The NFL Draft is littered with cornerback talent this year, with many going as far to say this is the deepest pool of defensive back talent in recent memory. This bodes extremely well for the Eagles, who go into the event needing to bolster their secondary. Both Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll left the City of Brotherly Love once free agency started, meaning that the team simply have to add starting talent. Names like Gareon Conley and Marlon Humphrey have often been linked to the Eagles, the sheer abundance of depth means they could double dip at cornerback with a lot of confidence. But who are the names who could be available in the middle rounds of the Draft that would be a fit for the tenacious Schwartz Defense?
Scheme fit matters to Jim Schwartz, whether we agree or not..just ask Eric Rowe. So while there may be some explosive talent available in the midst of the NFL Draft, they may not be perfect fits for the Eagles. Below are five of the most “prototypical” corners who could soar with the Eagles.
Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
One of the most overlooked corners coming into the Draft, Douglas has great length at 6’2, and size at 209lbs. The Eagles don’t just crave a long cornerback..but a playmaker. In his senior year, Douglas intercepted 8 passes and broke up 8 more. Douglas contributed heavily to a Mountaineers defense that dominated the Big-12, but has all the makings of a strong press corner.
Douglas is a true dinner corner..and one with rare length. In 2015 he amassed 8 tackles and one pick in 11 games, before his eye popping senior year that along with the aforementioned 8 picks, saw him rack up 70 tackles.
The problem is that with a 4.59 40-yard dash time, there are concerns he doesn’t have the gas to keep up with some of the faster NFL wideouts. When playing in zone coverage, he’s able to read the eyes of the opposing quarterback incredibly well and come down to make a play on the ball. He shows no fear in jumping routes or leaping up to catch a 50-50 ball, but if he’s not in position, exploited on a complex route, or beaten at the line..the recovery can act as an achilles heel.
Contrarily, the size of Douglas means he could play at Safety with a moments notice. Long-term depth behind McLeod and Jenkins is anything but stable and versatility is a quality that the Eagles love on Defense.
There’s no doubting that Douglas has playmaker potential..but he isn’t as polished in man-coverage as some of the other players mentioned in this article, or as aggressive as some of the higher round picks. This is what has allowed Douglas to slip into the heart of the Draft, where he’s projected to go between rounds 3-5.
If Douglas is still on the board in the 5th round, it’s a no brainer for the Eagles..but even if taken in the 4th, Douglas would be a perfect project cornerback to learn under Patrick Robinson in 2017..who in my opinion is the most technically sound corner on the roster.
Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
A four year starter for Tennessee, the 5’11, 188 lbs, corner may be the perfect fit for the Jim Schwartz Defense. Entering his senior year, Sutton’s durability enabled him to have started every game since arriving with the team in 2013. An injury against Ohio University cost him six games, but he was able to amass 23 tackles, an interception and four pass breakups in the games he did play. This also saw him slip down draft boards..which works out well for the Eagles.
Sutton is a press coverage ace who plays with a nasty streak. He isn’t afraid to get down and dirty in the run game, nor does he shy away from hitting much more physical receivers. His lighter frame has caused some to doubt his potential to do this at the next level, but tackling is just as much a mental trait as it is physical..and Sutton exudes confidence.
Not only is he a hard hitter, but as a sophomore he led Tennessee in pass defenses, with 16. He’s an extremely fluid corner who can mirror and match with the best in this years class and can back pedal extremely smoothly, keeping the wideout ahead of him and eyes on the quarterback.
At the line, Sutton is reliant on his ability to read the play and isn’t as physically imposing as he perhaps could be. His coverage is very reminiscent of Jalen Mills at times, especially on comeback routes, where he can sometimes lack the immediate response to surge forward and wrap the receiver up, opening a small cushion for the quarterback to throw into. Also like Mills, he can focus a little too much on the receiver, playing with his back to the ball and relying on his hands to force a tightly placed ball out of action at the last second.
However, like we saw with Mills..this is all coachable. I genuinely believe that Sutton is the perfect prototype for the Jim Schwartz Defense. He hits hard, plays the ball well and is comfortable in both man and zone situations. Allowing just three touchdowns throughout his career, Sutton is a player who ticks all the boxes..including special teams production. A notable punt and kick returner, Sutton could become a four-core special teams player at the very least..and a rotational defensive back with the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot at best. As far as mid-round corners go, Sutton may be the most appealing.
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State
The true definition of a small school sleeper, this 5’10, 184 lbs prospect was named the Mountain West player of the year in 2015 and went on to earn that honor one year later. With seven interceptions and eight pass breakups to his name, Kazee became a staple of the Aztecs Defense. One of the most impressive traits he possesses that allowed him to earn this reputation, is his aggression. With four fumbles and 41 tackles to his name last year, Kazee embodied a corner who plays with plenty of courage and a chip on his shoulder.
