Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top five cornerbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft.
2013 Top Cornerbacks
This is by far the deepest position group in this year’s NFL Draft. Obviously we don’t know how the first round will shake out, but if some projections are to come to fruition, there should be a large number of quality cornerbacks in the middle-to-later rounds of the draft. For the defensive backs, I have created an impact plays formula that takes into consideration INT, PB, FF, TFL, sacks, times targeted, yards given up and opponents’ success rate. This is always one of the more difficult positions to quantify, based on the fact that if a player is a shutdown corner, more than likely an opponent will avoid him. Below are the top five cornerbacks in this year’s draft class.
1. Xavier Rhodes (Florida State): Xavier Rhodes is a big, physical corner who is starting to learn the finer details of being a complete shutdown defensive back. Because of his 6’2”, 220 lb frame, Florida State opponents avoided his side of the field.
On average, Rhodes was challenged roughly six times per game, while opponents only completed roughly three of those passes. Showcasing great technique, he consistently uses the sideline as another defender, squeezing his man towards the sidelines and taking away any open field. On jump balls, Rhodes shows his tremendous athletic ability by extending his whole body to make incredible pass deflections.
He should be able to match up against the bigger wideouts in one-on-one coverage with no help over the top. This will be a useful asset for any defensive coordinator once opposing offenses get into the red zone, where Rhodes can take away an opponent’s fade route.
In 44 career games, Rhodes had eight INT, one forced fumble, six TFL and 23 pass breakups. With teams avoiding his side of the field and rarely challenging him, his opportunities to make plays were minimal. For his career, he had 57 impact plays, a per-game average of 1.3.
NFL teams are always looking for size in the defensive backfield, so Rhodes will most likely be a top-15 pick.
2. DJ Hayden (Houston): Hayden suffered a torn inferior vena cava in early November, an injury more commonly seen in fatal car accidents. He has made great progress with his recovery, even competing in his school’s Pro Day and posting a sub 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. Most teams are going to be scared off by that injury, but Hayden is still rehabbing and playing into shape. He lost over 25 pounds during his injury ordeal, and it will take some time to fully heal and regain his form.
When healthy, Hayden was a complete shutdown corner, who had the fight and tenacity to battle against anyone. Playing against some stiff competition in the early part of the season, Hayden had a unique knack for always being around the football and making plays.
He doesn’t lack confidence or the work ethic to get down and dirty. He seemingly relishes contact, is aggressive, lowers his shoulder and is a reliable tackler on the outside.
In 22 games played, Hayden had six forced fumbles, 9.5 TFL and 19 pass breakups. A ball hawk on the outside, he had six INT, with 229 career INT return yards and three of those INT returned for TDs. He had a career total of 73.5 impact plays. He had the highest impact-plays-per-game average of any defensive back in the draft at 3.34.
3. Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State): The Mississippi State Bulldogs’ pass defense was led by their ball-hawking defensive back, Johnthan Banks, who had 16 career interceptions.
Most teams tended to shied away from Banks, only throwing his direction on average 4.8 times a game last season. A key strength of his is reading QBs. Banks will break his coverage responsibility and jump in front of the wide receiver for a chance at the ball. A quality NFL quarterback will watch this habit and test him by running a pump-and-go route to see if he breaks on the fake.
Banks showed good strength when holding the edge on running plays and forcing the action back inside. Not necessarily a physical tackler, he is willing to put his head down, wrap up and wait for reinforcements.
He needs to work on his press coverage abilities; he tends to play off his man and doesn’t jam him at the line of scrimmage.
In 51 career games, Banks had 16 INT, five forced fumbles and 26 pass breakups. He had the highest number of career impact plays with 113.5. His impact-plays-per-game average was 2.23, the fourth highest amongst all defensive backs.
4. Jamar Taylor (Boise State): The best press cover corner in the draft, Taylor already possesses elite ability to get up on the line and jam his opponents. He can line up on the outside or cover the slot receiver, and he has experience playing in both man coverages and zone coverages.
Taylor is able to quickly get in and out of his breaks. He’s a fundamentally sound player who stays tight to his man and doesn’t give up a lot of space and a physical player who can re-route an opponent with his hands. Taylor does have a tendency to want to take a peek back and can get caught flat-footed.
In 48 career games, Taylor had seven INT, six FF and 18 pass break ups; he’s tied for second most career sacks of any defensive back in the class with four. He had 74 career impact plays, an average of 1.54 impact plays per game.
NFL teams are always looking for a corner who can play man-to-man on the outside, which would give a defensive coordinator the flexibility to mix coverages and schemes. Though not a burner, Taylor can run stride-for-stride with some of the fastest wideouts in the country.
Taylor came on strong this season, battling back from a leg injury that cut his season short last year. With seven career INTs and 18 PBU, Taylor is a physical corner who is capable of shutting down his side of the field. Scouts have graded Taylor as a fourth- or fifth-round selection.
He will most likely step in and play the nickel position in his rookie year. Given some time to develop, he should become a quality starting defensive back in the NFL.
5. David Amerson (N.C. State): Most defensive backs would be happy with five interceptions in one season, but for David Amerson, that resulted in a more than 50 percent drop from his junior year. At 6‘1” and 205 lbs, he has the length and size to jam and disrupt his opponents coming off the line of scrimmage.
During the season, he was targeted on average nine times a game, and opponents completed roughly 5.7 passes against him throughout the season. Rarely did you see him get up on the line of scrimmage and play bump-and-run coverage. He tends to play off his man, giving his opponent a ten-yard cushion on most downs.
With his size and speed (4.35 40-yard dash), he rarely lets a ball get over his head. He can shut down a team’s top target in the red zone.
Amerson is slow coming in and out of his breaks, so he is consistently beat on the short and deep out routes. He needs to work on his tackling. Against Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl, he missed on four tackles; failing to wrap up is his biggest issue. Opponents tended to throw quick bubble screens in his direction, taking advantage of his soft coverage and poor tackling.
For all his faults, there is no denying his ability to be a ball hawk on the outside. He has both the ability and the experience to match up against the top wideouts. In 39 career games, he had 18 INT, one FF and 17 PB. He had 86 career impact plays, an average of 2.21 impact plays per game.
He could end up being converted to a safety to take advantage of his ability to read quarterbacks and make a play on the ball. He has experience on special teams, too, which will allow him to get some early playing time and experience.
Best of the Rest:
6. Dee Milliner (Alabama): Career impact plays 73: Impact plays per game average 1.87
7. Jordan Poyer (Oregon State): Career impact plays 87: Impact plays per game average 1.78
8. Will Davis (Utah State): Career impact plays 49: Impact plays per game average 1.88
9. Nigel Malone (Kansas State): Career impact plays 61: Impact plays per game average 2.35
10. Logan Ryan (Rutgers): Career impact plays 74: Impact plays per game average 2.00
2013 NFL Draft Content Schedule: