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By Bob Fox
Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, the 2017 NFL draft has a very deep and talented cornerback class. The Packers need all the help that they can get at that position, as the defense struggled mightily stopping the pass in 2016.
The Packers were fine at safety with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett manning that position, but the Green Bay cornerbacks really struggled last season.
It all started in Week 1, when Sam Shields suffered a season-ending concussion. A history of concussions forced the Packers to release Shields this offseason. The cornerback position never recovered from the loss of No. 37 in 2016.
It didn’t help that second-year cornerback’s Demarious Randall and Quinten Rollins both suffered groin injuries last season and both players did not play anywhere near expectations, especially after each player had a promising rookie year.
LaDarius Gunter played cornerback as well as anyone last year, but his lack of speed is definitely a concern, especially when he’s lined up against the top receiver of a team. Case in point, Gunter was no match for Julio Jones in the NFC title game this past January, as Jones had nine catches for a ridiculous 180 yards and two touchdowns.
As a unit, the Packers were ranked 31st in pass defense in 2016, as they allowed 32 touchdown passes, while only picking off 17 throws. Opposing quarterbacks had a robust 95.9 passer rating against the secondary of the Packers.
In addition to that, the Packers gave up 58 plays which netted 20-plus pass yards and also allowed 11 plays which netted 40-plus pass yards.
The Packers did address the cornerback position in free agency this offseason, as the team brought back Davon House, who played the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, after being with the Packers from 2011-2014.
House should definitely help out at cornerback in 2017, plus the Packers have to feel that both Randall and Rollins will bounce back after they both had a sophomore slump last season. Gunter can be effective, but he has to be put in the right matchup, not against another team’s No. 1 receiver.
All that being said, the Packers will have a nice opportunity to add to the talent and depth at the cornerback position in the upcoming draft, which is now less than two weeks away.
For this article, I’m going to focus on the cornerbacks who most likely have a real opportunity to be drafted in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.
Once again, I’m going to rely on the insight and expertise of one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry, as we look at the prospects who might have a chance of being selected by the Packers.
Landry has 17 cornerbacks on his horizontal draft board (best player overall) who look to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft. The horizontal board was last put together by Landry on March 23, so expect to see an updated board soon.
Here are the cornerback prospects and their rating on Landry’s horizontal draft board:
Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)- No. 6
Sidney Jones (Washington)- No. 7
Tre’Davious White (LSU)- No. 24
Teez Tabor (Florida)- No. 25
Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)- No. 26
Adoree’ Jackson (USC)- No. 41
Quincy Wilson (Florida)- No. 42
Gareon Conley (Ohio State)- No. 43
Jourdan Lewis (Michigan)- No. 44
Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)- No. 51
Desmond King (Iowa)- No. 52
Cameron Sutton (Tennessee)- No. 70
Fabian Moreau (UCLA)- No. 71
Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado)- No. 94
Kevin King (Washington)- No. 95
Rasul Douglas (West Virginia)- No. 96
Howard Wilson (Houston)- No. 97
As you look at those ratings which Landry has for each player, it’s important to know when the Packers select in the first three rounds of the draft. The Packers have the 29th selection in the first round, the 61st overall selection in round two and the 93rd overall selection in round three.
Landry has also done a vertical draft board for the cornerback position, which he updated on April 10. Here is the order in which he ranked each cornerback:
You can see that Tabor has fallen a bit on the vertical draft board compared to where he was on Landry’s late-March horizontal draft board.
At this point, we can also take a few of these prospects off the list of who general manager Ted Thompson and the Packers might take, based on where they are expected to be selected and also because of the height of the players.
It’s expected that Lattimore will be an early selection in this draft, most likely in the top 10. The same might have held true for Jones, until he suffered a torn Achilles tendon at Washington’s pro day. That injury will most likely drop Jones to third-round status. The Packers might consider Jones there, but I would tend to doubt it based on the type of injury Jones suffered.
There are also three players in this group who only stand 5’10”. Thompson has never drafted a cornerback who was shorter than 5’11” in 12 drafts with the team.
Therefore, I’m eliminating these players from consideration. The players are Adoree’ Jackson, Jourdan Lewis and Desmond King.
That leaves us with 12 cornerback prospects still under consideration. Let’s take a look at each of them, as Landry will comment on each player.
