Probably more than any other position, cornerbacks preferred skill sets change from club to club. Every NFL team has a profile for each position, which relates to what the scouts seek on the road each fall. Some clubs want corners who are very good in press man, while others prioritize zone coverage first. All of them highly value run support and tackling. But because of the different preferences, teams' cornerback rankings will vary.
Other important traits include height and length. There are several clubs that won’t touch a corner who is shorter than 5’10”, thinking he'll have too many problems matching up vs. taller wide receivers.
Regardless of traits, it's an important position in every draft, where 12-15 corners come off the board before the end of the third round. This year’s class has a variety of corners with differing skill sets. It is not the fastest group I’ve seen, but the tape shows guys who will play early. Though we might not see many go in Round 1, there is always a run on corners in Rounds 2-3.
Here are my top eight cornerbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft:
Long isn’t the biggest guy (5’11 – 198), but he is one of the faster corners in this draft (4.45), as well as one of the quickest. He is better in off-man than press but good in both and a very good zone player. When in transition, Long has no wasted steps and closes very quickly. Opponents didn’t throw his way much the past two seasons, which explains his low INT total (3). He can play inside or on the perimeter at the NFL level and should make an immediate contribution as a rookie.
Watching tape, I felt that Williams might be in the 4.48-4.50-second range in the 40. That wasn’t the case, as Williams ran only 4.64 in Indy, improving to 4.59 at the Vanderbilt Pro Day. That is not the type of speed that NFL clubs covet. With his size and length (6’4 – 211, 32 ½” arms), speed becomes a lesser factor because he is so physical and very good in man coverage. There is no question that he can play, but because of his speed he will go later than his film warrants.
Love, a two-and-a-half-year starter at Notre Dame, is one of the draft's steadier corners. He can play man or zone, as well as support the run and tackle. His tape is very good, but the biggest knock on Love is top-end speed. He ran in the low 4.5s in Indy — and that is the way he plays. He has the size and strength to play inside or out and shows very good quickness. Personally, I don’t think he gets out of the second round and he should be a starter as a rookie.
Though Ya-Sin’s tape is strong, he isn’t close to being the player he will become after a few years of experience in the NFL. Ya-Sin played most of his college career at Presbyterian — a D-II school — before transferring to Temple for his final season. He shows very good cover skills but still must improve in run support. After a strong week at the Senior Bowl, Ya-Sin caught the attention of NFL clubs and is a “hot” prospect. While not a finished product, the upside is there.
As I said with Greedy Williams, most NFL clubs covet tall, athletic corners, which fits Mullen to a tee. He is best as a press-cover guy but plays well in zone and is very competent in run support. At 6014 – 200, Mullen has ideal size to supplement very good overall athleticism. Mullen shows a strong jam and very good mirror skills. With his size and strength, he does a good job re-routing receivers and has top ball skills.
Murphy’s quickness and suddenness jump out when watching tape. He has great anticipation and very good ball skills. He isn’t the tallest guy (5106), and he has a bit of a narrow frame, but Murphy's length (30 1/8" arms) helps. He can play inside or out and matched up well vs. taller guys at Washington. Murphy only timed 4.55 but plays much faster. His timed speed could hurt his draft stock a bit, but he will line up and play as a rookie. Because of Murphy's great quickness, I feel he will become a fixture as a slot corner.
Throw out how he tests, and there isn’t a doubt that Baker is the best corner in this draft. He is very physical, a sure tackler and proficient in both man and zone. He simply jumps out when watching tape. Baker’s problem is his workout wasn’t as good as his tape. He ran 4.52 in Indy and didn’t improve at the Georgia Pro Day. His jumps are also below average (9’2” LJ, 31 ½” VJ). Those numbers may hurt when it comes to the draft, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Baker will be a rookie starter.
Few can match the overall physical skill set of Williams, who's tall, long and very fast. He is best in man coverage, showing the ability to mirror receivers all over the field. His ball skills and hands are excellent, as evidenced by his eight interceptions over the past two years. What Williams doesn’t do well is support the run, staying back and waiting for plays to come to him. He needs to improve his upper-body strength, and his tackling is average at best. Because his cover skills are so good, many teams will overlook the negatives and hope that he shows improvement as a pro.