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BD’s Top 5 Cornerbacks entering the NFL draft

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NCAA Football: Alabama vs Duke Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the first article in a series that will last all the way to QB (if SBNation keeps us writers around). Starting with the cornerback group — this is an extremely top-heavy class, and all five corners on this list could be taken in the top 50 picks. Outside the top five, there are a couple guys with potential, but the talent gap between receiver talent and coverage talent is growing every year (there are more elite WRs than elite CBs). The Raiders should consider taking one of these guys with one of their two first round picks.

5. Damon Arnette, Ohio State ~6’0 195lbs*

Arnette is a fluid and twitchy athlete with great zone awareness on top of very good man coverage skills. He has advanced technique for a college corner (playing the back shoulder on fade routes, overlapping into deep middle in cover 3). He has a great feel for route concepts and doesn’t waste movement when adjusting his leverage to stay with his man. Not the most physical player and doesn’t show much interest in tackling.

Best Trait: Route recognition

Needs to work on: Physicality

Pro Comparison: Morris Claiborne

4. Trevon Diggs, Alabama ~6’2 205*

Diggs is a special athlete, even for the corner position. He is still learning the nuances of coverage after originally coming into college as a wide receiver. His agility and speed are absolutely staggering, especially when you find out his size. He has the highest ceiling among this CB crop, even if he isn’t yet a finished product. He doesn’t yet show command of the fundamentals of CB play, and his stance and footwork are all that separates him from the top of this list.

Best Trait: Athleticism

Needs to work on: stance, footwork, fundamentals

Pro Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

3. Jeff Gladney, TCU ~5’11 185*

A pure press man corner who uses the soft-shoe press technique that Paul Guenther asks from his outside corners. Gladney has advanced technique in man coverage, locking down all of the best WRs to come out of the Big 12 while he was in coverage. He’s a fast twitch athlete who won’t back down from any challenge and is always super feisty in coverage. Rarely played zone and doesn’t show the best feel for route concepts developing.

Best Trait: Competitiveness

Needs to work on: Zone coverage

Pro Comparison: Denzel Ward

2. Jeffrey Okudah, ~6’0 200*

To some it will be blasphemous to put Okudah at No. 2. To me he’s a great man coverage corner who builds speed down the field and can track the ball at an elite level. He shows he can play man in a variety of techniques and can stay on the upfield shoulder of the receiver down the field. He isn’t the most explosive athlete in short areas, however, and can give up separation on horizontal route concepts.

Best Trait: Finding the ball in the air

Needs to work on: Mirroring quick receivers

Pro Comparison: Jimmy Smith

1. Bryce Hall, Virginia ~6’1 210*

Forgive me if this film cut-up is a re-run for you. Bryce Hall would have been my highest rated CB last year, and while the top of this class is better than in 2019, Hall remains the best of the best. He can play press or off, man or zone, finds the ball in the air, and is the best tackler at CB in the country. His speed and size are rare for the position. Will at times lose leverage when route concepts threaten his outside zones.

Best Trait: Finding the ball in the air, tackling

Needs to work on: Route recognition

Pro Comparison: Quentin Jammer

Honorable mentions

Kristian Fulton - LSU

Athletically he belongs on the list. His lapses in technique happen too often and he shows zero interest in tackling anyone.

CJ Henderson - Florida

Similar athletic profile to Gladney and Fulton, but with low points for awareness and zone coverage. Like Fulton, he’s not interested in tackling.

Troy Pride Jr - Notre Dame

Super fundamentally sound (Notre Dame players come into the NFL like that), but not the upper tier athlete that the other names on this list are.

*All heights and measurements unofficial.