Thirty nine cornerbacks have been selected in Round 1 and 82 in the first two rounds over the past 10 drafts. Only wide receivers have been selected more in the first two rounds over that time.
The San Francisco 49ers gave Nate Clements an eight-year, $80 million contract in 2007, of which $22 million was guaranteed. This was the largest contract ever given to a defensive player in NFL history at the time.
Because of the empty backfield, one-running back and multi-receiver sets, teams feel it’s important to have three cornerbacks on the field a high percentage of the time, in order to match up against all the fast wide receivers.
Tramon Williams, Green Bay’s third corner, played in almost 75 percent of the Packers’ defensive plays in 2008 and had five interceptions.
The feeling around the league is that you can never have too many good cornerbacks. The key trait for this position is speed — speed to break on the ball, speed to turn and run with a wide receiver and speed to come up in run support.
In NFL draft history, only one defensive back has been selected with the first overall pick (Gary Glick by Pittsburgh in 1956). Since 1996, the highest a cornerback has been drafted is third, when Seattle took Shawn Springs. There seems to be a very good group of senior corners for this draft.
TOP SENIOR CORNERBACKS
1. Patrick Robinson
College: Florida State Height/Weight: 5-foot-11 1/8, 192
Robinson was a four-year player, who has 13 career starts. He played at a small prep school in Florida and is just catching up with players from larger high school programs in Florida. he has very good coverage skills, is physical and has the requisite speed and quickness. He has very good speed and was third in Florida state track championships in the 100 and 200 meters. He is a first-round pick.
2. Jerome Murphy
College: South Florida Height/Weight: 6-0¼, 185
Murphy is a fifth-year player, who will be starting for the second year in 2009. He is the second-leading tackler on the team in 2008 and has speed. He will hit, has good ball skills for the position, can return kicks and has good size. South Florida has a recent history of good cornerbacks.
3. Syd’Quan Thompson
College: California Height/Weight: 5-8½, 190
Thompson is a fifth-year player, who has started 39 consecutive games at cornerback. He was named Mr. Football in California after his junior year of high school. He had six interceptions and has everything needed to play corner in the NFL. I just wish he was 3 inches taller. It is very hard for short corners to cover the tall NFL receivers (Moss, Fitzgerald, Owens and Houshmandzadeh) they face, but he will be a solid starter. Although he is no Darrell Green (a Hall of Famer with the Redskins).
4. Devin McCourty
College: Rutgers Height/Weight: 5-10¾, 190
McCourty is a fifth-year player, who has started 26 games over the past two years. His twin brother, Jason, started as a senior in 2008. He has very good athletic ability and will be very good on special teams. His speed seems to be slightly above average. He has good, not great, quickness and is a steady player, who can find the ball.
5. Brandon Ghee
College: Wake Forest Height/Weight: 5-11 3/8
Ghee was redshirted in 2005 and didn’t play in 2006 because of academic problems. He started 10 games in 2007 and led the team in forced fumbles last year. Ghee has the size and speed necessary for the position. He might be a better athlete than player. He suffered a knee injury during spring practice and he will need a medical check this fall.
6. Trevard Lindley
College: Kentucky Height/Weight: 5-11, 178
Lindley is a fifth-year player, who has started every game (39 in his college career) and was voted first-team All-SEC in 2008. He ran a 4.53 in the 40 on his Pro Day this spring and has outstanding quickness and ball skills (nine interceptions and 34 pass breakups). Lindley is small, but tough, and has 158 career tackles. He was a high school running back and is a smart player that makes lots of big plays.
7. Walter Thurmond
College: Oregon Height/Weight: 5-10½, 185
A fifth-year player who has started 37 of 38 games over the past three years, Thurmond played both ways in high school. He had five interceptions and 66 tackles in 2008, has good speed and quickness for the position. Thurmond is better playing off receivers rather than in press coverage. Thurmond can also return kicks.
