While the Cincinnati Bengals appear set at cornerback, no position should be out of the question with the 21st pick in this year’s draft.
Mike Mayock revealed his top five corner prior to the NFL Scouting Combine. This is a list the Bengals always seem to have their eyes on considering how often they spend their first-round picks on this position.
Darqueze Dennard is in the final year of his rookie deal and Adam Jones did not have his option picked up, making him a free agent.
Still the Bengals would be smart to address a plethora of other needs early in the draft, but here’s a look at the top cornerbacks this year:
1). Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Ward is probably the best corner in this draft. He has a great knack of sticking with a receiver throughout his route. Even the quickest guys can’t seem to create room against him. He isn’t without his flaws, though.
Ward is a little lighter and shorter than most outside corners. He may struggle against bigger receivers in the NFL. He also benefited from a great pass rush at Ohio State. Ward may end up being a nickel corner for most of his career, but that isn’t meant to devalue him. You need three starting caliber corners to have a successful defense in today’s NFL.
2). Josh Jackson, Iowa
Jackson stands at 6’1, so he will be able to match up with most of the taller receivers in the NFL. He also has an incredible anticipation for where the ball is going. He had eight interceptions last year. His issues come from that same aggressiveness though. He often bit on play fakes of pump fakes. That is what you get with these aggressive corners though. You live by aggressiveness and you also die by it.
3). Mike Hughes, UCF
Hughes is a raw corner with an interesting physical makeup. He is shorter, but he is string enough to be able to provide good press coverage. Of course, he will still have trouble with the large catch radius receivers in the NFL. The physical abilities seem to be there, but Hughes just hasn’t had enough playing time to really develop the technique necessary to be considered a first round corner in the NFL. Whatever team drafts him may have to bring him along slowly.
4). Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Oliver is a bigger corner over six feet tall. He fits the NFL mold for an outside corner. He also has good speed for his size. His arms are super long and allow him to easily disrupt his receiver’s routes early. His issues come when playing quicker receivers. Once he gets going, he lacks the quickness to change to directions, and that could get him into trouble with receivers or when the play breaks down on offense. He will likely have a fairly long career as a second corner in the NFL.
5). Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Alexander is another smaller corner who may be relegated to zone coverage teams. He is incredibly instinctive, but he often resorts to holding in man coverage. He also doesn’t come up with enough turnovers considering how often he jumps routes. There are also concerns over his durability with his very slender frame. His ceiling caps out at an average second corner and good slot guy, but teams shouldn’t expect him to get too involved in run support.
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