Top 10 cornerbacks of the 2023 NFL Draft:

Switching back over to the defensive side of the ball here in week two of our positional draft rankings, we go from the wide receivers to the guys that will be lining up across from them on Sundays – the cornerbacks. I project most of these names to play outside primarily, but some of them may end up moving inside for their future team. However, I did not include names like Alabama’s Brian Branch or Illinois’ Jartavius Martin, who did line up in the slot for the most part in college and may also do so in the NFL, but project better as safeties, if they did side into another role.

Similar to the wide receivers, this is an incredibly deep group and I had to study more than 30 guys, in order to feel comfortable about my ultimate rankings. However, the difference is that we have two legit top-ten overall prospects and there are at least four other names worthy of being discussed in the first round. Beyond that, I think the rest of my top-ten and even the two names in the “just missed” category should be off the board after round two. And once again, we are far from done, in terms of guys I believe will find their way onto an NFL field.

I don’t want to waste any more time now and discuss this group:

Devon Witherspoon


1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

6’0”, 180 pounds; SR


Not having started playing football until junior year of high school, despite having 11 interceptions his final year there, Witherspoon started his career at a junior college originally as a zero-star recruit, but after some trouble with his grades in high school, he got his SAT scores in order to make himself eligible and join Illinois. There he was a special teams ace early on before earning his way into the starting defensive lineup. He already had some very impressive tape in 2021 (nine PBUs and eight TFLs), but last year he picked off three passes and broke up another 14, en route to being named first-team All-Big and All-American.


+ Clearly has a chip on his shoulder and brings an attitude to the table

+ Plays with a ton of pride and confidence, taking on different assignments and moving around the field

+ The explosiveness from his track background and the high jump show up all over his game

+ Drives forward out of his backpedal with great conviction and is ready to make a play on the ball or deliver a big hit, unlike very few corners I’ve ever watched

+ On spot/hitch routes with deep responsibility, if he’s allowed to attack upfield, you see him arrive basically simultaneously with the ball a lot of times

+ Yet, while he likes to aggressively break on routes, you don’t typically see him for fall double-moves, where the receiver just tries to give a little head-fake or stutters his feet on fades

+ Even on deep curls and comebacks, where you’re trying to make Witherspoon completely open up his hips, quarterbacks aren’t really comfortable with throwing his way, because he may cover that distance in the time the ball travels through the air

+ When isolated on the perimeter, once receivers have committed to their release, Witherspoon lands some effective stabs to widen their path and reduce space to work with, whilst having his eyes locked on the hips of his man

+ If they go across his face on inside breakers, he does not concede the middle of the field and forces them to play through his punch, sometimes completely throwing them off balance

+ Not somebody who you’re going to pick on by hitting receivers off full-sprint motion across the field, because he’ll trail his guy with the speed to shut those plays down for minimal yardage


+ Understands where his leverage is, where to expect breaks and when to turn vertically in match-zone coverage

+ Plus, he funnels receivers towards his safeties when there’s a secondary threat working towards his area

+ Lined up in the slot for 107 snaps last season and showed the ability to turn with slot fades, as well as mirror stems towards the middle, while being alert for breaks out to the sideline

+ As he sees the receiver turn his head down the sideline and adjust his speed or tries to create a little bit of extra separation, Witherspoon looks back for the ball and tries to actively play it in the air

+ Yet he can also put a hand right in-between the receiver’s paws to knock it up for grabs, timing up when he swipe-throughs very well

+ Had a great pick against Wyoming matched up with a slot fade, turning his head and picking it off at the sideline

+ Allowed only 22 receptions for 200 yards and no touchdowns on 425 coverage snaps and 63 targets (one reception in press-man), while forcing 18 incompletions and picking off three passes, leading to a 92.5 PFF coverage grade


+ Witherspoon doesn’t stay blocked in place, but regularly bench-presses receivers inside and gets involved on tackles, at times up the C-gap

+ If he’s the unblocked force defender, he will shoot into the backfield and chop down bigger ball-carriers, which resulted in a crazy eight TFLs in 2021

+ You actively see him work around blockers, regularly eluding them altogether, trying to get to the ball, when he could easily just stay out on the perimeter and hold his ground

+ Absolutely destroyed Indiana’s running back on a little swing screen in 2022, immediately shooting downhill once he saw that guy go in motion and he knew what was coming based on studying tape

+ Was used as a blitzer off the corner a few times, where he times up the snap well and plays with ferocious pursuit


– Has a tendency of playing a little bit tall in his pedal and isn’t as comfortable in true off-man

– Because he has more of that lanky build, guys are able to create some separation on deep comebacks and stuff like that, since it takes him a little bit of time to pivot and redirect

– Does get pretty handsy when receivers are able to attack the edges of his frame and needs to fully turn his back to the quarterback, And some of the ways he “catches” receivers down the field when playing off will draw flags at the next level for illegal contact (six penalties in ’22)

– NFL athletes may lead him to more missed tackles with how regularly he doesn’t break down from sprinting pursuit, And he has moments of just going head-first and not using his arms as a tackler, which also may be a health concern long-term


If you’re looking for a corner that plays with an extreme level of confidence and has “that dog in him”, Witherspoon is your guy. He can both stick to receivers off the line in press-man or read patterns in zone and disrupt the catch point consistently. My only legit concern with him is how easily he’ll be able to adjust his playing style in order to avoid penalties at the next level, and I don’t know if an off-man heavy system is the greatest fit for him, because of the way he initiated contact past the five-yard mark. Yet, the way he can match great athletes as a true boundary corner and how aggressively he supports against the run are a defensive coordinator’s dream. He’s one of the rare guys at the position, who I believe have the mentality to be a number one right away.



Christian Gonzalez


2. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

6’1”, 200 pounds; RS SO


A four-star recruit for Colorado in 2020, Gonzalez started all six games of his COVID-shortened true freshman campaign and finished second on the team with five passes broken up. The following season, he was out with the one’s for all 12 games and once again recorded five PBUs, along with another 5.5 tackles for loss. He decided to transfer to the Ducks ahead of 2022 and it paid off in a major way. He became a first-team All-Pac-12 performer, with four passes intercepted and seven more broken up.


+ Has those prototype press-man corner measurements and was regularly asked to challenge the opposing team’s number one receiver at the line whilst at Colorado

+ Oregon ran a lot more cover-three, where we saw him fall off his guy on the outside, but there were still several impressive reps in isolated coverage

+ Uses a very patient approach at the release point and lands those one-handed stabs at the pec of receivers consistently, to push them towards and then guide them along the sideline, where any space to fit the pass into is taken away

+ Along with that, he incorporates some fake jams to keep receivers off balance trying to come off the ball

+ Routinely is on top of his man down the sideline and is looking back at the quarterback, to not allows guys to detach, but also being right there in position to defend throws to the back-shoulder

+ For a tall corner, Gonzalez is loose enough to swivel his hips and attack against targets breaking towards the middle of the field, He has some highly impressive reps, where he opens to the outside and gets right back into the hip-pocket of receivers to cut off dig routes

+ I think in general, you can see that he is frustrating receivers with not allowing them to get to the edges of his frame, and because he can keep his body in their way to some degree, he feels comfortable tracking the ball in the air whilst being engaged with those guys

+ Had a couple of great reps against Stanford WR Michael Wilson, negating vertical releases on go routes and playing the ball in the air, as well as wrap around them on shorter breaks


+ Even in zone-coverage, Gonzalez doesn’t typically allow the guy across from him to stem routes in uncontested fashion

+ Has the speed to run with guys down the sideline, as well as carry them down the post and stay in phase, despite having outside leverage in cover-three/-four

+ Displays high football IQ in the what he presents to quarterbacks, sometimes that he’s gain ground in a quarter-turn, but then squaring his hips and contesting throws underneath, when they’re in cover-two and there’s a safety over the top

+ Allowed 39 catches on 64 yards last season, with those four INTs and nine more forced incompletions (81.4 PFF coverage grade), compared to three touchdowns

+ Even on a lot of those catches he did allow, he was right there in positive and tried to not get called for interference

+ Will only turn 21 years old at the end of July, with room to still fine-tune his spacing due to limited experience in zone coverage

+ Had an excellent all-around showing at the combine, with a 4.38 in the 40, a 41.5-inch vert (tied for second among CBs) and 11’1” broad jump (tied for fourth)


+ When runs come out to the edge and he becomes the force defender, he’s pretty effective at chopping down ball-carriers at their feet

+ Uses those long arms to keep receivers from getting into his frame as blockers

+ And I thought he became a bigger hitter and more physical player altogether in 2022

+ Missed only three of 53 tackling attempts last year, where his long arms to wrap up and hold onto guys is a benefit


– Lacks a certain physicality to hold his ground and win in contested-catch situations, as well as being vulnerable to push-offs

– His success rate at raking the ball out of the hands of receivers is pretty low, once they get their finger-tips on it

– Has to be a little bit quicker to recognize crack toss plays and screens coming towards him

– Not overly interested in coming off blocks and chasing hard to get involved on tackles in the run game or when the ball goes away from him


While Gonzo may not be the type of junkyard dog Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon is, everything just comes so easy to this guy. The fluidity, the acceleration and long-speed to run with guys effortlessly, his length and vertical prowess to compete at the catch point – there’s just not much you can throw at him that really creates problems. Now, for as much athletic confidence as he radiates and I’d feel very confident leaving him one-on-one with the X-receiver for the majority of four quarters, he doesn’t really make his presence felt physically. He’s not a plus in run-support for what you expect from that spot, you don’t see him squeezing down route patterns as a zone-defender and there’s definitely guys who are feistier at attacking the ball. If his future coaches can get that “alpha mentality” out of him, he has legit All-Pro potential.



Joey Porter Jr.


3. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

6’3”, 195 pounds; RS SO


The son of long-time Steelers linebacker Joey Porter Sr., this 2019 four-star recruit barely saw the field as a freshman, but then in eight games of 2020, Joey Jr. recorded four PBUs and two TFLs. He got his first pick, along with four more PBUs the following season. This past year, he really made a name for himself breaking up 11 passes in just ten games, which he was named first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American for.


+ Probably the longest corners I’ve ever watched, at 6’2” and ½ with a full 34-inch arms

+ Very patient off the line, along with the reach to land one-handed stabs without having to compromise his base

+ Does well to forcefully stab with the inside hand and sustaining contact with receivers in press-man coverage (from inside shade) – You regularly see him ride receivers into the white on fade routes

+ Stays sticky against crossers and dig routes typically and has the hip fluidity to make those 180-degree turns when routes break away from the initial stem

+ Does not seem worried about getting run by and sticking in trail technique and he’s way lighter on his feet than you’d think and he stops his weight without an issue to match receivers, ready to stop once he feels the break coming

+ Not looking out of place matching up with tight-ends as the single receiver in three-by-one sets, being ready to greet them with those tentacles of his

+ On 30 targets last season, only 15 were completed for 143 yards and no touchdowns, while he actively forced 12 incompletions

+ And only 68 yards came across 106 snaps in press-man


+ For a tall corner, Porter’s ability to redirect and drive on quick-breaking routes from off-alignment is pretty impressive

+ His length and ability to cover ground make him a very tough guy to stretch with high-low concepts when he’s the flat defender in cover-two

+ You see him re-route the outside receiver and guide him towards the safety on fade routes, while still being able to make plays on the ball on the out route of the slot, where offenses try to put him in conflict like that – Nearly had a pick-six on one of those in the ’22 season opener vs. Purdue

+ Very competitive and strong at defending the catch point in box-out situations – Trying to throw goal-line fades against this guy isn’t a good idea, because he has the physicality, length and competitive spirit to rake the ball out at any moment, even if he doesn’t bat it away initially

+ Has the extra gear to re-enter the picture after receivers seem to have a step on him breaking to the post with him in deep responsibility

+ Porter had six(!) PBUs in the ’22 opener against Purdue, where the QB clearly didn’t judge right what kind of range and reach he has


+ His long arms make it nearly impossible for receivers to get into his frame as blockers in the run game

+ Yet, he can dip the near-shoulder as guys work out towards him, to funnel the ball back inside

+ And if there’s a crease between blockers in the screen game, he can rapidly shoot through and throw those off

+ Those burners also show up when he runs down ball-carriers at full stride


– Does get turned around more regularly than you’d like to see and he could draw more flags when he grabs because of it at the next level (three penalties vs. ten in 2021)

– Can be a little undisciplined at times in zone coverage and not continue to gain depth, if he feels like the deep route to his side is off the table

– Not dying to get involved in tackles, even though he’d have the size to crash through blockers and shows that at times – earned a PFF grade of just 53.2 against the run this past season

– When blitzing off the edge or replacing one of his teammates as the unblocked defender, way too often you see him clutching for air, as he’s trying to set the tackle – missed six of 33 attempts last year (17.6%)


When you draft Porter Jr., you know what you want him to be – a physical press-corner with historic length and plus all-around athletic traits. You can ask him to play straight bump-and-run, he can play press-bail or throw off the timing of concepts along with adding range in a more cover-two heavy system. I don’t think he’ll have quite the same success like a similarly long corner in Tariq Woolen from last year’s class if you also stick him in a quarters-based scheme, but this is still an ascending talent, with just one season, where he seems to have gotten “it”. There’s certainly room to become more disciplined with avoiding penalties and becoming a more reliable tackler in the run game, but considering his bloodlines and the natural gifts he has, I think you feel comfortable maybe giving him a year to acclimate himself to the pro game, because of what the pay-off can be. I don’t see him making it out of the top-20.



Deonte Banks


4. Deonte Banks, Maryland

6’2”, 205 pounds; RS JR


A top-1000 overall recruit in 2019, until this past season, Banks actually played the most games as a true freshman (11 games, 8 starts), when he had one interception and a couple of PBUs, since Maryland only played five games in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign and he then was lost for the following season two games in. Last year he made a name for himself, with another pick and eight PBUs, while drawing the eye of the scouting community.


+ Was a true press-man corner for the Terps – Spent all but 13 snaps on the perimeter last season

+ Shows advanced understanding for receiver splits, which routes to expect and to protect against those with the technique he uses

+ Utilizes independent hand jams and re-routing tools, to keep guys across from him off their game

+ Stays patient against delayed releases and packs a mean jam to throw guys off balance when they do ultimately commit

+ Has the speed to frequently blanket go routes in man and not allow receivers to detach vertically down the post, even when he plays with outside leverage in cover-three/-four

+ Can gather and re-accelerate very well, to not allow guys to create separation on double-moves

+ For a long corner, Banks can roll his hips and get underneath deep in-breakers very well, after flipping with the outside release initially


+ Plays to his leverage and doesn’t overreact to route stems, intended to pull him off his land-marks in zone coverage

+ Communicative player with passing off assignments in that regard and the explosiveness to attach to secondary targets approaching his general space

+ Recognizes when he can fall off onto seam routes in cover-three and has the length to disrupt the catch point, as he arrives there late

+ Does not panic with his back to the football and consistently punches through the hands of his man

+ That competitiveness at the catch-point is apparent when the catch seems to be secured and he keeps trying to rip it out

+ Received a 73.1 PFF coverage grade in 2022, with 13 forced incompletions and that one INT, allowing only 26 completions on 60 targets, although four of those ended in touchdowns


+ Actively condenses the edge when unblocked in the rum game and has no issues making stops on-on-one as ball-carriers try to get around the edge

 + Willing, effective tackler, with just one total miss this past season on 39 attempts

+ There are several moments watching Banks’ tape, where his joy for the game and energy is apparent

+ Had a tremendous combine showing, where he ran a 4.35 in the 40, led all corners with a 42-inch vertical & was second in the broad jump at 11’4″, He also had an excellent on-field workout, where he stayed low in his pedal, was able to drive out of it with explosion and flip his hips without issues, despite that longer build, And he caught the ball with confidence throughout


– Probably not the best fit for a quarters or off-man heavy scheme, because there is a bit of a delay at times when trying to click-and-close on routes in front of him, if he has to gain depth initially

– Still has room to improve his ability to maintain contact through the release in press-technique, rather than shooting his hands and then turning with guys

– Consistently plays the man and rarely tracks the ball in the air to attack it, while getting flagged a few times for raking through the receiver’s hands a split-second early

– There are too many plays, where he’s in phase, but receivers are able to adjust to the pass in the air and Banks doesn’t contest the catch enough or even tries to find the ball

– Allows receivers to get into his frame too much as blockers and then has a tough time disengaging from those


This is a name that has just continued to rise throughout this pre-draft process and moved up my rankings, the more I watched of him. Banks is a prototype outside corner, with the aggressive mindset to throw off the timing off routes, but also being springy enough to not allow guys to separate if they have the edge off the line, along with the burst and length to close any distance late. There’s certainly room for improvement in his press-technique and you’d like to see him want to make plays on the ball more regularly, but if you put him in a system, where he can dictate routes early on and not have make to transitions from off-alignments regularly, I think he be an excellent starter at boundary corner for a long time. With the way he tested in Indy, I don’t see a way he makes it out of the first round at this point.



Cam Smith


5. Cam Smith, South Carolina

6’1”, 185 pounds; RS JR


A four-star recruit in 2019, Smith barely saw the field as a true freshman, before logging two interceptions and PBUs each the following season in eight games. In his first full season as a starter in 2021, intercepted three passes and broke up another 11, along with 2.5 TFLs and a forced fumble. This past year, he only defensed six passes (one pick), but still was regarded as one of the top corners in the SEC, where he made second-team all-conference as a junior.


+ Picked up right where Jaycee Horn left off for the Gamecocks in 2021, as he picked off three passes, broke up 11 more and finished with an 89.7 coverage grade

+ Last year those numbers dipped a little bit, but he still only allowed 47.4% of throws his way to be completed and was responsible for a passer rating of 71.3, whilst spending almost exactly a third of snaps in a tough slot role

+ Plays a lot of soft press for the Gamecocks, where his fluidity and balance is highly impressive for a lanky corner, but then he also provides that length and physicality to deny receiving easy access to the edges of his frame

+ You regularly see him force the X into the boundary, with no space to fit the ball into him or just to make them kind of quit on their route

+ Even if he misses the jam, Smith is loose enough to cross over with that inside leg and not really get out of phase

+ Plus, then he can stop his momentum exceptionally well against curls and comebacks with efficient footwork

+ Against guys releasing inside, Smith typically makes sure to attach to the near-shoulder of the receiver and feels the break coming, to stick in the hip-pocket


+ You see Smith back-pedal ten yards and not look uncomfortable doing so, unlike many other tall corners