Mid to Late 1st Round Value
Tre’Davious White (LSU)
Weight: 192 pounds
40 time: 4.47
SUMMARY: A four-year starter at LSU, White lined up primarily at right corner and nickelback in the Tigers’ secondary and benefited greatly by returning for his senior season, becoming a more consistent player – also played on special teams as a gunner and punt returner. He has the combination of lower body athleticism and cover awareness to stay in phase and make plays on the ball. His aggressiveness shows in coverage and run support, but also hurts him at times in both areas, especially with his hands-on approach downfield. White is confident in both man and zone coverages with a high football aptitude, although he appears more comfortable in press-man where he can mirror and stay attached to routes – projects as a NFL starter early in his career.
Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
Weight: 197 pounds
40 time: 4.41
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Alabama, Humphrey is comfortable in press-man and zone coverages, lining up primarily on the left side of the formation – fell short of All-SEC honors during his time in Tuscaloosa. He has first round traits with his frame, athleticism and aggressiveness, never allowing the receiver to get comfortable in his routes. However, to invest a first round pick on Humphrey, a NFL team must believe he will improve his downfield technique and ball awareness to limit home run plays – easier said than done, but he competes with the self-assured confidence and mental toughness to be a better finisher. Overall, Humphrey has the prototypical traits and cover potential to be a blanket NFL cornerback.
Early 2nd Round Value
Quincy Wilson (Florida)
Weight: 211 pounds
40 time: 4.54
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Florida, Wilson was part of a deep cornerback depth chart for the Gators, but the coaches couldn’t keep him off the field – lined up primarily at right cornerback in both press and off-man coverage. He is a big athlete with several of the physical ingredients at the position that has NFL scouts optimistic, but he is more smooth than sudden and struggles to stick with wideouts at the top of routes, especially if he doesn’t disrupt the route at the line of scrimmage. Although he has the ball skills and awareness to make impact plays in coverage, Wilson often takes too many chances, leading to mistakes and receivers gaining easy separation. He also has the size and toughness to be a reliable run defender, but his streaky tackling mechanics allowed offenses to run at him with success. While there is plenty to like about him as a cornerback prospect, Wilson has the skill-set that might be better suited at safety.
Gareon Conley (Ohio State)
Weight: 195 pounds
40 time: 4.44
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Ohio State, Conley often played on an island in the Buckeyes’ press-quarters cover scheme, adding slot corner duties to his résumé in 2016 – much better outside corner than on the inside. Although not on the same level as Marshon Lattimore athletically, he moves very well for his size and consistently stays within arm’s length of his man. However, Conley plays on his heels too much with his momentum taking him backwards, making him a tick slow attacking plays in front of him and allowing savvy route runners to eat him up. Projecting him to the next level, Conley isn’t elite in any one area, but is solid across the board and doesn’t have any major deficiency that should keep him from being a steady, scheme-versatile NFL starter.
Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)
Weight: 191 pounds
40 time: 4.40
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Clemson, Tankersley played the boundary cornerback position for the Tigers, lining up in both press and off coverage. However, there was a substantial difference in his production and effectiveness when asked to jam or drop/bail, doing his best work as a press-man corner. A physical athlete, Tankersley is built well for the position with the length to disrupt routes and receiver-like skills to play the ball at the catch point. However, his hands-on approach is both a strength and weakness and he won’t survive in the NFL unless he improves his hand tactics and timing downfield to avoid penalties. For a team who wants a cornerback well-versed with various techniques, Tankersley might not be for them, but for a press-heavy team, he is a possible first round pick.
Teez Tabor (Florida)
Weight: 199 pounds
40 time: 4.62
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Florida, Tabor lined up in press-man, off and zone coverages at left and right cornerback for the Gators, posting excellent ball production with 37 passes defended and nine interceptions in Gainesville. Tabor competes with great instincts and the position appears to come naturally to him, playing relaxed, trusting his process and having fun. His lack of top-end speed, technical refinement and discipline are concerns for the next level, but his confidence and slick ball skills are outstanding. Although his brazen personality will be received differently, Tabor is a good-sized athlete with the natural feel in coverage and competitive swagger to make plays on the ball – on-field talent is first round worthy, but speed and maturity issues will drop him down draft boards, fitting best in a zone-heavy scheme.