A heavy contributor in run Defense as well, Kazee is an incredibly versatile corner that plays with a lot of instinct. 43 passes defensed and 16 picks sounds impressive..and for good reason. Kazee is a true playmaker who has instincts to match some of the top talent in this years class. So why is he projected to go int he mid rounds?
At 5’10 and 184 lbs, he could be subject to mismatch game planning at the next level. This wouldn’t be a problem, but Kazee’s mirroring isn’t as crisp as it could be. He can sometimes be overly instinctive on routes which can actually work against him. If he loses leverage, he doesn’t have the speed to recover against some of the faster wideouts in the NFL.
For a mid/low round pick however, the ball skills alone from Kazee demand the word “steal”. As a developmental prospect, the SDSU star could be a great fit for a team looking to add players with a natural chip on their shoulder, who let that shine through their play.
Brendan Langley, Lamar:
The Eagles love Senior Bowl prospects..and Langley was a corner who had a rollercoaster showing at the event this year, showing great recovery after being burned early on and catching an underthrown pass for an interception later in the day. With 3 tackles to his name, Langley did all he could to separate himself from the crowd..but a tough touchdown to stomach might have dented his hopes of rising up boards.
This may have actually benefitted the Eagles. In his first year at Lamar, Langley was not a starter but a key-contributor right away. Playing all four cores on special teams, where he stood out in all ways possible. He recorded a career 206 yards on 6 punt returns and 2 touchdowns against the University of Incarnate Word. It wasn’t just that game he stood out, and flashed his big play ability, the threat of him scoring on returns was a weekly thing.
As Langley slowly learned the CB position you could see someone who was no longer a project, but someone who could be considered a real NFL starter one day. Showing great hips and amazing top-end speed, he has all the tools to be a star in this league.
Although it’s is his speed that has been so highly touted (with a 4.43 40-yard dash), Langley has shown to be a proven tackler. In his senior year (Full time starter) he collected 43 tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and averaged 11.7 yards a return on punts. The coaches used him in many different ways, aside from Corner, as he branched out to Free-Safety and some Linebacker on defense. Also being used on offense as a wide receiver and running back, he had a rush of 55-yards and a Touchdown against Baylor University.
What stands out to me, even as a raw prospect, is his ability to win at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles gave up too much separation on intermediate routes due to a lack of jamming at the line last season, but at just 21-years old, Langley isn’t afraid to get “handsy” and deflect the opposing route, getting in the receivers face.
Technically, there’s still much to learn for Langley..but his age, size, aggression and speed present a raw prospect who ticks all the intangibles for Jim Schwartz and Cory Undlin to work with. Projected to go in the latter rounds of the Draft, Langley could be a four-core special teamer out of the box, who could develop into a starter over the course of a few seasons.
Corn Elder, Miami
Our final mid-round fit for the Eagles is also one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. After starting just one game in 2014 and originally a running back prospect coming out of high school, Elder would go on to start seven games one year later. As a Senior, Elder would register 76 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 1 interception and 12 passes defensed.
At 5’10, 183 lbs, Elder isn’t the longest corner in the draft..but he may be one of the most physical. His 4.5 tackles for a loss can be backed up by two sacks the year before. On tape, Elder plays ruthlessly. At the line, he shows patience before releasing on a route, but has no problem asserting his authority, knocking his receivers in the first couple of steps. Able to contribute in the run game and in the pass rush as well, Elder reminds me of a leaner and shorter Malcolm Jenkins.
The main concern with Elder, is his size. He doesn’t have the ability to leap up for 50-50 balls like some of the other prospects and quarterbacks will often try to drop a ball in the bucket to a much bigger receiver. But in terms of a corner who can contribute in numerous facets and make a hit upon reception, there may be none better.
Elder may be one of the most refined cover corners in the Draft, but the Eagles desperately need guys who can hold their own on deep routes when it’s one-on-one. In time, his skill set could be adapted..but the question is, is it needed? The Nashville product hits with such tenacity and has such a nasty streak to his game, where it’s often easy to forget he’s just 5’10.
Elder gives 100% on every play. His motor just doesn’t give in and this leads to some sensational plays. Elder could come in and make an immediate impact on the Eagles special teams unit, but he could also become the perfect compliment to an outside corner where some extra pass rush help is needed, or the team need to set a tone. For a mid/late round draft pick, Elder could become one of the most exciting prospects on the roster if drafted.
Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports