NFL Draft Mock 2018: Top 10 Cornerback Prospects

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY on Saturday, April 28, 2007. (Photo by Richard Schultz/NFLPhotoLibrary)

Although quarterbacks are easily the most coveted prospects for obvious reasons, the individuals that are capable of neutralizing these glorified passers are nearly as vital to a teams success. While they may never get the recognition or the salary that quarterbacks currently reap in today’s game, elite cornerbacks can effectively and consistently affect the outcome of a tight game by being in the right place at the right time. Although talented cornerbacks are difficult to come by, when a team is able to land one or two youthful wunderkinds at the aforementioned position, they can go from being average to elite in their respective secondaries (see the Jacksonville Jaguars). They go largely unnoticed, but the importance and playmaking abilities of a tenacious and cerebral cornerback cannot be denied.


10. Duke Dawson, Florida

When plays occur in front of Duke Dawson, the cerebral corner is fantastic at reading routes and keeping up with opposing receivers. Although he may not have elite speed, Dawson is fast enough to keep up with speedy receivers that like to run vertical routes. While he is prone to giving up big plays, Dawson is capable of making just as many to counterbalance his head-scratching miscues.


9. Nick Nelson, Wisconsin

Although Nick Nelson had zero interceptions in 2017 for the Badgers, he was exceptional as a ball hawk as he constantly disrupted passes that were thrown to opposing receivers (21 passes broken up). As Nelson has the elite size to be a great corner at the next level, he simply needs to work on his hands to become more effective as a cornerback that can accrue interceptions fairly consistently.


8. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

At 6’1″ and 190 lbs, Isaiah Oliver has the size and length to be a nagging and effective cornerback in the NFL. However, while Oliver is great in man coverage, he really needs to step up his off coverage skills if he wants to be regarded as a top cornerback prospect going forward.


7. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

Despite playing in just six games for the Cardinals in 2017, Jaire Alexander proved to be highly athletic and versatile when it came to covering receivers in a variety of situations. What makes Alexander an intriguing prospect is his breakneck speed, an attribute that was fully realized by the Cardinals as they allowed the speedy corner to be a punt returner, an area where he was especially dangerous and effective.


6. J.C. Jackson, Maryland

Although J.C. Jackson comes with some serious off the field concerns, his exceptional athleticism, size, and production could allow him to be a steal in the draft. With 40 tackles and three interceptions in 2017, Jackson has the aggressiveness and physical presence to be a great corner in the NFL, he just needs to stay out of trouble and reassure prospective teams that he can be a disciplined team player going forward.


5. Donte Jackson, LSU

Weighing in at just 175 lbs, Jackson lacks the ideal size to shut down some of the bigger bodied receivers in the pros. However, Jackson is extremely fast and could be highly effective against vertical receivers in the NFL. Although Jackson has to be more disciplined in coverage rather than relying on his athleticism to consistently make plays, he has all the makings to be a sleeper acquisition in the draft.


4. Carlton Davis, Auburn

Aside from his intriguing measurables, Carlton Davis is a highly competitive corner that could be a serious threat when covering some of the bigger and more aggressive receivers in the NFL. While he lacks the elite speed to cover wideouts that like to run vertical routes, he has the ideal physicality to make nearly any opposing receivers uncomfortable regardless of their potent abilities.


3. Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Other than being slightly undersized from a stature standpoint (5’10”), Denzel Ward has the athleticism and ball skills to be a top cornerback at the next level. Even against larger receivers, Ward is fearless and effective at preventing separation, but still gets taken advantage of from time to time. Still, Ward is both cerebral and highly skilled, two essential attributes that could allow him to start sooner rather than later for any team that is willing to give him a chance.


2. Mike Hughes, UCF

A fantastic cover corner, Mike Hughes is a phenomenal tackler (49 tackles), opportunistic ball snatcher (four interceptions) and a dangerous force when returning kickoffs and punts on special teams. With impressive speed and ideal size for his position, Hughes has all of the physical tools and instincts of a confident cornerback and will consistently frustrate opposing quarterbacks who will have trouble throwing to their favorite receivers when he is covering them.


1. Joshua Jackson, Iowa

His off the charts production says it all. With 48 tackles, 18 passes broken up and eight interceptions, Joshua Jackson has the size, speed, and athleticism to make big plays in a multitude of ways. With his best game of the year being against Ohio State with three interceptions, Jackson is clearly capable of showing up in big moments, suggesting that the top cornerback prospect will be able to start right away for any NFL team that covets his dynamic abilities.

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