NFL Draft: Ranking the top 20 cornerbacks who best fit the Eagles part 3 (Positions 10-6)

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After breaking down and analyzing positions 20-11, it’s now time to venture into the top 10 cornerbacks whom I believe best fit the Eagles. If you’ve missed the first two articles, you can check them out here..

NFL Draft: Ranking the top 20 cornerbacks who best fit the Eagles part 1

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

..but if you don’t have time to sift through the analysis, here are the ranking so far:

20: Jaylen Myrick, Minnesota
19: Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
18: Channing Stribling, Michigan
17: Corn Elder, Miami
16: Damontae Kazee, San Diego State
15: Fabian Moreau, UCLA
14: Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
13: Teez Tabor, Florida
12: Adoree Jackson, USC
11: Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

If you’re new to this series, it’s worth noting that this is not a ranking based on talent alone. It takes into account schematic fit, player traits and other qualities that will define their fit in Philadelphia. Here’s a brief overview of what I take into account when watching the tape:

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.”

So, with that cleared up..it’s time for the penultimate part in the series:

 

10: Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
Projected round: 3-4

A staple of Clemson’s pass defense, Cordrea Tankersley may be one of the best press corners in this draft..to a point. The 6’1 corner who can run a 4.4 40-yard dash has the frame to be disruptive on deep looks..and he is.

Tankersley proved time and time again that he can be a great boundary corner. His long reach saw him haul in four interceptions and leading the team with 11 passes defensed during the 2016 season, following up a season in which he led the team with five picks.

When it comes to coverage, Tankersley is everything you want. Aggressive, strong, and an unrelenting motor. There’s nothing that makes you smile more than seeing a cornerback completely blanket his receiver and force him to tip-toe down the sideline, forcing the quarterback to make a pinpoint throw..and it’s one of the strongest asset of the former All-ACC honoree’s game.

So why isn’t he ranked higher? Tackling. If there’s one aspect of defense that stung the Eagles time and time again in their secondary, it’s tackling. If you played “The Ace of Spades” over a compilation of Ron Brooks and Nolan Carroll tackle attempts, you’d understand what I’m saying. It almost became reckless at times..and Tankersley shows the same weakness.

The other issue is that mechanically he can look a little slow to pick up breaks and curls and isn’t always the most reliable in cover situations as he spends too much time waiting for the play to come to him..and by the time he’s made his move, the play is 10-yards behind him.

These are coachable things..and a long, strong frame with some brilliant press coverage abilities see Tankersley as a great fit for the Eagles..but not quite the best.

 

9: Sidney Jones, Washington
Projected round: 2

By now, you all know the name, Sidney Jones. If it wasn’t for a heartbreaking leg injury during his pro day, the Washington corner would be a first round pick, period. But the reality is that a torn Achilles is more than just a bump in the road..and there’s no guarantee that his ceiling will be as high as it was coming off of a stunning final season.

In his sophomore season, Jones led the pac-12 in pass breakups with 12, intercepting 4 and showing his strength as a tackler, forcing three fumbles. One year later, he would pick off another three passes as well as breaking up a further six..being named first-team All-Pac 12 in the process.Jones has a firm punch at the line of scrimmage when initiating bump-and-run coverage and has incredible spatial awareness. Using the sideline to is advantage and having a second sense for incoming passes, Jones sticks to players like glue in press and can mirror and match with the very best in this year’s class.

At 6’0, 186 lbs, Jones isn’t intimidated by opposing wideouts and has the vertical reach to challenge every pass. Combine this with some impressive play recognition and what you have is a well rounded corner with shutdown potential.  So why is he ranked so low?

It’s not really to do with the injury either..as much as that does hold him back. Jones can be a little over instinctive at times..leading to him anticipating how plays are going to pan out and acting on that instinct as oppose to what the receiver is doing. This can at times lead to scrappy play and a lot of overzealous arm reaching, giving receivers an edge. When you combine these mild inconsistencies with the fact that his career does realistically have a different outlook, the once cemented fit in Philadelphia has become a little less concrete.

 

8: Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Projected round: 3

At 6’3, 205 LBs, Witherspoon has the frame that Schwartz appears to covet in his cornerbacks. The team also desparately need guys who are comfortable on an island and can hold their own in press coverage. Witherspoon ticks all of the boxes and more.

