2016 NFL Scouting Combine
(Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

This year’s cornerback class is very talented at the top end but lacks depth. After a week receiving class the corners are likely a hit or miss as well. Most of these defensive backs are so difficult to grade because what they are asked to do in college varies across the country. Josh Norman, the NFL’s best in 2015, was a small school guy from Coastal Carolina showing you can find talent later in the draft.

Shut Down Corner:

My top rated corner varies from most people and that is Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves. As terms of pure corners are concerned I would have a hard time of someone telling me otherwise that he isn’t the best. Hargreaves has been a first team SEC player since his true freshman season for the Florida Gators. He necessarily didn’t run as fast as people didn’t expect at 4.50 but neither did another Florida Gator Joe Haden and he didn’t out pretty darn good. You could see from the on the field drills he has some of the sweetest feet of any corner I have seen in quite some time. In a year filled with questionable top five prospects this kids a can’t miss top 5 pick.

Corner or Safety?

My second rated corner is Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey. The only reason he isn’t my number one rated guy is because I still don’t know what position he is. Ramsey is a huge bid bodied corner who runs freakishly fast for his size – 6’1”, 209 at 4.41, 40 yard dash. Not only did he test really well but he is also a freak on the football field. He was the first freshman to start the season opener at cornerback for the Seminoles since Deion Sanders. We all know how great Deion was and he did a terrific job on the field analysis as well yesterday. Ramsey also jumped out of the gym ranking third amongst defensive backs in the broad and vertical jump (41.5 V, 135 B). The biggest question is whether he is a corner or safety. Either way Ramsey will be a terrific pro but he holds a heck of a lot more value at corner. Then again there’s nothing wrong being the next Eric Berry right? Ramsey and Hargreaves also had terrific hands during the drills and are the definition of high pointing the football in the air.

Is He Just Another Apple In The Bunch?

Ohio State’s Eli Apple also had a terrific day in my eyes. Apple fits the mold of today’s long corners at 6’1”. Having said that he moved really well in the drills as he was efficient in his movements constantly staying on his toes keeping a low center of gravity for a bigger corner. He also ran a lot faster than I expected at 4.40. Apple reminds me of former Ohio State cornerback Marcus Trufant coming into college. I would say Apple solidified his first round status as the 3rd ranked corner who might be taken higher than expected based on the corner depth. Let’s face it there isn’t a team who doesn’t need a corner.

Where Are The Turnovers?

My 4th rated guy in MacKensie Alexander of Clemson. Alexander did not participate in any of the events due to an injured hamstring he suffered in the national championship game. My biggest concern with Alexander is he has 0 career interceptions during his collegiate career. As a two year starter it is hard for me to justify using a first round pick on a guy who isn’t going to generate turnovers. That isn’t to say he isn’t awfully talented as you could notice his absence once he left the game against Alabama completely turning the tide in bama’s favor. I look forward to the talented Clemson pro day on March 10th.

Throw Them In The Slot:

There was a intriguing battle to me for the 5th corner spot between William Jackson of Houston and Cyrus Jones of Alabama. Both players are similar in the aspect that they will both work wonders in the slot inside working the middle of the field. To me I saw a lot of a young Ladarius Webb out of Jackson who has some sweet feet to say the least. His backpedal was very smooth in the draft and ran really fast with a 4.38 40. Trust me those speedy guys are needed on those home run balls. The question I had was when I was watching the combine I thought to myself “wow I would love to get that guy in the 3rd or 4th round and develop him into a shut down slot guy” Later I hear he has some first round consideration which would be hard for me to justify for a guy I have seen very little of at Houston. Cyrus Jones is a former highly recruited receiver turned defensive back. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is known as a defensive back specialist so you know the guy is going to be well schooled going into the pros. Jones also had 5 punt returns for touchdowns last season showing some additional special teams value. Like Jackson the question is how high in the draft Jones will be selected. As a gm I cant justify taking a slot corner in the first or second round especially given the track record of developing later round corners.

*Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller, brother of Bears corner Kyle Fuller, did not participate in the combine. You know what your getting with those Frank Beamer defensive backs trust me.

The Developmental Guys:

A few small school corners stood out to me as developmental players. James Bradberry is a loooooong corner. He has incredibly long arms looking like a pterodactyl with 33,1/2 inch arms. A four year starter ran a solid 4.50 considering his size. Let’s remember Josh Norman and Richard Sherman ran a 4.66 and 4.56 respectively, the 40 isn’t everything.

Harlan Miller from Southeastern Louisiana is a player who stood out during Senior Bowl practices. Former teammate Robert Alford was taken in the 2nd round of last year’s draft by the Falcons so forget the small school mantra. He seemed a little tight hipped but there is something to work with here.

The last guy is Eric Murray from Minnesota. Murray is physical corner who stifled Josh Doctson from TCU early in the season. Because of his physical nature he is likely to have some pass interference calls against him early in his career but there is no question there is some talent to work with.

*Auburn’s Jonathan Jones ran the fastest time at 4.33

Cornerback Rankings:

  1. Vernon Hargreaves (Florida)
  2. Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)
  3. Eli Apple (Ohio State)
  4. MacKensie Alexander (Clemson)
  5. Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)