CFF Overview: CB - Top of the Crop
There are some position groups with players to love at the top and there are others where the best players available each have major flaws. Cornerback is one of these latter groups.
While the class itself is very deep, there is no stand out stud that you can be confident of taking high in the first round and relying on him to become a top NFL coverage man without too much time.
Players are being mocked as high as the Top 10 elsewhere, but when we looked at the group we’re not sure any of them is worth a first-round grade, and even in this relatively weak first round we wouldn’t be happy taking any of them before around pick No. 20.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the five players PFF/CFF believes are the cream of the crop.
Jalen Collins, LSU
There really isn’t much to separate this cornerback class, and not just among the Top 5 group. You can go 10, 15 players deep and still find yourself watching players that look very similar in ability to the top of the class. Collins might be the best guy available, but he is not without his flaws. His numbers are pretty good, but when you turn on the tape you see him struggling for quickness at times and often rocking back in his pedal, getting off balance and occasionally getting himself in trouble that way.
Despite those flaws he was able to perform pretty well against top competition, limiting Amari Cooper to four receptions, 47 yards and a touchdown from seven targets. In fact, Collins allowed just 18 receptions all season long and though he only had one interception he did break up seven passes. Between those coverage numbers and his measureables he has big potential, and could be a fine corner if he irons out the inconsistencies in his technique.
Signature Stat: Allowed a completion percentage of just 40.9% on passes sent his way during the 2014 season, allowing 18 catches from 44 targets.
Troy Hill, Oregon
The first name you’re unlikely to find in any other list of Top 5 corner prospects for the 2015 draft, for most people Hill isn’t even the best prospect from his own college, being overshadowed by teammate Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Troy Hill graded extremely well (far better than Ifo) during the CFF season and when you throw on the tape you see a guy making plays all over the field.
He is capable of playing in off or press coverage, man or zone and though he may be just 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds, you don’t see that show up anywhere as a problem. He made plays against bigger receivers even if he couldn’t challenge for the ball with them, showing the ability to switch his attention quickly to the receiver’s hands and prevent the catch. Hill breaks on the pass as quickly as anybody in this draft and though he does have his off the field concerns, he looks like a legitimate stud in coverage.
Signature Stat: Allowed a completion percentage of 45.3% on passes thrown into his coverage, more than 10% better than his teammate, Ifo.
Marcus Peters, Washington
When I turn on the tape there might not be a corner I like more than Marcus Peters, but when I think about players he reminds me of the names Brandon Browner and Jimmy Smith come to mind, and I think Peters will suffer from similar growing pains to Smith in particular.
His major flaw (leaving aside the off the field concerns for a moment), is he is just far too physical in coverage, and yet it doesn’t always stop him getting beaten. I love physicality from a defensive back – Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman are both very physical players – but it needs to be controlled. The physicality you see from Peters all too often feels out of control and reckless, and it will cost him big at the next level where officiating is more strict.
For all of those issues, I think he could come good in the same way Jimmy Smith had this season before injury, but it could take a similar length of time. If he has to play right away, I would expect some growing pains, and lots of yellow laundry on the field.
Signature Stat: Had the 55th-ranked coverage grade at CFF, even when limiting the list to only draft eligible players this year.
Byron Jones, Connecticut
With a Combine performance that practically saw him jump out of Indianapolis, Bryon Jones got a lot of people interested in his athleticism and measurables. When you put on the tape you tend to be similarly impressed.
Jones played very well this season before injury forced him out after just seven games of action. During those seven games, though, he displayed an excellent ability to play in press coverage but also play the ball in the air and break up passes with his length and leaping ability. He didn’t give up a touchdown and only allowed 12 catches for 123 yards. Jones looked a little less comfortable if he wasn’t able to get a hand on receivers, struggling a little for short area quickness, but his ceiling is high and his upside will be very attractive to teams late in the first round.
Signature Stat: Quarterbacks throwing into his coverage this season had an NFL passer rating of just 26.3, the best mark in the FBS for all corners.
Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH)
If there’s a player with massive upside, it’s Quinten Rollins. Rollins was a basketball player before coming to football this season and played like he had been a football star all his life. His tape shows a player who is extremely raw but incredibly physically gifted with fluid movement skills and fantastic footwork.
Rollins was thrown at 65 times and though he allowed 35 catches for 436 yards and two touchdowns, he also picked off eight passes and showed some impressive ball skills. Only three draft-eligible players earned a higher CFF coverage grade over the season and only two corners a higher overall grade. Given this was his first serious year of football, the sky is the limit for what his potential can be with a little more fundamental technique to his name.
Signature Stat: Rollins either picked off (eight) or broke up (eight) 16 passes this season, or 24.6% of the targets sent his way.
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