The draft analysts at Pro Football Network came together to create their Top 300 Consensus Board. Using this board as our guide, here are the top nine cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Top cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft | 6-9
Cornerback is one of the most sought-after defensive positions due to the explosion of the passing game over the past decade. Subsequently, NFL teams must carry three to four solid CBs if they wish to survive any given season.
9) Eric Stokes, Georgia
Kicking off our list of top cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft class is Georgia’s Eric Stokes. Not only does he possess excellent playmaking ability — as evidenced by his 4 interceptions in nine games last season — but Stokes has the physical traits to thrive a the next level. At Georgia’s Pro Day, Stokes registered a blazing 4.25 40-yard dash as well as a 128-inch broad jump and 38.5-inch vertical jump.
Despite having the NFL-caliber tools, Stokes does not come without faults. He is handsy with receivers which he got away with at Georgia, but he won’t in the NFL. The former Bulldog also needs to work on keeping his head on a swivel to locate the pass. Nevertheless, quality cornerbacks do not grow on trees, so Stokes should be drafted on Day 2, barring any unforeseen pre-draft injuries or mishaps.
8) Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
Asante Samuel Jr.‘s compact stature — 5-foot-10 and just over 180 pounds — will have many believing he is a slot-only prospect. Outside of his size, there are few holes in his game. A three-year starter, Samuel improved each season at Florida State despite the program struggling to stay relevant in the ACC.
The younger Samuel can line up in the slot to begin his career, but I wholeheartedly believe he has the tenacity and skill set to stick on the boundary. Either way, Samuel Jr. will likely be selected at least two rounds higher than his father before him — a fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2003.
7) Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
Kelvin Joseph is one of the few corners to hold his own against the juggernaut that was Alabama last season. Following a transfer from LSU, Joseph instantly made his presence felt with the Wildcats. He has the ball skills to make opposing QBs hesitate before throwing in his direction.
However, he was inconsistent last year and comes with just one year of starting experience. There were times where he proved to be one of the top cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft class. There were also times where he looked like a Day 3 pick at best. In the end, all it takes is one team to pull the trigger, and there will be plenty targeting Joseph in the 2021 NFL Draft.
6) Tyson Campbell, Georgia
The second-ranked corner coming out of high school, Tyson Campbell, intended to form a deadly duo with Stokes in Georgia’s secondary. Yet, he generated just 1 interception and 11 pass breakups across three seasons in Athens. Campbell possesses all the physical tools you want on the position, but that lack of production is worrisome.
Furthermore, those same physical tools were not present at his pro day. Campbell recorded an uninspiring 34-inch vertical and 7.15 three-cone. The three-cone is the real cause for concern, as anything above 7 seconds for a corner highlights change of direction issues.
Despite the question marks he comes with, Campbell is a source of untapped potential that teams may target on late Day 2 or early Day 3.
Top-9 cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft | 1-5
Four talented cornerbacks have already been listed, but who are the top five in the class?
5) Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
The younger brother of former UConn star and Raiders safety, Obi, Ifeatu Melifonwu has freakish physical ability standing at nearly 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds. However, he does not play to his size and or in an aggressive manner. Still, his size and length allow him to smother receivers in man coverage and at the catch point. Melifonwu’s tools are enticing, but he is a raw prospect, landing at No. 5 in our cornerback rankings.
4) Greg Newsome, Northwestern
Greg Newsome II has been a late riser in the pre-draft process. His 2020 film is impressive, even excluding a dominant outing against Justin Fields and Ohio State. He has some of the best footwork in the class and can flourish in both man and zone coverages. His biggest knock is simply a lack of playing time and tape. Due to a shortened Big Ten season, Newsome played in just four games.
3) Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Before a back surgery highlighted medical concerns earlier this offseason, Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley was in the running for CB1 in the class. Farley underwent a microdiscectomy, the second of his career.
Put plainly, this procedure removes pieces of herniated discs to relieve pressure and pain on the spine. Typically, this surgery comes with a quick recovery. However, the issue is not how fast the recovery is, rather, it is how long his back will maintain before needing an additional operation.
Nonetheless, Farley owns an exceptional closing burst downfield and easily disrupts passes with his 6-foot-2 and roughly 200-pound frame. That size and speed combination is deadly and why many draft pundits were so high on him. All 32 NFL teams should covet his skill set, but where Farley ultimately falls in the draft is up in the air.
2) Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
At second in our top cornerback rankings for 2021, Jaycee Horn boasts the prototypical size and athletic ability to succeed at the next level. An impressive performance at South Carolina’s Pro Day and Farley’s medical status only bolstered Horn’s draft stock. The issue with his draft profile is he must play on a team that deploys press-man coverage at a high rate.
His instincts in zone coverage are lacking, and he struggles to make the open field tackle. On the other hand, in a defense that takes full advantage of his skill set, Horn has the potential to be the top corner in the class.
1) Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The de facto No. 1 corner crown belongs to Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. Son of an 11-year NFL veteran and Miami Dolphins’ legend of the same name, Surtain II is the most consistent prospect from the cornerback position. There is not a single game on his tape where he is burnt for a deep score or on the ground after a route. The “wow” plays are there, just not in abundance. Surtain consistently stays in phase with receivers and makes plays on the ball with ease.
PFN Chief Draft analysts and NFL Insider Tony Pauline said on the April 21 episode of Draft Insiders, “My No. 1 defensive player is Surtain. I think Surtain is the first defensive player selected. Maybe Carolina, maybe Denver. I doubt he gets past Dallas if he is still there.”
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