+ When sinking in cover-three, Smith’s eyes are on the slot receiver and he’s ready to fall off for inside fades/seam routes

+ As a flat defender, his length and ability to mid-point routes makes it very dangerous to hit deep outs and corner routes against him

+ With his ball-tracking skills, he can be leveraged outside in deep zone responsibility and still get back underneath the wideout on post routes, to catch the ball over his shoulder himself – Had a great pick that way against Clemson in 2021, working out of the slot

+ Shows the comfort when tangled up with receivers down the field, to bring his head around and attack the ball in the air, However, when he needs to play through the hands of the target, he can typically do so without prematurely interfering

+ Going back to the 2021 East Carolina game, he had an incredible play, arm-barring the receiver on a fade route and getting a hand on the ball to the back-shoulder, the opponent nearly bringing it in off the rebound, only for Smith to punch it out anyway

+ Across his two seasons as a starter with the Gamecocks, Smith has allowed just 33 of 70 targets for 395 yards and three TDs vs. four INTs

+ Tested better than expected at the combine, with a 4.43 in the 40, a 38-inch vert and an 11’2” broad jump (96th percentile)


+ Does a good job of maintaining vision on the ball-carrier as he’s engaged with blockers and sliding to the right side, to at least hold that guy up

+ Accelerates up into the flats and shoots through the legs of guys in the screen game for some splash plays

+ Smith shuffles his feet and shoots his hips through opponents to be a pretty effective space tackler one-on-one

+ Delivers knockback on ball-carriers who are already wrapped up and Smith finishes off the play – He iterally jumps on top of piles at the end of plays

+ Was blitzed off the corner later in games, when opponents were trying to close out wins with the run game


– Lacks the elite athletic traits (explosion, top gear) that you usually see from the very best at the position – he was just petrified by the speed of Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt and while shadowing him, he consistently played 10+ yards off on him

– His tendency of initiating contact with receivers further than five yards down the field when he doesn’t actually press will lead to a transition phase with NFL rules

– And overall, I thought when guys released against his leverage, he tends to tug their jersey for a moment, which rarely got called

– While he’s been much more effectively recently, he does have a 16.3% career missed tackle rate, too often relying on being able sling or drag guys to the ground

– Dealt with several minor injuries, that put him on the sideline for stretches of games


I don’t believe Smith is quite at the same level of an athlete as the top-three names on consensus boards, but when you look at the last two years, arguably nobody has a better resume in coverage than him. South Carolina trusted him to lock up the opposing team’s number one receiver – similar to some of the other great corners they’ve had there – and he consistently got the job done. I think his future team will need to protect him a little more, in terms of not leaving him isolated against true speedsters, but if he can tone down his aggressiveness a little bit in terms of grabbing cloth and wrapping up accordingly as a tackler, he can continue to frustrate opponents with his length, physicality and competitive mindset.



Kelee Ringo


6. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

6’2”, 205 pounds; RS SO


The number one overall cornerback recruit in 2020, Ringo took an initial redshirt with the loaded DB room of the Bulldogs.  In his first season as a starter, he broke up eight passes and intercepted another two, including the game-sealing pick-six in the national title game versus Alabama. In 2022 he was a fixture in the lineup and was named second-team All-SEC, with two more INTs, seven PBUs, two sacks and a forced fumble.


+ One of the most massive college corners you will ever find and plays up to that size

+ Can maul some smaller receivers off the line and not allow them to get into their release at all

+ Has the physicality and length to negate slant routes and ride guys along trying to access the inside in general

+ If he can attach to the hype of receivers on vertical routes, with those 4.36 wheels, you don’t see guys gain a step on him

+ His speed allows Ringo to stay glued to his man on quick crossing routes, where he should be at a disadvantage bases on alignment alone

+ When put in the slot, he showed the ability to stick with those inside fade routes despite all the space to work with

+ The recovery burst for a guy that almost like a linebacker esthetically is pretty insane

+ Bends off the near-foot to the WR very well for how big he is, to not overrun the break-point too far

+ Allowed just a 40.7% completion percentage in coverage in 2021

+ While his junior campaign didn’t quite live up to the hype, Ringo had a tremendous showing against TCU’s Quentin Johnston in the national title game, where his only catch (for three yards) came on a little slip screen and Ringo was glued to him for the most part


+ Does well to mid-point routes in two-high shells and rarely allows easy completions in front of him

+ Well-coordinated at gaining plenty of ground without crossing over his legs in those three-quarter turns

+ Showcases exceptional ball-skills for any defensive player, with the ability to track over either shoulder and attack passes at their highest point

+ Made an impressive interception in what proved to be a dominant performance for the defense against Tennessee’s then-number one scoring offense (in a matchup of two top-three ranked teams), where he basically ran the fade route for Cedric Tillman and made an over-the-shoulder grab look easy

+ Even if it appears receivers have the catch secured, when he initiates contact and punches at the ball, he knocks it loose quite regularly


+ Incredibly physical tackler for the position, who often times becomes the one setting the tone at contact with running backs

+ You see several tackles, where he actually drives guys backwards and puts them on their backside, which is rare for a corner

+ If offenses motion the wideout in tight and pull him into the box, he’s not a negative there, being able to set the edge against tight-ends

+ Was blitzed off the corner a few times, where he showed the ability to beat tight-ends with a strong rip-through trying to fan out to him, or slip inside, if they overset

+ Will only turn 21 years old at the end of June, with just two years of collegiate experience


– Even though you want Ringo to take advantage of his crazy physicality in a press-man role, in 2022 he didn’t show the anticipation for how receivers want to release, land his stabs accordingly and shuffle in front of guys, so he can match them, which led to him being in catch-up mode and relying on his athletic tools to recover too often

– Simply has to become better with mirroring releases and cutting off angles for receivers, to not allow opponents to be a step ahead of him

– Gets way too aggressive with jersey tugs at the top of routes and will regularly draw flags because of it

– Well-schooled receivers can deceive him peak-techniques and more intricate routes, where he gets lost for a moment

– Can be a little undisciplined with falling off his landmarks in zone coverage and surrender easy completions towards his area later on in plays


Ringo emerged as one of the top-two corner prospects for the 2023 draft during last year’s summer. Considering he’s stronger and faster than basically anybody he’s faced over these past two seasons, that’s understandable and I’m sure many coaches are still very intrigued by the skill-set he brings to the table. With that being said, he threw up legitimate question marks in some matchups over the course of the season. His ability to anticipate and mirror receivers off the line was sub-par and it felt like he was consistently a step behind the guy across from him. Now, for some of the big plays he gave up and flags he drew, he did make up with a couple of tremendous interceptions and balls he was able to dislodge late. We can’t forget that he is still a very young player, who faced some tremendous competition and still has plenty of room to grow in terms of the details of the position. The tools are certainly there to be a starter on the outside, but I think his future team may end up making him a big nickel, to counter the league’s trend towards power slot profiles. I still believe it’s more likely he gets picked in the first round than not.



