NFL Draft: Ranking the top 20 cornerbacks who best fit the Eagles part 4 (Positions 5-1)

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So, here it is. The final part of this year’s top 20 cornerback rankings in which we break down the top 5 best fits for the Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s draft. If you’ve missed any of the previous parts, don’t panic..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

https://phillysportsnetwork.com/2017/04/22/39316/

But if you just want to get straight to the rankings so far, we have you covered too:

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

10: Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
9: Sidney Jones, Washington
8: Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
7: Quincy Wilson, Florida
6: Tre’Davious White, LSU

And for the final time this series, here’s the criteria I’m using to analyze and grade the deepest cornerback class in recent history:

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.”

 

5: Marlon Humphrey, Alabama:
Projected round: 1

One of the Crimson Tide’s most renowned cornerbacks from the last few seasons, Marlon Humphrey enters the draft after a strong 2016 season that saw him break up five passes and intercept two. The 6’0, 197 lbs corner may be among the most physical and the most durable in the class. Starting all 15 games as a freshman en route to 45 tackles and 3 more picks, Humphrey’s domineering nature made life incredibly difficult for opposing quarterbacks and wideouts alike.

With a strong base, Humphrey also brings with him a lot of athleticism. A 4.41 40-yard dash saw his stock begin to creep up into the heart of the first round..with the tape showing plenty of burst on intermediate routes when it comes to leaping over receivers on curls and undercutting passes.

What really stands out most about Humphrey is his aggression. A pupil of the notorious Nick Saban school of Defense, Humphrey is ruthless..especially in press. He drives receivers off-route and forces them to walk the tightrope down the sideline..it’s a trait common in most of the receivers in the last two editions of this series, but it’s most prominent in the game of Humphrey.

He’s also an incredibly strong tackler. Able to beat blocks on screen looks, stop running backs with ease and make big hits, Humphrey is a big play corner..forcing three fumbles in 2016 alone.

The downside with Humphrey, and the reason he isn’t ranked higher than the next two in this list..is that he can struggle with the Eagles biggest weakness in 2016, defending the long ball. Averaging more than 19 yards per reception when targeted, Humphrey’s aggression can come back to haunt him if he overshoots when defending. In coverage, he relies a little too much on his athleticism to bail him out of tough situations..which can lead to some missed tackles or more often than not, blown coverages as his desire to make a play overrides his natural instincts and play diagnosis.

Humphrey has the makings of a dominant press corner..but with his main weakness matching what the Eagles are so desperate to improve, his fit in Philly is somewhat weakened.

 

 

4: Kevin King, Washington:
Projected round: 1

If it’s a long cornerback that the Eagles want, King may be the answer. At 6’3, 200 lbs, King has a rare frame for an outside corner..with athleticism to match. A 4.43 40-yard dash gives him the speed to close off routes, while his heigh  speaks for itself in jumpball situations.

The most staggering stat of King’s career? Allowing just one score in his last 101 targets. A relaxed press corner who has beautiful footwork and the frame to ensure he doesn’t get bullied off the line, King is simply a nightmare due to his physical traits.

The downside is that he isn’t the most aggressive corner..in press..or in will to tackle. He tends to rely on his incredibly crisp mirroring and instincts to win routes..which could translate to a few problems at the next level. King plays the player more than he plays the ball. With 6 career picks, his hands saw some easy picks batted away instead in 2016.

In terms of a will to tackle, he lacks the ideal upper body strength needed to be dominant on that front..and in that regard he reminds me of a MUCH more polished and impressive Teez Tabor. However, the Eagles need certainty at the position and while it’s highly likely that King goes on to have a very strong career, I personally feel that in comparison to the other cornerbacks who will be available in that first-second round window..the Eagles could get more bang for their buck given their very specific needs.

3: Chdiobe Awuzie, Colorado:
Projected round: 1-2

Of all the corners who are projected to go in the first round, Awuzie is by far my favorite. It’s no coincidence that one of my favorite corners in the entire draft is his teammate, Ahkello Witherspoon. There’s arguably no better fit for the Jim Schwartz Defense than Awuzie.

He wins at the start of his routes and while he has the speed to keep up with receivers, his specialty lies in tackling and knocking balls loose. As a freshman, he made 59 tackles and broke up 4 passes. One year later, he led the team with 64 tackles before suffering an injury in practice. Next season, he amassed 90 tackles from the nickel spot, as well as four sacks, 10 pass breakups and two picks. A sterling 2016 went hand in hand with his career to date and if he plays alongside a dinner cornerback, he could be the perfect weapon to combat multi-dimensional offenses.

With an ability to play in the slot or hold his own outside, the versatility of Awuzie would be a huge asset to a team that is looking to build a young corps that can help unleash the pass rush. Playing four positions on the back end in his college career (free-safety, Strong-Safety, outside Corner, and nickel), Awuzie has developed into a playmaker who has great top end speed to cover faster WR’s and would easily become a strong option for the Birds’ defense.

So why Awuzie over any of the cornerbacks listed so far? He’s a true press corner. His directional changes and footwork remind me of Patrick Robinson of the Eagles, while his ability to disrupt routes at the line are reminiscent of the style of play injected into the DNA of Darius Slay by Jim Schwartz previously.

His backpedalling and burst mean he’s able to pick up slants and shorter routes with ease, undercutting them and forcing incompletions. He’s got an incredible spring when bouncing back onto a receiver and given not only his versatility, but his success across the secondary..it’s almost like the perfect Eagles cornerback mold.

Awuzie is one of the few breakfast cornerbacks on this list..and thats a skill set, along with some hard hits and special teams resilience, that the Eagles could really benefit from.

 

2: Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Projected round: 1

The second Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback projected to go in the first round, Conley has largely been under the shadow of Marshon Lattimore, whom many consider to be the top cornerback prospect this year. While Lattimore may dazzle and cement his place inside the top 10, Conley’s style of play is more suited to the Birds’, while Lattimore is the more polished prospect.

At 6’0, 195 lbs, Conley is a longer cornerback who has an impressive frame. It’s all well and good having length, but knowing how to use it can be the difference between a corner who bounces around the league, and one who goes on to sign a monster deal with Washington after a Super Bowl appearance.

Conley ended his final year as a Buckeye with 26 tackles, four picks and eight pass breakups. Where his strengths lie however, are where the Eagles desperately need them. Allowing just a 37% completion rate when targeted, Conley defines a press-coverage specialist. With a wide stance at the line, he’s able to jam efficiently and mirroropposing routes stride for stride.

Unlike Marlon Humphrey, Conley is almost a culmination of the strengths of every corner listed so far. A true dinner cornerback who feasts at the top of routes, the spatial awareness, mixed with a methodical style of play is his biggest asset. While some corners either panic, or show lapses in concentration and slow reaction times..Conley plays with such a mental calmness, that even though his play is aggressive and his footwork is incredibly finesse, you can see the motivation behind each and every stride..and the calculations going on behind the visor to dissect plays. He stays light on his feet and uses an athletic build to drape corners in man-coverage, while changing direction effortlessly in breaking routes or cover situations.

Conley would be a welcome addition to the Eagles Defense and even though his tackling can be sporadic at times, like Jalen Mills, he has the instincts to drive for the ball and make a big hit. In the shadow of Lattimore, Conley could fall snugly into the laps of the Eagles at 14. There’s only one thing stopping Conley from being ranked number one on this list..and that’s his former teammate.

 

 

1: Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
Projected round: 1

Lattimore quite simply is the best cornerback in this years draft, period. If he’s somehow on the board when the Eagles are on the clock (stranger things have happened), then it’s an absolute no-brainer. The former Buckeye is an incredible athlete, with a 6’0, 193 lbs, frame to match. Of the 35 times he was targeted last season, 14 passes were defensed and 4 were picked off.

What really stands out about Lattimore is his quickness. Not in terms of backpedalling or going toe-to-toe with a receiver, but laterally. His burst and Ballerina esque’ footwork reminds me of a cover linebacker with the frame and finesse of a cornerback. He hits like a linebacker and wraps up tackles beautifully, but is able to get from one side of the field to the other incredibly quickly due to his 4.35 40-yard dash time.

Lattimore is simply starter-ready. Armed with a strong punch at the line of scrimmage and the upper-boddy strength to hold his nerve on an island during the steam of complex routes, he’s simply lethal at times. His agility and sheer ball skills make him the most explosive cornerback weapon in the draft..and one the Eagles shouldn’t hesitate in taking should the dream opportunity arise.

 

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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