The top of the draft has seen an increase in defensive backs taken, most notably cornerbacks. Having a shutdown corner has become a must for almost every NFL team as passing the ball becomes the norm. This year’s class could see as many as 4 corners gone in the first round and features pair of elite prospects.
- Vernon Hargreaves III: In my mind, Hargreaves is the best player in the draft. He has been Florida’s top corner since his freshman season, and has proven time and time again that he is the top corner in college. Hargreaves is extremely fluid with his hips and shows the ability to excel at both man and zone coverage. Hargreaves also has great intelligence, often knowing what receivers will run and where quarterbacks plan on going with the ball. The only real question mark is his size. He’s listed at 5’11 but most scouts say he is smaller. This will become a problem against the NFL’s bigger receivers, but Hargreaves positions himself very well and has an extremely high vertical with most people expecting it to come in above 40 inches.
- Jalen Ramsey: Ramsey, for most people, is the top defensive back. He has unquestioned success and a great skill set. He can play corner or safety at the next level, but since he played corner this season, that’s how I’ll evaluate him. Ramsey is great in press and messes receivers up from the start. His time at safety has also given him great instincts and made him phenomenal at zone coverage. What really makes Ramsey a great prospect, though, is his athleticism. He might be the fastest player on this list and he is a much stronger hitter than any of the other corners. Ramsey will come into the league with some raw flaws, but as he progresses, he could become an All-Pro caliber player.
- Mackensie Alexander: Alexander has much less experience than Ramsey and Hargreaves, but he could become just as good as both of them. He is extremely fast and doesn’t let receivers get by him due to great recovery speed. He excels in man coverage, but relies on his athletic abilities as opposed to technique too often. He will come into the NFL with some struggles, but as he gets accustomed to the difference in talent, he should become an elite player.
- Eli Apple: Apple is extremely similar to Mackensie Alexander. He is a younger player, leaving after only his redshirt sophomore year. He also relies on being a better athlete than his competition, and while that will be the same case in the NFL, it will lead to problems. What really hurts Apple from being a surefire first-rounder is his struggles in zone coverage. He can cover a zone, but struggles understanding concepts and tends to get lazy when he is not locked in on man. If Apple can become a more engaged zone defender, he has just as much upside as the corners at the top of the draft.
- Kendall Fuller: Heading into the season, Fuller was a top-2 prospect at corner, but due to a knee injury, he has slid. Fuller is extremely well-rounded, playing well in man and zone coverage, as well as being a sound tackler. What is holding Fuller back is his technique. He is a lesser athlete compared to the other players on this list, although not by much. Because of this, he has to rely on great technique which has not come yet. Teams do not have to worry about this though, as Fuller has shown improvements in each of his three years as a starter. Fuller could become a number one corner is he continues to make the strides he has in college.