Julius Brents


7. Julius Brents, Kansas State

6’4”, 205 pounds; RS SR


A top-500 overall recruit for Iowa in 2018, Brents played in 11 games as a true freshman, including five starts. Over the next two seasons, he was limited to eight games, including a redshirt in 2019. After having recorded five pass break-ups and an interception with the Hawkeyes, he transferred to K-State. There he was a full-time starter both years, with limited ball-production initially, but then intercepting and breaking up four passes respectively in 2022.


+ Legit 6’3” corner with an insane 82 and 5/8-inch wingspan (99th percentile)

+ Yet his feet are pretty darn quick as he mirrors guys off the line, with balanced footwork

+ Has some very impressive reps against guys trying to release down the sideline, where he rides them into the white by that near-shoulder and takes away any space to complete the ball into

+ Against receivers who have more room to the outside by alignment, who takes those wide releases against him, Brents has his eyes locked onto the hips of those guys without needing to totally commit his hips and be ready for any potential breaks

+ His long arms enable him to land jams as receivers stick their foot in the ground for quick breaks and slow them down significantly

+ Attacks the near-shoulder and pins the inside arm of guys trying to stack him vertically

+ Shows excellent balance between making sure he’s in phase, turning his head at the appropriate time, yet understanding when the secondary play starts and his eyes need to shift back towards the quarterback

+ Had awesome back-and-forth battles with TCU stud receiver Quentin Johnson in their two 2022 matchups and to a large degree also the year prior, even though Brents didn’t actually travel


+ When he plays with his butt to the sideline, Brents covers ground well whilst having his eyes locked on the quarterback and being ready to break on stuff in front of him

+ Springy and rapidly closes the distance to receivers matching routes from off-alignment in quarters

+ His long branches give him room for error when there is a little bit of breathing room created by the receiver, to still affect the catch-point

+ As we saw this past season, if you under- or overthrow this guy, you better do so by a significant margin, or he will come up with the ball

+ Has some beautiful high-point picks on his resume

+ Held opposing quarterbacks to 24-of-51 for 374 yards and three TDs, but also four INTs himself last season, for a passer rating of just 57.7 (and that includes a 55-yard TD, where he stumbled and against a go route, when coming onto the field for one play gutting it out through an injury)

+ Absolutely jumped out of the gym with a 41.5-inch vert & an 11’6” broad jump, And while not all corners did participate, his agility numbers were also both significantly better than the next-closest guy at the position despite his crazy long build


+ Actively condenses the edge and doesn’t mind sticking his face in the fan in run defense, at times throwing a shoulder into the chest of pulling guards even

+ Doesn’t waste any time racing upfield when the ball is completed underneat and he lands some wicked hits on guys before they can even turn upfield

+ You see some plays where he’s 15 yards down the field and then stops check-downs on like swing routes for two- or three-yard gains

+ Has the slipperiness of elude receivers trying to block him as his man works towards the quarterback on slip/tunnel screens

+ Displays a large tackling radius and effectively chops or twists ball-carriers to the ground – only missed four of 49 tackling attempts this past season


– With how long Brents is, he lacks some bulk that physical wideouts can take advantage of when they pro-active attack his chest and put him into recovery-mode

– Tends to gets his feet stuck as he tries to throw his jam and gets beat on quick slant routes sometimes, because he lacks that high-level twitch

– Has his issues sticking with guys on double-releases or who can just get his hips tilted towards the sideline before breaking inside of him, since it takes him longer to bring his base back around and getting back into the picture with those long legs

– Crafty route-runner can fool him with head-fakes at times

– While he certainly improved in 2022, too often he would leave his feet before he arrives at his target when racing down for tackles


It’s rare to see any corner with 34-inch arms. So having two in one draft class is unheard of. However, for some reason Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. – deservedly discussed as a top-20 pick – is getting all the attention and Brents is rarely mentioned as one of the top names in this class. Maybe it’s the fact people look at him being playing in the Big-12, where defense is optional at times seemingly, but that is not considering the fact he was in a role that should translate very well to the next level and the brutal slate of receivers he faced last season, which he more than held his own against. His crazy length and light feet to play sticky coverage from the get-go makes him a very attractive option for a man-heavy scheme, but unlike some of these other long CBs, I think he has also shown the skills to click-and-close on routes in more off-zone centric systems. There is some downside with that lanky build, in terms of being able to snap his hips and stand his ground against physical wideouts at times, but the positives far outweigh those. I think he’s a top-50 player in this draft.



Eli Ricks


8. Eli Ricks, Alabama

6’2”, 195 pounds; JR


The number two cornerback recruit for LSU in 2020, Ricks was the best true freshman corner in the country back in 2020, as he only allowed 13 catches on 28 targets for 237 yards, breaking up five passes and intercepting another four, of which he took half back to the house. In 2021, he only had ones for both those statistics, as the Tigers struggled as a program, before he decided to transfer to the archrivals at Alabama. Head and back injuries limited him to only nine games with the Crimson Tide, breaking up four passes along the way.


