In one of the most loaded positions of this draft class, the cornerbacks this year are expecting to hear their names called early. There can easily be upwards of 10 cornerbacks that hear their name called within the first 45 picks. We’ll specifically be looking at the top 5 cornerbacks in this year’s class and 3 of the 5 are Tigers.
#1: Ahmad Gardner – Cincinnati
Passed on by many Power 5 schools, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner chose the American Athletic Conference school of the University of Cincinnati. This turned out to be the best decision that Gardner could possibly make as he was a major factor in the Bearcats success on their way to their 1st ever playoff appearance in program history. Gardner is going to be the 3rd player in school history to ever be drafted in the 1st round and the first since Bob Bell was drafted in 1971. During Gardner’s time at Cincinnati, he has made a name for himself in the record books as not only the best cornerback in school history, but one of the best cornerbacks in the history of college football. It’s hard to argue against that when he didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage and has the best QB rating when against him of all other defensive backs. Gardner is our clear #1 cornerback in this draft and should be a top 10 overall pick, potentially even top 5.
#2: Derek Stingley Jr. – LSU
Despite not playing a full season in over 2 years, Derek Stingley Jr. is one of the most hyped prospects at cornerback that we have seen in quite some time. NFL teams are scouting Stingley Jr. for his incredible 2019 season where he racked up an impressive 6 interceptions and 15 deflected passes. When Stingley Jr. did play over the last 2 seasons which wasn’t much, he looked the part of that 2019 campaign. The biggest concern we have though is those looming injuries that raise some flags on his durability and longevity in the league. He is recovering from a foot injury that he got surgery on which kept him out all but 3 games of this last season and he seems to have recovered from that with the flashes we saw him from him at the combine. Nonetheless, if we saw Stingley Jr. in action he would be the #1 spot on this list, but he is right behind Gardner as both are top 5 talent wise in this draft class.
#3: Trent McDuffie – Washington
McDuffie is another standout cornerback from the Washington Huskies who have consistently produced top tier talent at that position over the last couple decades. McDuffie was a three year starter for the Huskies with his best campaign coming this past season as he earned 3rd team All-American and 1st team for the Pac-12 conference. He puts up the stats to earn him that honor, especially when is playing in zone coverage. McDuffie edges out Stingley Jr. and Gardner in zone coverage, but in man to man, his size is what he lacks. This could be a problem in the big league as there are many red zone threat receivers who are taller that could outjump McDuffie. McDuffie is going to be a great scheme fit for a team that runs zone coverage plays and this makes him a top 20 pick in this draft alone.
#4: Andrew Booth Jr. – Clemson
A leader on the Clemson Tigers defense, Andrew Booth Jr. is an extremely versatile player. Booth Jr. can play well in man, zone, and in the slot which makes him an appealing choice to teams with different and unique styles of play calling on defense. Compared to some other defensive backs in this class, Booth Jr. also is a stellar returner and has experience on the other side of the ball at wide receiver which could be used as a wild card player similar to Taysom Hill for the New Orleans Saints who plays multiple different positions. On the defensive side, he consistently gives it his all and when he gets beat, it’s not due to lack of effort, he sometimes loses his steps in medium to deep routes that allow the receiver to get the edge. If Booth can work on his recovery time, he can be an every down starter. Right now, Booth Jr. would be best as the #2 or #3 guy on the team lining up against a more established veteran that he can learn from and then ultimately take over as the #1 player on that team in a year or two’s time because the athletic ability is there.
#5: Roger McCreary – Auburn
An athletic freak of nature, Roger McCreary is a very physical and intense player who can go toe to toe with most receivers. McCreary has given us flashes of Darelle Revis and the infamous “Revis Island” as an elite shutdown corner in man coverage. We think McCreary will be a top notch talent when lined up against deep threats as he has the speed to keep up with them, but the size is still a little bit lacking compared to others we’ve seen. Regardless, he is still a physical player who isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. In some of the biggest games against conference rivals and in bowl games, McCreary showed up when it mattered most which is a huge asset that teams need, especially when the playoffs roll around.