The 2022 cornerback class was excellent, but could the 2023 NFL Draft CB class be even better? The 2023 group has a level of overall depth that’s nearly unmatched, but the top of the class is flush with future starters and potential impact players.
Top 10 CBs in the 2023 NFL Draft
10) Julius Brents, Kansas State
Longer cornerbacks are back in style with the emergence of rookies Tariq Woolen and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner in 2022. Though he’s not quite at that level as a prospect, Julius Brents could be the latest size outlier to become an early NFL starter, after logging four interceptions and four PBUs in 2022.
An Iowa transfer, Brents has an overwhelming wingspan, with 34″ arms at 6’3″, 202 pounds. He’s a rare CB with his reach, but he’s also surprisingly agile, explosive, and twitchy — as evidenced by his 9.99 Relative Athletic Score (RAS) — and he’s an incredibly proactive, aggressive run support defender as well.
9) Tyrique Stevenson, Miami (FL)
Much like Brents, Tyrique Stevenson is another CB prospect who could go much higher than expected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Stevenson flourished on the boundary after transferring to Miami from Georgia. He then stood out at the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl and sealed the deal with his testing at the NFL Combine.
Stevenson has an incredibly unique frame. He’s around 6’0″, 200 pounds, with near-33″ arms, and he has quantifiably elite explosiveness and recovery speed to go with that size. The flashes of disciplined technique open a window into Stevenson’s dominant ceiling, and his physical traits lay a strong foundation.
8) Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
Nearing the 2023 NFL Draft, Jaylon Jones remains one of the more underrated CB prospects in the class. It’s a stacked group, to be fair, but Jones grades out as a top 10 positional prospect on PFN’s board, and the true junior has immense upside at the next level.
At 6’2″, 200 pounds, with a 38″ vertical and a 6.88 three-cone, Jones has an abundance of raw traits at his disposal. The former five-star recruit is abnormally fluid and agile for his size. He’s also exceedingly physical, and his technique is trending up fast.
7) Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
Emmanuel Forbes closed out his career as the all-time CFB leader in pick-sixes, an accomplishment that’s fittingly emblematic of his natural playmaking ability. On the boundary, that’s the kind of momentum-changing impact he can bring to the NFL.
Similarly to Devon Witherspoon, Forbes has an underweight frame that could complicate his projection a bit. Witherspoon is also more disciplined in coverage. But Forbes has a superior combination of explosiveness, length, and twitch. Thus, his upside gives him the edge.
6) Cam Smith, South Carolina
Cam Smith comes from the same school as former Carolina Panthers first-round pick Jaycee Horn, who was a Pro Bowl-worthy competitor in 2022. To be clear, Smith isn’t anywhere near the prospect Horn was — but he could go on to be a productive pro in his own right.
Smith is solid across the board, with all the requisite tools — explosiveness, fluidity, disciplined technique, physicality, and ball skills — to be a sturdy cover man. And he’s a gnarly competitor in run support as well, with the versatility to play the slot or the boundary.
5) Kelee Ringo, Georgia
With his size-athleticism combination, Kelee Ringo might not sniff the second round. While it’s never a good idea to speak in absolutes as a draft analyst, Ringo’s traits are exactly what teams bank on in Round 1. It’s not often you see a 6’2″, 207-pound CB with 4.36 speed.
Ringo still has moments of inconsistency with his technique and ball tracking at times, and at his weight, he isn’t always seamless on transitions. But he offers more than enough fluidity and foot speed and has the explosiveness, speed, and length to lock down receivers in all thirds.
4) Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
After his dominant six-deflection showing against Purdue in Week 1, Joey Porter Jr. only added five more deflections for the rest of the season. That stalled production is a question mark on the surface, but more often than not, he simply dissuaded teams from even trying him in coverage.
Porter doesn’t always play to his testing explosiveness and speed, and he can be a bit too hasty when it comes to extending out of his stance. But with his proactive physicality, length, fluidity, technique, and ball skills, Porter can lock down wide receivers early in reps.
3) Deonte Banks, Maryland
There are a host of elite athletes in the 2023 NFL Draft cornerback class, but Maryland’s Deonte Banks might be the most elite of the entire bunch. At the NFL Combine, Banks logged a 4.35 40-yard dash, 42″ vertical, and 11’4″ broad jump at around 6’0″, 200 pounds. His 1.45 10-yard split, meanwhile, was better than 99.6% of all historical CB numbers.
Banks accrued a RAS of 10, tying him for the most athletic score of all time at CB. For his frame, Banks carries outrageous explosiveness and fluidity. He’s also a relentless competitor on the field, who gets into his opponent’s grill without hesitation. Banks can still refine his technique, but the tools to work with are incredibly exciting.
2) Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
If you want CBs who have “that dawg” in them, you might be partial to Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft. Most boards have the CB1 discussion down to Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez, and while Witherspoon doesn’t quite have the size-speed combo, he’s as tenacious as they come.
Witherspoon plays with a radioactive chip on his shoulder, always imposing his physicality in both coverage and run support. On top of that, he’s a twitchy, fleet-footed cover man with superb ball skills, as confirmed by his three picks and 14 deflections in 2022.
1) Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Looking at his composite profile, Christian Gonzalez is a borderline-elite prospect. His tape down the stretch in 2022 was absolutely phenomenal, and he has an unmatched combination of physical and mental tools.
At 6’1 3/8″ and around 200 pounds, with 32″ arms, 4.38 speed, and a 41.5″ vertical, Gonzalez has uncanny fluidity and agility in short ranges. He can contort at a moment’s notice to corral passes, and with his eyes and reactive athleticism, he’s always in position to make the play. Gonzalez has blue-chip upside and is trending up faster than anyone else.
- DJ Turner, Michigan
- Darius Rush, South Carolina
- Clark Phillips III, Utah
- Kei’Trel Clark, Louisville
- Cory Trice, Purdue
- Carrington Valentine, Kentucky
- Garrett Williams, Syracuse
- Jartavius Martin, Illinois
- Eli Ricks, Alabama
- Alex Austin, Oregon State
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