8. Javier Arenas
College: Alabama Height/Weight: 5-8½, 192
Arenas played as a true freshman in 2006. Last year was his first year as a starter and he was voted second-team All-SEC at corner. He is an outstanding punt returner, one of the best in college football, and has good ball skills. He will tackle and was timed at 4.6 in the 40-yard dash last spring. Arenas has very good quickness and is most likely a third corner and top punt return man.
9. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
College: Indiana (Pa.) Height/Weight: 6-0½, 197
Owusu-Ansah’s family came from Ghana in West Africa. He grew up in Ohio. Ansah played running back in high school, but is a raw player with rare size and speed (4.48 in the 40-yard dash in bad conditions on a poor surface). He needs to work on his technique, but he had eight interceptions in 2008 and can also return kicks. Owusu-Ansah has good upside.
10. Alterraun Verner
College: UCLA Height/Weight: 5-10¼, 184
Verner is a four-year player, who started one game as a true freshman and has started 22 games over the past two seasons. He was selected second-team All-Pac 10 in 2008. He has returned three of his eight interceptions for touchdowns. He was the only freshman in UCLA history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same season. He has very good anticipation (led the nation in pass breakups in 2008) and has good speed and acceleration for the position. He will be a team captain in 2009.
11. Myron Lewis
College: Vanderbilt Height/Weight: 6-1 5/8, 205
Lewis is a four-year player, who has started 25 consecutive games over the past two years at corner. This is a Pittsburgh-type corner. He is a very good blitzer, who will tackle and has good ball skills. He tallied five interceptions in 2008 and has 23 pass breakups over the past two years. He is a good, solid player, who is very smart. Lewis was also a very good high school basketball player.
12. Perrish Cox
College: Oklahoma State Height/Weight: 6-0, 190
Cox is a four-year player, who has started games over the past two years, including eight in 2007. He has six interceptions and 21 pass breakups over three years and has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns. He has the size and speed needed to play corner, finds the ball and is a good tackler. He is a good prospect.
13. Devin Ross
College: Arizona Height/Weight: 5-10 1/8, 180
Ross is a four-year player, who started in 2008. He made second-team All-Pac 10 last year and has kick return ability. Ross has the speed and quickness needed to play the position. He is a good special teams player, but needs to get stronger. He has good ball skills.
14. Kyle Wilson
College: Boise State Height/Weight: 5-9½, 185
Wilson is a fifth-year player, who started five games in 2006. He has started 31 consecutive games and was the MVP of the New Jersey High School Championship Game as a junior and senior. He ran a 4.42 and a 4.43 at Boise State’s Pro Day this past spring. He had five interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 2008. Wilson has the quickness and speed needed to play corner in the NFL, though, I wish he was taller.
15. Chris Hawkins
College: LSU Height/Weight: 6-foot, 190
Hawkins is a fifth-year player, who was a full-time starter for the first time last season, starting all 13 games at right corner. He led the team in interceptions with three and was a high school running back and receiver, who will play left corner this season. He has the size needed for the position and has good coverage ability with good, but not great, speed. Hawkins has good athletic ability and is an older player at the age of 23. He will be good on coverage teams (punts and kickoffs).
16. Jamar Wall
College: Texas Tech Height/Weight: 5-10, 197
Wall is a four-year player and two-year starter for the Red Raiders, who was an outstanding high school running back. He has been well coached against the pass and has good ball skills. He has good speed and quickness and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 each of the past two years.
17. Traye Simmons
College: Minnesota Height/Weight: 5-9, 182
Simmons is a junior college transfer, who started 12 games for the Gophers in 2008. He was an outstanding high school player in Georgia. He has very good quickness and outstanding ability to break on the ball. Simmons will tackle, but has good, not great, speed for the position.
18. Stephan Virgil
College: Virginia Tech Height/Weight: 5-10½, 185
Virgil was a fifth-year player that started for the first time in 2008 and had six interceptions for the Hokies. He had a school-record 47 starts at Rocky Mount High School in North Carolina. He ran a 4.59 in the 40 this past spring at Virginia Tech Pro Day and plays well vs. the run. He has good reaction to the ball and that makes up for his lack of great speed. He will be a good special teams player in the NFL.