A – Top Tier
B – Starter
C – Backup
D – Practice Squad
Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Marshon Lattimore, A+/A
1. Denzel Ward – The most fluid cornerback in the draft, Ward is an explosive athlete whose talent can’t be understated. He is extremely fast, with recovery speed and burst that makes him extremely hard to beat deep. This also helps him to make plays on the ball, as he uses his burst and explosiveness to cut in front of the receiver and deflect passes in the air. He has outstanding body control, helping him to leap and extend on balls even if the receiver is bigger than him. As such, his technique deflecting passes is flawless and consistent. He is one of the best cornerbacks at mirroring in man coverage, exhibiting top tier agility and smooth transitions and changes of direction. He is extremely instinctive making plays, and is skilled at reading the receivers routes in both zone and man coverage. He is a smaller player without a great jam, although he can still be physical with his arms in redirecting routes. However, he generally avoids contact. Additionally, he is an able and tackler. His hands are not quite what one would expect from such a skilled athlete, but they are quite capable. Ward is an extremely fluid and instinctive cover corner who has the versatility to play in the slot, although his size may occasionally be a problem against bigger physical receivers on the perimeter.
2. Carlton Davis – A long and strong cornerback, Davis is an aggressive player with the talent to develop into a top tier corner. He is extremely physical, with a good jam at the line that allows him to turn and run with the receiver. He is also displays this physicality at the top of routes, routinely playing the receiver in order to disrupt the catch. He can also shadow the wideout well with a very good back pedal and good use of his hands. However, he does not have very smooth turns or great adjustment to throws, making him susceptible to faster receivers if he can’t make contact with them. He exhibits good drive on balls thrown in front of him, and is at his best in such situations. As such, he is also skilled at playing off coverage or zone, challenging the receiver as soon as the ball arrives. Additionally, he is a very good tackler who comes up to play runs and has good consistent technique. His hands are merely solid. Davis’ size and speed allows him to matchup with all types of receivers, and his tackling ability makes him a plug and play starter for any team. He has high upside, particularly considering his flaws are relatively correctable with good coaching.
3. Jaire Alexander – A very good player, Alexander suffered through injuries in 2017 that forced him to miss a year of development. However, he made up for that with a great workout at the combine, displaying better movement skills than anticipated. He is an extremely smart and instinctual player who has a penchant for clutch turnovers. His trail technique is outstanding, and he is very good at using this to generate interceptions. As such, he is outstanding at reading the receiver’s route and undercutting the throw for the interception. He can play both man and zone coverage effectively with a good backpedal and good press at the line. He is not as fluid mirroring the receiver as one would like, and he tends to avoid contact with receivers. Although he is on the smaller side, he can generally stave off larger receivers. However, he can sometimes get beat deep due to his trail technique, although he generally has the makeup speed to recover. He has the versatility to play the slot, and also exhibits great vision and elusiveness as a punt returner. While he is a solid tackler, he has good instincts to put him in position to make plays. Above all, Alexander is a playmaker with the ability to be a difference maker.
4. Tarvarus McFadden – A great corner in most ways, McFadden struggled with bouts of inconsistency throughout his college career. He has very good instincts and can get interceptions in either man or zone coverage. His ball skills are outstanding, and he does a great job playing the ball in the air. He is amazing at high pointing and finding the ball, giving him the potential to be a turnover machine. Additionally, he has the size to blanket receivers and win any ball in his vicinity. His jam can be sloppy at times, but he has good balance and can remain strong against the receiver throughout the route. He also drives on the ball well when receivers are in front of him. He is generally good at shadowing receivers as well, mirroring their movements with fluid hips. While he can be fluid, his movements are also slow. Good receivers with speed can sometimes take advantage of this by turning his hips or burning him deep. He is an above average tackler who is also good at blitzing off the edge from the nickel position. Although he lacks speed and consistent play, he has the upside to lock down a side of the field.
5. Levi Wallace – The most recent CB1 for the Crimson Tide, Wallace is a pure man to man corner capable of challenging an opponent’s starting receiver. He is a physical player throughout the entire route, combining a strong jam with great hand fighting. He turns his hips well, sticking to the receiver in coverage and rarely giving them space. However, he doesn’t drive on the ball well, limiting his effectiveness in zone coverage or using a bail technique. He uses great form playing the receiver when the ball is in the air, high-pointing the ball and swiping with his hands on the way down. Additionally, he does a tremendous job removing the ball from the wideout’s hands by being extremely aggressive with his own. In part because he lacks the instincts, Wallace is mainly a press corner. Although he plays slow at times, he has enough speed to carry the receiver for some time. Surprisingly for a player under Nick Saban, Wallace is a shaky tackler. However, he can fit in some schemes well as an aggressive press corner.
