INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 02: Denzel Ward #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates an interception against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half during the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

 

1. Denzel Ward – Ohio State – 5’10” 191

Denzel Ward had 60 tackles and 2 interceptions over the last two seasons for the Buckeyes.

Ward is the next great corner to come out of Ohio State.  He has a few minor technique issues that he can clean up, but for the most part the only complaint people have about him is his size.  He has elite man coverage skills. His has incredible foot quickness and is unbelievably patient. He will not bail out too fast and let the receiver cut underneath him.  He is confident in his speed and knows that he can run with anyone. He may have trouble against bigger receivers due to his size, but he will not back down from anyone. Even when he is struggling, he never loses his confidence and he will keep fighting. He is not the biggest corner, but he is a physical player who can tackle and get off blocks.  He understands when to make the big hit and when to make a sure tackle. He played a lot of man in college, but he projects well as a zone corner in the NFL.

Strengths:

  • Elite man coverage skills – great feet

  • Exceptionally fast

  • Confident – even when he is struggling in a game, he will not go away

  • Extremely patient

  • Physical player

Weaknesses:

  • Bigger receivers may give him problems

  • An inch shorter than NFL teams would like

  • Has great feet, but does not use his hands effectively in press man

 

2. Jaire Alexander – Louisville – 5’11” 192

Jaire Alexander struggled with injury in 2017 and did not look like the same player he was in 2016.  That year, he had 39 tackles and 5 interceptions.

Alexander is an incredible athlete with excellent change of direction speed.  He has great man coverage skills, but can play zone just as effectively. He is smaller than some scouts would like, but does not play like an undersized corner.  He is physical in coverage, but does struggle at times as a tackler. Alexander has the skill set of an elite corner in the NFL. He can succeed in any defensive scheme.  In 2017 he played through injury and was clearly not the same player that he was the previous season. If he can get back to his 2016 form, he will be a force in the NFL in 2018.

Strengths:

  • Excellent man coverage skills

  • Fluid athlete – good hips

  • Physical in coverage

Weaknesses:

  • Struggled with injury in 2017

  • His size concerns some scouts

 

3. Joshua Jackson – Iowa – 6’1” 192

Joshua Jackson had 48 tackles and 8 interceptions in 2017.

The number of picks that Jackson had in a single season jumps off the page at you.  Although he only started for one season, posting 8 interceptions was not a fluke. He is a skilled zone defender who knows how to make proper reads and jump the ball.  He has excellent hands and can make difficult catches. Jackson is much better in zone than man coverage. He is stiff in his hips and often bites on receiver stems.

Strengths:

  • Gets great reads on quarterback in order to undercut routes

  • Good hands and concentration – 8 interceptions last season

  • Wins in contested catch situations

Weaknesses:

  • Stiff in his hips

  • Frequently beat on stems

  • Only started for one season

 

4. Mike Hughes – Central Florida – 5’10” 189

Mike Hughes had 49 tackles and 4 interceptions for Central Florida in 2017.

Hughes is a fluid athlete who runs smooth and fast.  He generally plays with good technique and understands some finer points of coverage, such as how to lean of a fade route.  He looks a bit uncomfortable in press coverage. He does not use his hands and is prone to bailing out to quickly. He is not a very physical player and can get pushed around by blocking receivers.  His feet can get wide at times, making it hard for him to change directions. He does not seem to focus his eyes on the receivers hips, and as a result is often a step behind cuts.

Strengths:

  • Smooth runner

  • Good zone and man coverage skills

  • Understands how to lean on fade routes

Weaknesses:

  • Does not use eyes effectively in man coverage

  • Not patient in press man

  • Does not use hands effectively

 

5. Carlton Davis – Auburn – 6’1” 203

Carlton Davis had 101 tackles and 4 interceptions in three years at Auburn.

Davis is a physical corner who plays very well in press man.  He has long arms uses them well at the line of scrimmage. He is a smooth runner, but can open up his hips too quickly at times a may have trouble with shiftier receivers.  He matches up well with bigger, more physical receivers.

