has excellent athleticism with long arms and very good agility…Had the best 40 times among cornerbacks at the Combine (see below)…Has an excellent burst and makes up a lot of ground within a couple of steps…Gets to full speed quickly…Is solid in zone coverage…Uses his hands well to jam receivers at the line…Stood out at the Senior Bowl…Has very questionable footwork and technique and will need a lot of coaching…Is thin and may struggle against physical receivers…Doesn't offer much physicality in run support…Doesn't have ideal balance and will fall off in coverage…Breaks up more passes than he tries to intercept…Had a huge Combine performance, running a 4.45 40 with 15 reps of 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-7 broad jump. PROJECTION: He popped some eyes at the Combine with his athletic ability and helped his cause at the Senior Bowl. He may struggle with identifying coverage because he never showed a real passion for the game as a collegian. That should drop him into the third round, but he's a prospect to watch, because he has the skills to be a starter sooner than later.

Javier Arenas, Alabama, 5-8¾, 197 — Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 134 tackles, 12 passes broken up and six interceptions in that span…Was a big-time special-teams performer who returned punts and kickoffs…Led the country in punt return yardage as a junior and his career total of 1,752 punt-return yards were only nine yards off the all-time record held by current Patriot Wes Welker…Scored seven touchdowns as a returner, setting a new SEC record…Has very good strength…Has good recognition skills and the quick-twitch ability to get to the ball…Has good transition speed and doesn't give up much ground when forced to flip his hips and run…Explosive return ability will vault him up some boards…Is very strong in run support…Played against top competition and proved to be durable when given the starting job…Versatile player who can line up as a nickel corner in the slot or outside on an island…Is very short and undersized for the NFL…Doesn't have elite speed to make up for his lack of height…Plays with passion but gets a little too out of control and will get flagged for penalties and sulk…Likely won't go to a team that will ask him to line up in man coverage…Will get burned if he makes a misstep…Didn't lift at the Combine and ran a 4.61 40 with a 9-4 broad jump. PROJECTION: The entire NFL has seen him because of ‘Bama's success over the last couple of years, but that could play against Arenas. He seems limited to playing in a Cover-2 system, which could be good news for the Vikings if they're looking for a corner in the third round.

Dominique Franks, Oklahoma, 5-11, 194
Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt, 6-1¾, 203
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (Pa.), 6-0¼, 207
Amari Spievey, Iowa, 5-11, 195
Kevin Thomas, USC, 6-0, 192
Walter Thurmond, Oregon, 5-10¾, 189
Alterraun Verner, UCLA, 5-10¼, 189

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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