NFL Draft: Ranking the top 20 cornerbacks who best fit the Eagles part 2

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After taking a closer look at the first five cornerbacks who would best fit the Eagles in next week’s NFL Draft, it’s time to rank our next five. If you missed yesterday’s piece, you can check out the full version here. But to save some time, here are the rankings so far:

20: Jayen Myrick, Minnesota
19: Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
18: Channing Stribling, Michigan
17: Corn Elder, Miami
16: Damontae Kazee, San Diego State

The next five names in this list are where things begin to get interesting..as there are some players who you would expect to be much higher. As a reminder, here is an important factor to take into account when reading the piece. The grading criteria for these rankings aren’t based on talent alone;

“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.”

 

15: Fabian Moreau, UCLA
Projected round: 3-4

With great size and speed, Moreau has all the intangibles to be a great player one day. A willing tackler and very physical with WR’s, you can see how he would fit the Schwartz system. His 6’0, 206 lbs, frame is thick enough to ensure he can hold his own when on an island..something reenforced by a 2016 season in which he led the Bruins in pass breakups with 10.

Athletically, Moreau is incredibly gifted as a former running back..but due to the short amount of time played at corner, there’s still a lot to learn. His technique is raw and isn’t as fluid as some of the higher ranked corners in this list, especially when changing direction or adjusting after being beaten off the line. His ball tracking skills are similar to that of Jalen Mills during his opening few games as an Eagle..and it’s a coachable weakness, but one that could harm his high draft stock. Penalties have also been an issue..along with some scrappy hands at the top of route trees in 50-50 plays.

It’s those reasons why Moreau is ranked arguably a little lower than he should be. An injury setback didn’t help this, but his confident bounce back a year later helped send the right message. Just as things were looking up, the Bruin suffered a torn pectoral muscle during his pro day..lowering his stock once again.

For me, there’s just too many question marks surrounding Moreau for a mid-round pick..and the Eagles have some far more attractive options in that region, ones we will dive into shortly.

 

14: Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
Projected round: 2-3

Ranking Lewis 14th on this list may seem criminal, but as aforementioned, this is about far more than just talent..and there just so happens to be a plethora of first/second round prospects that are perhaps a little more refined than the former Wolverine.

Lewis is an incredibly likable cornerback. He attacks every play with a nasty demeanor and isn’t afraid to hit opposing players. In press coverage, he may be one of the most disruptive corners in the draft. Out of the 75 times he was targeted, Lewis only allowed 36.6%  to be completed, according to Pro Football Focus.

With 37 career pass breakups at Michigan, 20 of which coming in his senior year, it’s clear that Lewis certainly has a very high upside. The downside, is his size. Although he plays much bigger than his 5’10, 188 lbs frame and far more tenacious, when trying to contribute in the run game he can often end up being stopped comfortably by wideouts. This has forced questions of being a pure slot corner to arise.

Then there are the penalties. With 14 career flags and eight PI calls, Lewis is aggressive, but he can get a little panicky toward the end of the route, knowing he doesn’t have the frame to go up and make a clean play on the ball. The Eagles suffered a lot of penalty setbacks in years past and more flags would hurt the Jim Schwartz Defense.

He has the mental traits that fit exactly what the Eagles are looking for, but with Mills and Brooks potentially already having their mark on the slot position, not to mention an ideal candidate in Patrick Robinson, the ceiling of what Lewis could produce in Philadelphia begins to weaken.

In terms of a player to root for, there may be no better candidate to stand behind..as his “chip-on-the-shoulder” mentality shines through in every play. As a press corner, he’s incredibly instinctive and can blanket wideouts at the line. But with the few concerns he does have aloft his head, the fit in Philly just doesn’t feel as strong in comparison to some of the other names on the list.

 

 

13: Teez Tabor, Florida
Projected round: 2-3

Public outrage in 3..2…1.. I genuinely do not see the hype with Teez Tabor. If you want a more in-depth analysis as to why, you can check out my film-room piece here.

Don’t get me wrong, Tabor is an incredibly gifted cornerback. Over the last three seasons, his nine interceptions, 23 pass breakups, and two touchdowns allowed certainly back that up. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed an NFL passer rating of just 41.2 during that span. To put that in perspective, the rating for throwing a ball in the dirt every play is 39.6.

From his exceptional ball skills, to the angles he takes and the strong punch in press coverage, Tabor is a solid cornerback..but the few holes in his game in my opinion, where the “eye in the sky never lies” stand out all too prominently.

The reason he sits so low on this list isn’t even to do with his slow 40-yard dash time, which saw his stock plummet in the weeks following the combine and his pro day. He’s simply not a schematic fit with the Eagles.

Tabor is a corner who in a cover system could easily have the same ceiling as someone like Marcus Peters. But in a system where Man-coverage and aggression is the name of the game, that ceiling will be limited. He isn’t a willing tackler and when he does fly in for a collision, the tackles are often sporadic..very reminiscent of what we see from Ron Brooks on a regular basis.

Tabor almost appears to avoid getting involved in the run game, instead jogging to the outside or over the top of the field when running backs head his way until somebody else comes in to clean up.

There is no denying that Tabor is one of the top cornerback prospects in this year’s draft, a physical playmaker with a sky-high ceiling..but he isn’t a schematic fit for an Eagles Defense that demands more than a dinner cornerback.

 

12: Adoree Jackson, USC
Projected round: 2

Jackson may be among the most athletic players in the entire NFL Draft. At 5’10, 186 lbs, the USC standout was a weapon on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball during his college career, receiving for 628 yards and 6 scores, while showing his prowess as a corner in 2016. 55 tackles, 5 picks and 4 special teams return touchdowns not only show the versatility of Jackson..but just how lethal can be.

His scintillating speed is backed up with a driven work ethic that can be seen countless times on tape as he chases down running backs and makes a saving tackle. He’s able to recover extremely well if beaten early in press looks and has fluid hips when changing direction. Jackson’s greatest strength may be his ball skills. Some big athletic leaps matched with impressive instincts make him a threat to any passing attempt, but he is forced to rely on those traits due to his size.

Like several of the corners listed here, Jackson is a little undersized for an outside corner at 5’10. The Eagles crave a longer corner who can drape receivers at the line and disrupt the early steps of a route, whereas Jackson’s skill set is a little more reliant on making up the lost ground. He has a tendency to allow receivers inside a little too easily, which if working in the slot isn’t the biggest concern in the world.

The problem here is that there are better suited corners in this round and above..and a lot of them. Jackson may be the most superior athlete of all the corners listed..and among the most dynamic, but there are genuine concerns over his length and frame which at the next level, the Eagles can’t afford to gamble on. Jackson may be the player who shows that size at cornerback really doesn’t matter..but at the same time, the Eagles need certainty..and Jackson doesn’t bring that.

 

11: Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
Projected round: 3

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..and seems better equipped to be an impact player under Jim Schwartz in my opinion than  the corners listed above.

 

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

 

 

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