After allowing 37 receptions on 60 targets and giving up 526 yards in addition to three touchdowns in 2015, Witherspoon bounced back in 2016 only allowing 28 receptions on 88 targets for 411 yards and two touchdowns.

The strongest part of Witherspoon’s game is his ability to jump up and bat passes down. A true dinner cornerback, he was able to swat away 17 in his two seasons as a starter with 14 coming alone in 2016. The jump Witherspoon made in 2016 only shines a light on his overall potential and commitment to improving each season. A willing tackler and a corner who isn’t afraid to get down and dirty in the run game, Witherspoon could end up being the steal of this historic cornerback class here in the third-round.

Witherspoon may be among my favorite cornerbacks in this draft. When discussing Teez Tabor, many point to the emphatic PFF stats that continue to do the rounds. In 2016, the percentage of passes thrown in Witherspoon’s direction that were completed? 26.5%. He also tied for second in the country with 20 pass defenses.

If the Eagles draft one of the top corners in the first two rounds, a dinner corner who can thrive at the point of the tack, make up lost ground when beaten in man-coverage and has the tenacity to contribute in every facet of the game, would be the perfect compliment. His fit is near perfect..and his talent is undeniable.

 

 

7: Quincy Wilson, Florida
Projected round: 2-3

This may be the most polarizing picks in this list, but if you’re going to pick a cornerback from Florida..it HAS to be Quincy Wilson. My liking of Wilson didn’t actually start intentionally. When studying the game tape for Teez Tabor, the holes in his game turned out to be strengths of Wilson..and whenever I was looking at Tabor fly off the screen as the camera zooms in on the ball, Wilson was always the corner ensuring his presence is felt nearby.

At 6’1, 211 lbs, Wilson is arguably the prototypical Jim Schwartz cornerback. In 2016, Wilson amassed three picks and six pass breakups..but more crucially had 3.5 tackles for a loss. A stat that shows the versatility and aggression in Wilson’s game, able to dissect the run, push off wideouts and even blitz in certain situations.

What I love most about Wilson is his sheer swagger. He may not be the fastest cornerback in the draft, but his physical strength and long arms mean he can keep receivers at a distance before slamming into them like a magnet in press situations. He anticipates breaks well and is incredibly vocal on the field. He can play with his back to the ball at times and tends to get handsy at the end of routes.

This is really where the negatives start to weigh in. Despite the great size, he isn’t as athletic as some of the other corners in this Draft, Tabor included. As a result, he relies on that dog-like mentality to win the play..which draws a lot of attention from players and refs alike. His footwork can get clumsy at times and on routes designed to draw corners away from the inside, his reactions can feel off at times.

Even so, in comparison to Tabor, Wilson is by far the more well rounded prospect. A hard-hitter, who never backs down from a challenge and competed on every single play..Wilson is one of the few corners who just constantly surrounds the ball. Whether it’s a run, QB scramble or a deep route on the other side of the field, Wilson has the hustle to get there and help make a play..and for that reason alone, he ranks higher than Tabor in my opinion.

 

6: Tre’Davious White, LSU
Projected round: 2

If it’s a secure tackler that the Eagles want, then it’s the former teammate of Jalen Mills who may be the best option on the outside. Over the last two seasons, Tre’Davious White has emerged as a true shutdown corner for the Tigers. Being used as both an outside corner and in the slot, his lean frame has helped him keep up with some of the biggest receivers in the game, including the likes of Amari Cooper.

In 2016, White defended 15 passes out of the 42 that were thrown his way and like Reuben Foster, his aggression has been a trait that has been subject to praise and criticism. There is no denying his production however. Over his four year career, White racked up 167 tackles, with 111 being solo. That may not sound like a big deal but if we compare that to what Jim Schwartz covets in a corner, it speaks volumes. Combine that with his six picks and a forced fumble..and the numbers do all the talking.

While his frame may see him experience some of the same flaws that Jalen Mills endured during 2016, he may be one of the best mirror corners in the draft. Impressive footwork, patient play and a quick recovery time make him one of the most dangerous “dinner” cornerbacks in his class. White’s fluid style of play combined with a tenacious attitude make him the perfect fit in the Eagles 4-3 scheme.

If that wasn’t enticing enough, White was also used as both a gunner and a punt-returner..with a return touchdown in every year throughout his career..and we all know how valuable special teams are to the Eagles.

 

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

 

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