Mid to late 2nd Round Value
Cameron Sutton (Tennessee)
Weight: 188 pounds
40 time: 4.52
SUMMARY: A four-year starter at Tennessee, Sutton lined up in man and zone coverages as the left cornerback for the Vols, entering the NFL with 45 career starts under his belt in the SEC – holds the school record with 37 career passes defended. Although not a twitchy athlete with elite top-end speed, Sutton is very composed in his movements with enough play speed to stick to receivers without drawing penalty flags. There isn’t much flash to his skill-set with only average measureables, but it is easy to appreciate his high football aptitude and natural feel in coverage to limit explosive plays – shows NFL starting potential, but at worst provides reliable depth on the cornerback depth chart.
Fabian Moreau (UCLA)
Weight: 206 pounds
40 time: 4.35
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at UCLA, Moreau played mostly left cornerback in press-man and off coverage for the Bruins with some experience inside vs. the slot. Transitioning from offense, he didn’t see meaningful snaps at the cornerback position until the 2013 season and his inexperience shows at times with spotty ball awareness and anticipation. But he is patient and coordinated in press with the balanced movements to attach himself to receivers, making it tough for them to create much separation. Although he might never be a playmaker at the position, Moreau has the athleticism and football character to develop into a reliable NFL press-man starter – possible first rounder prior to his pec injury, now likely a second round projection.
3rd Round Value
Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado)
Weight: 202 pounds
40 time: 4.43
SUMMARY: A four-year starter at Colorado, Awuzie has been a staple of the CU secondary the past four seasons, spending time at every possible position both inside and outside and at cornerback and safety – shared team MVP honors with quarterback Sefo Liufau after his senior season. He is a fluid athlete with the feet and body control to mirror receivers and seamlessly transition with various routes. While toughness isn’t a question mark, Awuzie doesn’t have ideal size/length/strength measurements for the next level and those limitations will show on film, mostly in the run game, however, he is one of the better blitzing corners in the draft class. Overall, Awuzie has only average speed and ball skills, but his versatile athleticism, football intelligence and competitive nature will be welcomed on a NFL depth chart, projecting best as a nickel back.
Kevin King (Washington)
Weight: 200 pounds
40 time: 4.43
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Washington, King started at safety before moving to right cornerback his final two seasons for the Huskies, playing different variations of both press and zone coverages – finished fourth in the Pac-12 in passes defended (15) as a senior. His thin-boned, slight frame immediately stands out, but so does his exception height and length for the position, valuable inches that gives him an advantage at the catch point. While his lack of play strength does show in coverage and vs. the run, King has the light athleticism, ball skills and budding route anticipation to become a NFL starter, especially in a press-heavy scheme or for a team who values length at the position – borderline top-40 draft selection.
Rasul Douglas (West Virginia)
Weight: 209 pounds
40 time: 4.59
SUMMARY: A one-year starter at West Virginia, Douglas lined up primarily at right cornerback in press-man coverage for the Mountaineers, emerging as one of the Big 12’s best defensive backs during the 2016 campaign – tied for the FBS-lead with eight interceptions. He is impressive on the hoof due to his measureables, using his length to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage and crowd the catch point downfield. While tough-minded and physical, Douglas requires technique and discipline maintenance in press and off-coverage to better put himself in position to make plays on the ball and avoid penalties. Although he clearly lacks seasoning, Douglas should improve with more experience and shows NFL starter potential – will be appealing to press-heavy teams as a possible top-100 pick.
Howard Wilson (Houston)
Weight: 184 pounds
40 time: 4.57
SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Houston, Wilson lined up primarily at left cornerback in off-man and zone coverages, showing flashes as a true freshman in 2014 before his breakout season in 2016 – ranked second in the AAC in passes defended (15) and interceptions (five). He is a good-sized athlete with the balanced feet, confidence and ballhawking skills to take chances, but too often plays outside the system in his attempt to create turnovers, which leads to mistakes. Although he needs to clean up reckless tendencies in both run support and coverage, Wilson is always ball searching and flashes down-the-road starting traits.
Bob Fox is a freelance writer who has his own blog at WordPress. Bob has also written for Packer Report, where he was for several years, as well as writing at sites like Bleacher Report, where he was a Featured Columnist for three and a half years.