From what I’ve seen thus far, this cornerback class is solid. I’ve watched quite a few corners and have given 1st round grades to 3 corners.
3. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St.
Gilbert has good size and an explosive first step. He’s clearly very comfortable in zone and he’ll probably run his 40 time in the 4.4s. He transitions very well in zone and has a great understanding of routes, often running the route for the WR. He has exceptional ball skills and piled up interceptions at Oklahoma St. He’s an okay tackler but has the size to improve in that area if he becomes a bit more aggressive.. Gilbert has the highest floor of the corners I’ve watched because of his size and comfort in zone. I would be surprised if he wasn’t at least a starting zone corner in the NFL. So what’s not to like? Well, his hips look a bit tight at times and he’ll sometimes lose a step when the receiver gets out of his break, particularly on slants. This is something you don’t see from the two corners I have ahead of him. He also has the tendency to concede catches underneath, though this is likely a function of the scheme he played in. I’d still be happy taking him in the latter part of the first round. He reminds me some of a more fluid David Amerson. Note that Gilbert’s senior tape is significantly better than Amerson’s last season at NC State.
2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St.
Dennard has decent height at 5’11” and is built well. He’s an incredibly fluid athlete, and flips his hips with ease. QB’s clearly respect him and ignore his side of the field for long stretches. He’s a savvy player; impressive at knocking the ball loose as the WR pulls the catch into his body. He mirrors receivers better than Gilbert. His speed and explosion are question marks. He looks fairly ordinary in both departments, and will need to run well at the combine to ease teams’ concerns. Keep in mind, he was burned very rarely in college. Dennard is fully aware of his lack of elite speed, and grabs frequently at all levels of the field. In fact, he grabs more than any corner I’ve seen. He’ll have to prove to teams that he doesn’t need to grab. Dennard is easier for teams to project because he presses much more than most college corners, and excels in this area.
1. Jason Verrett, TCU
Jason Verrett has easily been my favorite player to watch thus far. At 5’10”, he is shorter than ideal, but he’s very aggressive and plays tall. He’s much stronger in man than Gilbert is. He is handsy at times, but he sticks to his receiver and has excellent feet. He’s a very fluid athlete and has great straight-line speed. I expect him to run his 40 in the 4.4s. He plays the ball extremely well and racks up pass deflections. In the game against Oklahoma St, I counted 3 negative plays, 2 of which were iffy pass interference calls. He didn’t get his head around a couple times down the field, but it doesn’t appear to be a chronic issue. Against Baylor, he essentially pitched a shutout, with the exception of one 10 yard pass that the WR bodied him up on. He’s a very willing tackler and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the running game. He will certainly miss some tackles because of his size, but he’s a confident player and he doesn’t waste a step very often.
The main knock on him is his height. 5’10” is a common cutoff for teams. If he measures in at 5’9 ½”, he could certainly slip. A corner under 5’10” hasn’t been selected in the first round since 2006, when the Rams took Tye Hill. Verrett is the best pure cover corner I have watched. I think hes worth a top 20 pick, but I would expect him to fall a bit further because of his size. He compares favorably to the Rams’ Janoris Jenkins, the 39th pick in the 2012 draft. Verrett is a bit lighter than Jenkins, but he is more disciplined and doesn’t squat on routes as frequently as Jenkins does. They have very similar movement skills and tenacity.