Eagles Draft: 6 cornerback options that could interest Philadelphia

Howie Roseman
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 24: Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman is pictured during the National Football League game between the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles on November 24, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

Cornerback might not be the dire position of need that it was prior to free agency. The Eagles addressed it in a big way when they handed James Bradberry a three-year contract, then worked out an extension for Darius Slay. They might have the best cornerback tandem in the NFL heading into the 2023 season.

That’s a debate for another day. Let’s dig into the possibility of the Eagles potentially targeting a young cornerback in this year’s draft. You can never have too many quality cover guys in the pass-happy NFL, including future starters on the outside. For the record: Slay turns 33 in January; Bradberry turns 30 in August. Retooling and rebuilding with youthful depth is always on Eagles GM Howie Roseman’s mind. He’s sure to be sifting through his rigorous notes on one of the most talented cornerback classes in recent memory.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is pictured prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles on October 14, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

If the Eagles want to pick one in the first round, the best bet is Joey Porter Jr. out of Penn State. Most draft experts have him pegged as the third-best cornerback in the class, including ESPN’s Todd McShay who thinks he might be the best press-cover corner. His size (6-foot-2 1/2, 193 pounds) makes him a matchup nightmare, like his linebacker dad out there on the outside locking up receivers.

“Joey Porter is not quite as smooth in coverage as [Christian] Gonzalez, he’s a little bit inconsistent with his gap discipline, and sometimes will get himself out of position but man, if you’re playing a Cover 3, even Cover 1, and looking for press cover corners, Joey Porter Jr. from Penn State is your guy,” McShay told reporters on a national conference call. “He is tall, 6-2 1/2, 193 pounds, 34-inch arms … when you have the size of a left tackle out at cornerback, it allows you to re-route receivers, get physical, really stunt their stem as a receiver. And then he’s got the top-end speed.”

5 Sleepers for Eagles Should They Pass On Joey Porter Jr.

1. Darius Rush, South Carolina: All the attention has been on his teammate Cam Smith, but the 6-foot-2, 198-pounder certainly has a chance to be the steal of the draft. The converted high school receiver sat on the bench to start his college career before becoming a two-year starter. One selling point is his speed (4.36 seconds in the 40); another is his impressive ball skills: 3 interceptions, 15 pass breakups in 23 games. Projection: Round 3.

2. Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford: The tape screams athleticism, thanks to a jaw-dropping 36-inch vertical and 10’11” broad jump stemming from his background as a champion long jumper in high school. He dominates receivers at the point of attack, rising up to contest tough catches and using his hands as disruptive weapons. Further, Kelly is a versatile player who can plays man or zone coverage. Outside or slot. Which would greatly benefit the Eagles. Projection: Round 4.

3. Starling Thomas V, UAB: The undersized corner (5-foot-10, 194) made a name for himself at the East-West Shrine Bowl playing under Bill Belichick. He stuck to Liberty receiver Demario Douglas like glue, drawing praise from everyone in attendance during coverage drills while flashing a hyper-competitive spirit. Thomas allowed only 257 yards and 22 catches on 58 targets in 2022 with 9 pass breakups, per Pro Football Focus. Projection: Round 5.

4. Mekhi Blackmon, USC: Another guy known for his ability to challenge receivers vertically, a sticky cover corner who likes to rake at the football. The 5-foot-11, 178-pounder had 3 interceptions and 12 pass breakups in 2022, plus 66 total tackles after transferring from Colorado. He tends to get handsy which could be either a blessing (jamming receivers) or a curse (pass interference flags) in the NFL. Should the Eagles take the risk? Projection: Round 5.

5. Cameron Brown, Ohio State: Injuries were his downfall in college, including a season-ending Achilles tendon tear in 2020 and season-ending leg injury in 2018. He was playing at 75% for much of his college career. Still, Brown earned All-Big Ten Conference honors in 2021 after registering 24 tackles, 7 pass break-ups and 1 interception. When healthy, he’s a physical corner and good tackler in run support which the Eagles need. Big risk? Yes. Bigger reward? Maybe. Projection: Round 7.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire