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Top cornerbacks at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl

The Senior Bowl one-on-one drills are just as important for cornerbacks as they are receivers. Who can boost their stock in Mobile?

The one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl are always a highlight of the week. From the lineman facing off to the receivers and cornerbacks battling it out, it is an environment that many have benefitted from. Guys like WR Terry McLaurin, for example, shot up NFL Draft boards once they lit up the one-on-one portion of the practices. For cornerbacks, an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl can do even more for your stock. The top cornerbacks are looking to rise even further with a big week.

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Ranking the top cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl — National Team

Elijah Molden, Washington (expected team designation)

Slot cornerbacks always deserve a heavy dose of love with the way the league is moving. With more subpackage football, slot cornerbacks are proving their worth and becoming more coveted. Thus, slot cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl can start to raise their ceiling with a strong week. Elijah Molden certainly has the opportunity to do that this week. His polished skill set will be enticing for teams with needs right away.

Molden is scrappy. Despite being undersized, he claws tooth and nail in the running game and as a blitzer. That size gets him into trouble against some bigger slot guys at the catch point, but it is not for the lack of effort. Where Molden will make his money is with his elite instincts. From snuffing out screens to excellent hip and eye discipline, Molden is technically proficient and smart. It is why despite lackluster physical traits, Molden will be a good NFL slot corner and a top-100 pick.

Ambry Thomas, Michigan

After opting out of the 2020 season, Ambry Thomas is betting on his 2019 tape doing the speaking for him. Given what he has put out on tape, that is not a completely terrible idea. The appeal of Thomas is rather obvious. He is a guy who eats up the frame of opposing wide receivers. If you can not bring the energy to match Thomas’ power, he will reroute and stick to you all day in press coverage. That physicality makes him one of the more intriguing Senior Bowl cornerbacks.

There is the fact that he seems to lunge that can get him burnt. Rather than staying back, he seems to bend over at the waist. Thomas’ recovery speed is not good enough to make up for that. However, Thomas spices things up in his skill set with good lateral quickness. He can work in the flats and downhill just fine in zone coverage. The key for Thomas in Mobile will be showing patience and discipline in press coverage and just let his physicality do the talking.

Ranking the top cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl — American Team

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse

This one was a super easy pick. When it comes to cornerbacks this year at the Senior Bowl, none have the upside and tape that Ifeatu Melinfowu has on his record. The interesting catch-all with Melifonwu is that he can play on the boundary and projects well as a safety. By picking him, you can get a ball of clay with insane physical tools. Melifonwu should only get better as the season roll along.

He is insanely explosive. Melifonwu triggers downhill and has elite closing speed. For a guy who is 6’3″, he has shockingly great fluidity in his hips. Melifonwu’s transitions are seamless and graceful. On top of that, Melifonwu’s length is a weapon at the catch point. His recovery speed and length allow him to make mistakes and still get out of tough spots unscathed.

All of that is great, but my favorite trait of Melifonwu’s is his headiness. He combines a brand of physicality and sure tackling with smart and calculated decisions. Melifonwu’s ability to read route combinations and make plays in zone coverage is impressive. He has lots of man coverage traits, but his attributes are zone-centric as of now. His universal schematic appeal should make him coveted, and a week in Mobile can only help.

Aaron Robinson, UCF

Aaron Robinson is someone who came a little bit out of nowhere. Listen, Robinson is not going to be for everyone. He’s not a particularly strong tackler. That will naturally cause some teams to back off of him. However, there are natural cover cornerback traits here that can not be ignored.

For one, Robinson has excellent footwork. It is crisp and efficient; it allows him to mirror receivers despite some tightness in his lower half. Robinson is also one physical player. He is the definition of a junkyard dog. Also, it is the fact that he plays not just on the outside, but at safety and inside, too. Robinson is a jack of all trades. These traits make Robinson a rising cornerback prospect, and a standout Senior Bowl week can push him even higher.

D.J. Daniel, Georgia

This is a young man who did not play as much as I’d have liked him to this year, but I like D.J. Daniel. Some of his best tape came against top competition like Ja’Marr Chase in 2019. His length gave Chase some real trouble both at the line of scrimmage and at the catch point. If you can hang with a guy like Chase above the rim, you can hang with just about anyone.

Daniel’s quickness and fluidity allow him to play different types of man coverage. He can be physical, and trust me, he will be physical, but Daniel can move into off-man and work in that scheme, too.

That physicality moves over into run support, where Daniel is exceptionally active. There are some tackling inconsistencies because he drops his eyes as he wraps up, but the will to be involved is there. Daniel is the guy with the most to gain with this group, given his limited 2020 tape. A strong performance by the cornerback during the Senior Bowl could send Daniel into Day 2.

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