+ Long, loose athlete who plays with the position with a ton of confidence

+ Was routinely put on the single receiver side and left in man/match-coverage with a lot of space to work

+ Has the light feet, hands-on approach and length to negate slant routes, The same is true when not allowing quick separation against crossers, while being able to elude traffic on natural rubs off mesh concepts

+ Can change up his approach in press-coverage and when he doesn’t feel like guys are real vertical threats, he may sell out for aggressive two-handed jams

+ Shows the easy flip of the hips, quick acceleration off the line and long-speed to carry routes down the sideline

+ Glides through breaks towards the post or corner without losing speed typically

+ However, then he can also stop his weight pretty well and redirect against curl and deep in-breaking routes for how lanky he is

+ Even when he’s playing off and receivers try to release outside, he can use those long arms to target the near-shoulder and guide them into the sideline, minimizing the space for the ball to arrive towards

+ Displays that sudden burst to not allow late separation on secondary routes or close the gap to guys drifting towards open grass


+ Makes sure he stays capped over the top of routes in deep zone responsibility

+ Playing cover-three, he does a good job of falling underneath deep crossers and corner routes as he becomes the hang-defender

+ In split-safety coverage, where he plays with his butt to the sideline, he’s quick to key on the quarterback getting the ball out to the flats even as the other receivers push vertically

+ Was used as a nickel a few times in 2020, where he showed the ability to decipher patterns and drive on routes breaking inside of him

+ Defending go balls, Ricks actively turns his head from inside position and high-points the ball – He had an impressive interception on a go route in the 2020 Mississippi State game like that as a true freshman already

+ Plays the back-shoulder exceptionally well, not overrunning the point of arrival and maximizing his length to reach around

+ While the sample size is certainly limited, Ricks’ 31.6% completion percentage allowed in 2022 was the best among all corners in the nation

+ Altogether, opposing passers have gone 17-of-36 for 213 yards, with one touchdown and one INT each across 428 coverage snaps these last two years


+ Reliable, willing tackler in space, who typically lassoes ball-carriers to the ground

+ Quick to come up into the flats when in zone coverage and hold those underneath completions to limited yardage

+ Doesn’t shy away from attacking downhill and actively shutting down runs out on the perimeter, at times diving at the legs of blockers try to lead the way


– His frame lacks muscle and you see play-strength not being up-to-par trying to hold his ground against push-offs and not dislodging the ball from the intended target, as he arrives there to place a hit

– Can float around a little too much and get off him landmarks unjustified in zone coverage

– Allows motions to completely take him out of the picture at times, where he’s just blindly trailing across the field and doesn’t even look at the backfield (even if he may be in man-coverage)

– Wideouts get into his chest and control reps in the run game more often than not, despite his long arms (PFF run defense grade of just 50.4)

– Only played only 735 snaps the last two seasons due to shoulder (2021) and back (2022) injuries


The fact that Ricks seems to be outside the top-ten corners of pretty much any board you look at is shocking to me. He was looked at as a consensus top-two name at the position heading into this past season and when you look at the numbers in coverage, he may have actually had his best year. He needs to get stronger, to battle with the physical wideouts the NFL has to offer and to start to help out in run support more. However, I believe the only reason Ricks isn’t being discussed as a first-rounder is his injury history. That’s also why I don’t have him even higher, because that is certainly a concern, but I also can’t ignore the results on the field and overall talent. You just don’t let guys this long and loose fall too far.



Tyrique Stevenson


9. Tyrique Stevenson, Miami

6’0”, 205 pounds; SR


Behind only Derek Stingley Jr. and Andrew Booth as the number three cornerback recruit in 2019, Stevenson played that STAR position for Georgia, where he broke up five passes in each of his two seasons, before deciding to move on to Miami ahead of 2021. Across 22 games with the Hurricanes, he recorded 11 PBUs, three interceptions and four tackles for loss.


+ Offers a stout build combined with 32 and 3/8-inch arms

+ Has the speed and physicality to ride receivers into the sideline, plus then he trusts his athletic ability to turn his head for the ball as he has that contact established

+ Showed significant improvement in his press-technique in 2022, not playing flat-footed and mirroring guys as they commit to the release

+ He also started throwing in some fake-jams, where you actually see receivers stumble because they expect the contact

+ Does not get anxious against delayed releases and won’t allow guys to clear his hip, latching his hands onto them, to feel the break coming

+ Refuses to allow receivers to get even with him on a vertical plane

+ Even if guys are able to get him turned the wrong way momentarily, with those long arms, Stevenson is able to stymie their momentum and get back into phase typically

+ Feels/Anticipates breaks exceptionally well when he locked up with guys in man, understanding what to expect based on spacing as well as down and distance


+ There are very few wasted steps and he’s well-coordinated overall in his footwork to redirect in off-coverage

+ Putting him two-high shells, Stevenson has the speed to cap over vertical routes and he displays some pretty impressive burst forward out of a side-pedal

+ Rarely flips his hips prematurely when he’s playing off with outside leverage (quarters)

+ Understands and manages that space to the sideline very well, while not allowing route stems to pull him off his landmarks too much

+ His awareness in shell coverages has continued to get better, regularly falling off in zone and letting his length disrupt the catch point against nearby targets

+ Doesn’t get overwhelmed when offenses overload his side and he has to split the distance between multiple targets

+ On 40 targets his way last year, he only allowed 17 passes to be completed for 353 yards and three touchdowns, but also two picks of his own – And I’m pretty sure he was charged with a 64-yard TD vs. North Carolina, where I would think he had to come up into the flats and it was the safety’s responsibility in cover-two

+ Had a truly remarkable Senior Bowl showing, among a really strong corner group – how effective he was at landing stabs with the insane without compromising his position or allowing guys to get past his outside hip, anticipating routes and putting himself in position to make plays on the ball


+ Shoots inside of his receiver when he sees the run coming his way with a purpose

+ Uses his length well to keep receivers locked out in the run game and then shows the willingness to throw them off and get involved on the tackle

+ Constantly is coming up against underneath completions and scrambling quarterbacks or racing across the field, helping to stop offenses before they can move the chains or get explosive plays

+ You see some big hits as guys come into his area on out routes and crossers, as well as barreling down on RBs on flat routes that really pop off the screen


– Can get a little too high in his pedal and take away explosiveness when driving back up the field – there are too many easy completions on slants hitches available when Stevenson is playing off

– You see guys create some separation down the post when he’s in match-zone, not gliding through his transitions or showing the sudden burst to recover and close that gap

– When guys do get a step on him, Stevenson can panic a little and tug the receiver’s jersey instead of trying to find the ball in the air

– Missed five of 30 tackling attempts this past season, due to just launching his body in ball-carriers, rather than wrapping and driving his legs


Stevenson is a player I’ve held in higher regard than most people out there over the last two plus years. He then went to the Senior Bowl and put on a clinic through the first two days, before missing one practice with an injury and ultimately returning for the game – which is a sign for his competitiveness. The athletic tools and confidence have been there all along, but he really continued developing his game through his time with Miami. I don’t believe he has premiere explosiveness or make-up burst you’d like to optimally see on the perimeter, but his anticipatory skills, technical growth and mindset for the position, make me believe he can be a plus starter there.