Strengths:

  • Long arms and uses them effectively

  • Smooth runner

  • Can play effectively in both press man and zone

Weaknesses:

  • Turns his hips too quickly

  • His feet can get too wide making transitions difficult

  • Does not use eyes well making him late to cuts

 

6. Donte Jackson – LSU – 5’11” 175

Donte Jackson had 110 tackles and 4 interceptions during his three-year career for the Bayou Bengals.

Jackson is an excellent athlete who has no problem going stride for stride with just about anyone.  He has excellent feet particularly in press coverage. He mirrors the receiver and opens his hips with ease.  He tries to play physical, but at his size this can cause him issues. He gets too high in his backpedal, which can cause him problems when trying to change directions.

Strengths:

  • Fast and smooth runner

  • Flips his hips with ease

  • Good feet in press

Weaknesses:

  • Plays a physical game, but may not be big enough to pull it off

  • Gets high in his backbedal at times

 

7. Holton Hill – Texas – 6’3” 200

Holton Hill had 122 tackles and 3 interceptions over the course of his three-year career for the Longhorns.

Hill’s size makes him stand out amongst others in the class.  He also has excellent speed. He does a great job in man coverage and uses his hands well both to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage and to make a play on the ball.  He is a willing and effective tackler. He does not change direction very quickly, which may be in part due to his poor backpedal form.

Strengths:

  • Elite size

  • Effective in man coverage

  • Uses his hands well

  • Decent tackler, who is fast to come up in run support

Weaknesses:

  • Has long speed, but change of direction is laborious

  • Awkward in his backpedal

  • Opens his hips too soon giving up underneath routes

 

8. Isaiah Oliver – Colorado – 6’1” 190

Isaiah Oliver had 60 tackles and 3 interceptions for Colorado over the last two seasons.

Oliver is a good athlete with good size who will need development to be successful at the next level.  He has good footwork in press coverage, but when the ball is in the air he can get a bit out of control.  Although he can run with receivers, he frequently gets himself out of position by focusing too much on the ball and losing understanding of where the receiver is.  He has a lot of technique issues that will need to be cleaned up, including which hand he plays the ball with and his pad level while back peddling. His best attributes are his size and speed, but he will need to clean up a lot of technical issues in order to make the most of them.

Strengths:

  • Great size

  • Runs well

  • Decent footwork at line of scrimmage

Weaknesses:

  • Does not play with proper position on receiver

  • Does not change direction fluidly

  • Not a technician

 

9. M.J. Stewart – North Carolina – 5’11” 200

M.J. Stewart had 199 tackles and 6 interceptions in four seasons with the Tar Heels.

Stewart is a skilled corner who does his best work in the slot.  He0 does a great job breaking on the ball in zone coverage. He has good speed, but not good enough to play on the outside.  He struggles to get off blocks and is an average tackler. He always seems to get to the ball. Sometimes as the play goes on he will essentially stand up, making his breaks much slower.

Strengths:

  • Excellent in the slot

  • Great ball skills – knack for making plays

  • Good, not great speed

Weaknesses:

  • Struggles to get off blocks

  • Often plays a bit stiff and a bit high

 

10. Tarvarus McFadden – Florida State – 6’2” 198

Over the last two seasons Tarvarus McFadden had 49 tackles and 8 interceptions.  All of his interceptions came in 2016.

McFadden lacks top end speed, but is relatively quick and breaks on the ball well.  He aggressively comes up to make tackles and is an effective tackler. He has good coverage skills in zone and plays the ball well.  He has the physical attributes to press, but at times his jam can create separation for the receiver without actually slowing his release.  He has trouble coming back from being a step behind.

Strengths:

  • Plays the ball well

  • Good zone coverage skills

  • Comes up well in run support

Weaknesses:

  • Lacks ideal speed

  • Allows too much separation in man coverage and lacks make up speed

  • Does not make the most of his size