6. Mike Hughes – A decent all around corner with numerous flaws, Hughes value is increased by his decent ability as a returner. He is also well rounded in coverage, showing the ability to play both press and off. He is able to shadow receivers to an extent, as he is somewhat slow changing directions. Additionally, his backpedal is off balance and he lacks good instincts, making it harder for him to drive on balls. Although he is on the smaller side, he has a physically dominating jam at the line that stalls or reroutes the receiver. He is very good at timing his contact, hitting the wideout at the same time as the ball. He is fast, allowing him to recover on deep balls or routes where he has been shaken off. He is also tracks the ball well in the air, an even better trait when paired with his good hands. He is an extremely aggressive tackler, but his bad form makes him somewhat of a liability. As a returner, he is a smooth runner and can make an immediate impact. Overall, he is a solid second cornerback who excels at the start and finish of a play, but is lacking during the route.
7. Anthony Averett – The corner across from Levi Wallace at Alabama, Averett is a good corner who struggles at the start of plays. When playing man coverage, he tends to be over aggressive at the line, causing him to lose balance. In such situations, he is beat rather quickly, particularly in routes coming across the field. He has very fluid hips, enabling him to shadow receivers well. Additionally, he has great start-stop agility, helping him stick to receivers in man coverage and drive down on them in zone. His body control is excellent, contributing to his agility and ability to defend passes. However, he is not good playing off the ball in man coverage, largely due to his lack of instincts. He is extremely physical when the ball is in the air, although his hands are suspect. It remains to be seen whether the roster at Alabama covered his mistakes, or if they are not as glaring as they seem. He is not a special player by any means, but his mistakes are coachable and he could become a high level starter in time.
8. Joshua Jackson – Highly touted as the best corner in college football, Jackson is a pure zone corner with some questionable flaws. He rarely plays in anything other than off coverage, especially in Cover 3. He has the desired size and necessary speed to fit into a defense and handle his business. He is amazing at reading the quarterback to break on the ball, which results in a large number of interceptions. This is also due to his tremendous hands. Additionally, he is great at driving on the ball, rarely allowing the receiver in front of him to make a play. However, he can also lack the discipline to follow receivers in through zones, resulting in blown coverages. He is also an average tackler. Jackson tends to avoid contact in zone coverage, preferring to get a clear read on the quarterback. However, this limits his effectiveness in many situations where the receiver should not be granted free releases. He is not particularly agile or a great athlete, and his change of direction skills are not great. Thus, he doesn’t have much upside as anything other than a pure deep zone corner. In the right fit, he can be a very good starter, but otherwise he could be somewhat of a liability.
9. Isaiah Oliver – Oliver is a raw player who mainly relies on his size and length to cover receivers. He is at his best when able to press at the line, as he is good at using his arms to crowd the wideout. He is not very fast, although his length gives him some safety when the ball is in the air. While he excels at using his length to reach over and blanket receivers on deep routes, he is generally not great at playing the ball in other capacities. He lacks any of the abilities needed to shadow receivers in man coverage. He is somewhat able to drive on balls, but he is bad at making speed turns and is not fluid when changing directions. Additionally, he is not a playmaker in any capacity, especially because he lacks instincts. However, he is a good physical tackler. Although good coaching could make some use of his size, Oliver is not a special enough talent to make a big impact.
10. Donte Jackson – Although extremely fast, Jackson lacks the positional talent to be a full time NFL cornerback. He is physical at the line with a good jam, although it generally has little effect because most receivers are significantly stronger than him. He mostly plays zone, relying on a smooth backpedal and his outstanding speed to make plays. However, he lacks the instincts and quick twitch athletic ability to succeed more than he whiffs. Even with his recovery speed, he is called for pass interference often, something that is evidence of his discomfort at the position. His balance is bad, something that has a major impact on his coverage and mirroring abilities. Additionally, he doesn’t play the ball well when isolated in coverage, instead tending to just try to get in the way of the wideout. While he can come down on pass catchers in front of him with tremendous speed, he has sub-par agility and change of direction skills. He does have very body control when diving, although it is something he is forced to do too often and to varying degrees of success. He is a bad tackler who only knows how to tackle by sliding full speed on the ground in an effort to trip the runner. While he has the speed and athleticism to be a nickel corner, he is extremely unpolished and would need to be coached excessively to have a chance to succeed in the NFL.