Emmanuel Forbes


10. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

6’1”, 170 pounds; JR


A top-200 overall recruit in 2020, Forbes immediately became a starter for the Bulldogs and was one of the most productive corners in the country through his first two years, intercepting eight and breaking up another ten passes combined, with three(!) pick-sixes his freshman campaign. He was named Freshman All-SEC and second-team All-SEC in 2021, before making first-team all-conference and second-team All-American last year, when he put up career-highs in picks (six) and PBUs (ten) and three more pick-sixes, tying him the record for the most of those in FBS history (six).


+ Has that really lanky build with 32 and ¼-inch arms, but brings plenty of experience in off-zone coverage and great bounce to his step

+ Does tremendous of anticipating breaks and not overrunning those points, as you see his feet stutter and redirect his momentum

+ His ability to click-and-close for a guy above six feet is rare

+ Yet he can also glide and mirror guys from soft-press alignments, where he times up when he stabs at their chest well to slow them down as they commit to the release

+ Quick accelerator to run with receivers down the field and he can flip his hips in pretty impressive fashion for his height, with the 4.35 speed to stick with sprinters

+ Does well to maintain contact and stay in the hip-pocket of guys, while feeling routes develop throughout

+ You see a bunch of coverage snaps down the sideline, where quarterbacks end up throwing the ball out of bounds, because receivers run themselves out of space

+ All six of his interceptions last season came in man-coverage, which speaks to his insane ability to read and make plays on the ball in aggressive fashion


+ When tasked with deep zone responsibility, Forbes makes sure he widens with along with the wideout and keeps vision on him, to not get too far ahead as they break towards the quarterback

+ Really sits there between routes when offenses try to stretch his assignment and has the short-area explosion combined with those long arms to disrupt the catch point

+ Shows great feel for when to gather and read the quarterback’s eyes, yet not allowing windows between him and his safeties to expand too far

+ On 56 targets last year, he only allowed 31 completions for 284 yards and three touchdowns, whilst picking off six passes himself and breaking up another ten (430 total coverage snaps)

+ His general instincts and football IQ show up all over his tape, while the insane ball-production matches up

+ When matched up with a receiver targeted on screen passes, his explosion and slipperiness allow him to elude the blocker and stop for no yardage

+ Pick-sixed a tunnel screen in the ’22 Kentucky game in highly impressive fashion


+ Quick to drive upfield and shut down plays out in the flats, clamping the legs of ball-carriers with those long branches

+ Looking to lock out with the inside arm and get around receivers, in order to shut down runs towards the edge

+ Has some suddenness to get around aggressive blockers

+ Not afraid to shoot into the backfield as an unblocked defender on the edge and chopping down much bigger running backs


– You see a lot of lanky corners excel in the NFL these days, but this guy looks like a daddy longlegs, weighing in at just 166 pounds at the combine (zero percentile)

– Similar to wide receivers rounding their breaks, Forbes has a tendency to kind of curve his path rather than sticking his foot in the ground as he tries to match breaks when flipped vertically, which enables a window to fit the ball into

– When opposing receiver get him to fully commit his hips and then slide across his face, it takes a little bit to bring his base around

– Lacks the play strength to really fight through and off blocks, where he has to try balancing his slender frame with landing punches with those long arms – not always to great effect

– Way too often you see this guy fly past the screen, as he just dives at the legs of ball-carriers, because he doesn’t have the mass to wrestle down guys one-on-one – missed eight of 54 tackling attempts this past season


I have no doubt that if this guy at least shows up at 180 pounds and runs the way he does in Indy, he’s going in the first round. Considering how historically slender he is, I have a tough time justifying that, without having a feel for how much weight he may be able to add without compromising what he does in coverage. Nevertheless, even if he loses 5-10 percent of his burst and speed as he adds about ten pounds, that’s a high-level starter in the league. You just can’t teach the feel for the position and the play-making skills this guy brings to the table. I’ve heard people say “D.K. Metcalf will just shrug him off”, but I personally want to see him play over the flanker on the field side anyway, where he’s playing off more regularly and can get his hands on the ball, rather than being isolated with bigger X-bodies.



Just missed the cut:


D.J. Turner


D.J. Turner II, Michigan

5’11”, 180 pounds; SR


A top-500 overall recruit in 2019, Turner appeared in four games on special teams in his true freshman and sophomore years each. In 2021, he took on a starting role on defense, where he picked off two passes (one returned for a TD) and broke up another seven. Last year, he broke up ten passes along with one pick and a scoop-and-score, making him a second-team All-Big Ten selection.


+ Michigan tracked him at 23.07 MPH on their GPS, which would’ve been the fastest of any player in the NFL over the last two years, and he backed that up by running a 4.26 at the combine

+ Light on his feet and pretty easy in his redirection, even if he’s turned the wrong way momentarily – over 400 career snaps in press

+ Possesses the short-area explosiveness to squat on routes in off-man and get to the hip-pocket of receivers just after their break

+ Playing up closer to his man with outside leverage, if guys release inside on him, Turner makes sure to establish contact with the near-shoulder and maintain that throughout the route, while sticking to crossers in impressive fashion

+ Has the athletic feet to mirror releases and use some stack-coverage, where he’s playing with his eyes on the ball to not get penalized

+ Hips can be oily or snappy depending on what’s needed to play man from different alignments and countering different body-types

+ Quarterbacks throwing the ball late his way may regret it, because of that quick burst to undercut receivers – He did so in very impressive fashion on a pick-six against Maryland in 2021

+ Shows the speed to carry legit deep threats down the boundary, such as Michigan State’s Jayden Reed on a couple of occasions


+ Gains a lot of ground in those three-quarter turns after widening the receiver’s release and sinking underneath them with vision on the quarterback

+ Stays true to his deep zone responsibilities and doesn’t bite on the underneath route, while the slot receiver pushes vertically

+ Has the make-up burst to be in sub-optimal positions as the safety communicates switch calls, to close the distance to the receiver being passed off to him

