The 2022 NFL Combine testing results provide an easy avenue for cornerbacks to shine. Cornerbacks are routinely some of the best athletes on the field, and they always put up big numbers when the NFL Combine comes around. 2022 was no different in that sense. In a talented group, here’s who rose to the top.
5 Cornerbacks who boosted their stock at the NFL Combine
In truth, it was hard to narrow this list down to just five cornerbacks. There were over a dozen standouts from the cornerback group during Sunday’s action. But taking in NFL Combine results from the cornerbacks and factoring in on-field drills, these are the biggest risers from the event in Indianapolis.
Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State
You probably expected Tariq Woolen to be listed first. I don’t blame you. As mind-blowing as Woolen’s performance was, however, I think you could make the case that Zyon McCollum improved his stock even more. Woolen was already viewed as a potential top-100 pick heading into the Combine. McCollum, meanwhile, had virtually no buzz — but changed that within the span of a few hours.
McCollum logged a searing 4.33 40-yard dash at 6’2″, 199 pounds. He also put up elite explosiveness numbers, with a 39.5-inch vertical and a 132-inch broad jump. But the most insane figure for McCollum came during agility testing. He logged an outrageous 6.48 three-cone time — better than 99.6% of cornerbacks ever to test. Even going beyond testing, McCollum looked more fluid than Woolen in open-field drills. He was an absolute ball hawk in the FCS and could legitimately go Day 2 now.
Tariq Woolen, UTSA
You’ve heard of him by now: “Riq the Freak.” The 6’4″, 205-pound UTSA cornerback with arms longer than edge rushers David Ojabo and Kayvon Thibodeaux. We all knew he was going to test extremely well, but I’m not sure anyone was prepared with just how good Tariq Woolen‘s numbers would be.
At his looming 6’4″ size, Woolen put up an outrageous 4.26 40-yard dash, not to mention a 1.48 10-yard split. That explosiveness shown on the 10-yard split was reflected in the vertical jump, where Woolen ascended to a massive 42-inch height. The numbers may blind people to technical flaws that still exist in Woolen’s game. However, the former wide receiver undeniably has astronomical upside — upside that someone could deem worthy of a top-75 pick.
Kalon Barnes, Baylor
I’d love to take credit for knowing what would come from Kalon Barnes on Sunday — but all you had to do was look up his past 100m dash times to figure that out. Barnes has reportedly ran the 100m dash as fast as 10.03 — around a half-second off of the world record. He has truly uncommon speed, and yet, it was still surprising to see him hit the number he did.
Barnes ended up running a 4.23 40-yard dash. That’s not only the fastest time for a defensive back in NFL Combine history, but it’s also the second-fastest 40-yard dash all-time in Combine history, behind only former Cincinnati WR John Ross. Barnes reached an ungodly 25 miles per hour on that 40. His speed is just different. He’s still far from a perfect cornerback, but that speed helps him recover time and time again on film.
Damarri Mathis, Pittsburgh
It’s truly a story of redemption for Damarri Mathis, who was on his way to stardom after a 2019 season that saw him pick off 2 passes and deflect 11 more. A preseason injury forced Mathis to miss the entire 2020 campaign, and when he came back, many had forgotten his name. He had a good 2021 season and a decent Senior Bowl showing, but his NFL Combine performance may be what truly gets him back on the radar for teams.
Mathis ran an excellent 4.39 40-yard dash time. He also looked fluid in drills and flashed ball skills when passes came his way. On tape, he frequently stays in phase and can lower his hips on his breaks, and that easy transition ability showed up on Sunday. Mathis embodies the phrase “feet first” for press cornerbacks. Teams that like his speed, fluidity, and steady technique could be willing to take him earlier than expected.
Chase Lucas, Arizona State
Chase Lucas was a productive five-year player for the Sun Devils. Up to this point, he’s had fans in small pockets, but there wasn’t a ton of buzz for him until now. Lucas made the most of his NFL Combine performance. Without agility drills, he came in with a RAS of 8.00, just on the lower threshold of elite range.
Lucas’ 180-pound frame weighed down his score, but Lucas recorded good speed with a 4.48 40-yard dash. He also excelled in explosiveness drills, with a 39-inch vertical and a 128-inch broad jump. Lucas’ elite explosiveness alone is incredibly intriguing. Once you factor in that he has arms near 32 inches long, it only compounds the excitement.
Jalyn Armour-Davis, Alabama; Decobie Durant, South Carolina State; Akayleb Evans, Missouri; Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska; Alontae Taylor, Tennessee; Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati; Kaiir Elam, Florida; Chris Steele, USC; Joshua Williams, Fayetteville State; DaMarcus Fields, Texas Tech