It’s no secret that the Eagles are in desperate need of a cornerback. After parting ways with Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll, the Eagles will once again enter the NFL season with a new tandem of defensive backs. With Jalen Mills the sole remaining piece from 2016, he will be joined by Patrick Robinson and CFL standouts Aaron Grymes and Mitchell White. The Birds’ need depth and a true playmaker if they are to avoid encountering the same hurdles they faced in 2016, a season in which they allowed more passes of 20+ yards than any team in the NFL.
The good news is that the upcoming draft class is historic when it comes to cornerbacks. The depth is simply astounding. With starting caliber talent available readily through the opening three rounds of the draft, with developmental and rotational guys available even later..it’s a dream scenario for the Eagles. But the question is, who should they pick? This series will rank the top 20 best fits for the Eagles secondary.
Before we start though, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t represent how I grade their overall talent. The list is ranked purely on how I envision the corner in question fitting with the Eagles. But what does that mean?
The Eagles crave a long corner who can match up with the more physically imposing wideouts of the NFL, especially considering the stature of Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr and Dez Bryant among others, whom they will face twice a year. Not only that, but they need corners who are comfortable in press coverage and can hold their own when on an island.
Cover corners are great, but the Eagles were one of the worst graded teams against deep passes in the NFL last year..and that’s not without consequence. Towards the end of last season, the pass rush was stung painfully by the defensive backs giving up too much leverage in the early stages of the route. Offenses began to realize that they could take out the dominant front four with a string of rapid checkdowns as cornerbacks couldn’t stop the receivers shrugging them off or breaking over the middle. Screens, curls and comebacks all became staples of any offense facing the Eagles, meaning that the front four had even less time to penetrate through the O-Line.
A tall corner who can force wideouts onto the back foot, redirecting routes, diagnosing plays quickly and hitting hard would be a perfect prototype for the Eagles.
One last thing; Scheme matters. Remember Byron Maxwell? It’s a little ironic how once fleeing the nest, he was able to flash the potential in Miami that the Eagles demanded with such a daunting contract. Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to look at the first five corners on the list:
20. Jalen Myrick, Minnesota
Projected round: 4
If there’s one phrase that summarizes the skill set of Jalen Myrick, it’s “Dinner cornerback”. Leading the Gophers with 12 passes Defensed as a senior to go with his 41 tackles and 3.5 for a loss, Myrick is a strong corner who is able to mirror beautifully and stay close to receivers in the opening steps of the route in press coverage looks. His career hasn’t been the easiest path to follow, after he suffered a collapsed lung as a Junior. He would go on to climb his way back up the from a reserve corner, to one of the true leaders on that Minnesota Defense.
Myrick allowed just 39% of passes thrown his way to be completed over his last two seasons, showing tendencies of a true shutdown corner. One of the few concerns with the Minnesota product is that he tends to play the receiver a little too much. This leads in a few too many looks where his back is to the ball and ends up scrapping to make a play as a result. When you combine this with his slightly undersized frame of 5’10, 200 lbs, the ceiling for Myrick appears to be a slot corner.
A strong combine saw Myrick really get some buzz after an impressive senior year. The corner ran a 4.28 40-yard dash, which explains why only one of eighteen “Go-routes” thrown his way were completed. He’s extremely tough to run by.
If it’s a slot corner the Eagles want, someone who can contribute in the run game is imperative, as Malcolm Jenkins did time and time again when filling in for Ron Brooks. Six of Myrick’s 13 tackles were against running backs last year, which certainly says a lot about his play diagnosis and ability to wrap up running backs. However, he had shown a tendency finishing tackles at times, just as Ron Brooks has before him.
Myrick’s size and raw potential may place a slightly lower ceiling on his shoulders, but his burst and aggression may raise it enough to see him as the perfect “project corner” for Cory Undlin. Undlin loves tenacious corners who play with a chip on their shoulder and are willing to get in the faces of opponents. In terms of mid/late round fits, he could be a great fit for the Eagles, possessing the right skills and traits to develop into a rotational slot corner for a lacking Birds secondary.
19. Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
Projected round: 4-5
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, and 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.
18. Channing Stribling, Michigan
Projected round: 4-5
The Eagles crave a longer cornerback who plays with a lot of confidence and won’t get overwhelmed by some of the more physically dominant wideouts in the league. At 6’2 and 175 pounds, the first of two Michigan Wolverines on this list has the length to blanket bigger receivers and the build to hit like a Safety.
Stribling flew under the radar in 2016, largely due to names such as Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers stripping him of the spotlight. But that’s not to say that he was any less impressive. 11 pass defenses and 4 interceptions in 2016 topped a year which showed his versatility. Partner those stats with a sack, 3 tackles for a loss and 28 tackles, and what you have is a corner who can contribute in numerous facets of the game.
Stribling was a crucial part of the Woverlines defense that held opposing offenses to a stunningly low 135.9 yards per game. Stribling’s long frame often sees him draped over wideouts at the line, a trait that would be a welcome addition to the Eagles defensive backfield.
He uses the sideline to his advantage, forcing wideouts onto a tight rope and ensuring he has the inside line. The only downside in his game is his lack of upper body strength that can hurt on big plays. If he is beaten, he will often panic and use his hands, drawing penalties in the process. His mirroring isn’t as crisp as Patrick Robinson (who is beyond crisp), but these are coachable concerns and if he adds a little bulk to his frame, Stribling would be the perfect developmental corner to grow alongside Jalen Mills.
A willing tackler, hard hitter and confident press corner, Stribling would be of extreme value to the Eagles in the later rounds of the Draft.
17. Corn Elder, Miami
Projected round: 3-5
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.
16. Damontae Kazee, San Diego State
Projected round: 3-4
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 vision. 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 in the 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. A player who will be willing to prove himself on special teams, be aggressive in his tackling and fear nobody..Kazee is one of the most popular underdogs in this year’s draft class.
Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
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