+ You see him sink with corner and deep out routes and still race up into the flats in time to shut down throws to the back just as they’re trying to turn upfield

+ Using his ability to click-and-close with the liberty to read the quarterback’s release in cover-two, he can be very dangerous in the quick game

+ Displays the awareness and fluid hips to disrupt the catch point on deep out routes when he’s leveraged that way and has to play over the top

+ Lined up in the slot on several occasions in the Penn State game of ‘22, shadowing Parker Washington

+ Was targeted 71(!) times this past season, but only surrendered 33 completions for 408 yards and two touchdowns, while picking off one pass and forcing 14 incompletions


+ Comes up and shuffles inside under good control near the point of attack in the run game

+ With how quickly he shoots downhill against screens, you regularly see receivers just get a hand on him, as he blows by

+ Showed his speed on a crazy chase-down tackle against Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford in 2022

+ Was used much more regularly as a blitzer in 2022 and was able to create some disruption that way


– Does not enforce his will against receivers and re-routes them to any extent, without a repertoire of jams/stabs to reach for

– Physical receivers can bump him off track as they attack his frame and create angles for the ball to arrive as they step into his space on curls

– Allows some receivers to attack his blind-spots in quarters, instead of maintaining his outside leverage and staying ready to flip his hips

– I’d like to see him be more aggressive with crowding the catch-point

– Does work to disengage from blocks, but he’s not really the type of physical player to be very successful in that regard and more of an ankle-biter as a tackler


In terms of short-area quickness and top-end speed, Turner stands above the rest of the group. He’s an elite athlete at a position, where that is as big of an indication for success as anywhere on a football field. Unfortunately, he doesn’t yet play the kind of demeanor that we see from the very best corners in the league. Disrupting route development and the catch-point are areas you don’t really see him be scrappy. Therefore, I don’t want to see him get matched up with those bigger alpha receivers, but as a piece to counter smaller guys, who scare most DBs with their electric movement skills – this is somebody capable of sticking with them one-on-one throughout games, playing inside or out from on- or off-alignment to great effect.



Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford

6’0”, 190 pounds; SR


One of the top-1000 overall recruits in 2019, Kelly immediately got onto the field for Stanford’s defense as a true freshman and became a fixture in the starting lineup after the first three weeks, logging a grand total of 35 starts. For his career, he racked up 23 pass break-ups and three interceptions, with one of those taken back to the house, earning back-to-back second-team All-Pac-12 nominations to end his time with the Cardinal.


+ In press-alignment, he can widen the release of the outside receiver with one-handed stabs, using those 32 and ½-inch arms, and then has enough speed to stick with them down the sideline

+ You see him run be right in the hip-pocket of outside threats 40+ yards down the field consistently

+ Really patters those feet and bounces along, in order to stay in front of receivers hesitating on their release

+ How disciplined he is to just stay square through multiple step-sequences and not take the cheese is outstanding

+ Excellent hand-placement to stay attached to his man despite dipping his shoulder away from contact and feeling the route

+ Shows the twitch off the line and regularly is able to play sticky coverages against receives working across the field

+ Has a knack for peaking at the quarterback and feeling the receiver throttle down/get into his breaks in off-coverage

+ You see a bunch of reps, where his eyes start inside, in order to recognize quick game and the transition to the hips of the guy running at him


+ Kelly’s spatial awareness and ability to mid-point routes when he’s supposed to be the high-low stretch really stands out

+ Plays with active eyes and feet sitting between targets, while showing easy transitions to crowd catching windows

+ Even when Stanford was in quarters and he needed to open the hips against wider stems, you could tell he had a beat on curl routes coming and him driving on them, to deny easy completions

+ Displays the peripheral vision to ID crossers coming towards his area and can lay the wood on those guys

+ Picks up targets off cross-releases without getting himself out of position and maintaining outside leverage

+ Going up against USC standout Jordan Addison last season, Kelly gave up a 75-yard touchdown on a perfectly thrown post route, where the receiver didn’t even have a full step on him, and otherwise the only way those guys actually got the WR involved was on screens and rub-plays, while Kelly perfectly carried him vertically on multiple occasions

+ Other than that, he held opposing quarterbacks to 21-of-41 for 298 yards and one other TD for the season

+ You can tell his father was an 11-year pro and that he was a four-year starter, without any mental hiccups to speak of


+ Regularly becomes the one to initiate contact and is then working to disengage from blocks

+ Against condensed formations and when his man cracks back on the safety, Kelly shows no hesitancy of filling the C-gap in the run game

+ Attacks downhill and doesn’t shy away from going straight through the chest of receivers in his path against quick screens


– Ran a disappointing 4.52 at the combine and while he did have a bunch of reps where he was right there with guys running down the sideline, when guys were able to get off clean and gain a step on him, KBK wasn’t able to get back into phase – especially down the post

– Not really somebody who will actively try to find the ball in the air and make plays on it – didn’t pick off any passes since week two of 2021 (over 600 coverage snaps since then)

– Too eager to jump inside of his blocker and bail on his contain responsibilities

– The way he comes downhill and initiates contact as a tackler is good, but then Kelly doesn’t always drives his feet through, but rather drapes himself onto guys


I was already familiar with Kelly’s game heading into this past season and he showed out big-time down in Mobile against some of the top receivers in the country, getting his hands on a bunch of passes. However, when I put on the ’22, I was just blown away. There were so many textbook reps, where I went “that’s perfect” over and over again, playing man or zone. Now, as I dove deeper, I did start to see some of the things typically listed as negatives for him, where if he lost contact on routes and lacked the make-up burst to get himself back in position, as well as moments where I would have liked to see him try to find and play the ball in the air. Nevertheless, with his pedigree and technical prowess, I have no doubt that he’ll play in the league for a long time and most likely find his way into the starting lineup early on already.



The next names up:

Garrett Williams (Syracuse), Clark Phillips III (Utah), Darius Rush (South Carolina), Riley Moss (Iowa), Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (TCU), Jakorian Bennett (Maryland), Terell Smith (Minnesota), Alex Austin & Rejzohn Wright (Oregon State)


For in-depth breakdowns of the NFL and college football, head over to my page and my Youtube channel

Twitter: @halilsfbtalk
Instagram: @halilsrealfootballtalk


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