In an effort to get through all of the positions before the draft, I’ll be just shortly naming some of the prospects to watch in this draft class, as well as some potential sleepers and maybe busts. I wasn’t able to go as far in depth this year as I did last year, but enough to develop a feel for the class and compile my rankings.
This year’s group of defensive backs offers quite a bit of talent. The cornerbacks are pretty deep, as up to six corners have been mentioned as first round picks. The safeties in this class are pretty underwhelming, with the exception of the best player in the draft, if you consider him a safety. Jalen Ramsey can play corner or safety and excels at both. A track star at Florida State, he was also a gamechanger in the secondary. Then there are some safeties that can do one thing or the other, but not both.
Top CB Prospect: Vernon Hargreaves III Florida 5’10” 204
If we’re talking purely about playing the cornerback position, Hargreaves does it as well as anyone in this class. A super recruit coming out of high school, he walked into extremely high expectations at Florida and didn’t miss a beat from day 1. He’s very technically proficient. If he can avoid the injury bug, he’ll be an excellent CB2 for a team. Also, that’s not a knock that he’s not a CB1, but factually he’s team #SmallCorners.
Top S Prospect: Jalen Ramsey Florida State 6’1″ 209
Jalen Ramsey is one of the most dynamic prospects I’ve ever watched during my time evaluating players. He’s a world class athlete in every sense of the phrase. His sophomore year he was used in a Tyrann Mathieu type role, basically just be an athlete and play as a nickel defender, blitzing off the edge and causing havoc. In 2015, he was moved to corner out of necessity, and just like the alpha dog he is, he excelled at that too. He’s got that dog in him, he talks all game, and is simply one of those guys that you are happy when he’s on your team and you hate when you have to play him. He’s my top overall player in this class.
Biggest Bust Potential: MacKensie Alexander Clemson 5’10” 190
Another member of team #SmallCorners. While he was a lockdown type corner at Clemson, evidenced by his zero interceptions and under 30% completion percentage against, he didn’t test overly well for a smaller cornerback. These combined factors are likely pushing Alexander to the late first, or even the second round. This should help temper expectations for Alexander, however he’s a bit of a risk due to his size, yet his best fit isn’t in the slot. He doesn’t have VH3’s love for attacking the run game either.
Biggest Sleeper: Eric Murray Minnesota 5’11” 199
The former Milwaukee Riverside product ended his career with a solid season, pairing with Breian Boddy-Calhoun to make one of the better corner combos in the Big Ten. Murray is a good athlete, with a 4.49 in the 40 and a 39.5″ vert. Despite his natural athleticism, he doesn’t seem to trust it, as he’s very grabby in coverage. While that works in college, the NFL’s rules are basically aimed towards making defensive backs’ jobs as hard as possible. If he can clean some of those grabs up, Murray can be a steal.
Small School Stud: James Bradberry Samford 6’1″ 211
Bradberry is not team #SmallCorners, that’s for sure. Most people would look at his size and assume he’s a safety, but Bradberry’s size allows him to be an outside corner, which puts him in the minority of this class. He’s got great range as a corner, which will help him adjust quickly to the NFL. Anything after the mid 3rd round will be great value for Bradberry.
My Cornerback rankings:
1. Vernon Hargreaves III Florida 1st Round
2. MacKensie Alexander Clemson 1st Round
3. William Jackson III Houston 1st Round
4. Eli Apple Ohio State 1st-2nd Round
5. Artie Burns Miami (FL) 1st-2nd Round
6. Will Redmond Mississippi State 2nd Round
7. Xavien Howard Baylor 2nd Round
8. Maurice Canady Virginia 2nd-3rd Round
9. Taveze Calhoun Mississippi State 3rd Round
10. James Bradberry Samford 3rd Round
My Safety Rankings:
1. Jalen Ramsey Florida State Top 5
2. Karl Joseph West Virginia 1st Round
3. Keanu Neal Florida 1st-2nd Round
4. Vonn Bell Ohio State 2nd Round
5. Deon Bush Miami (FL) 2nd Round
6. Kendall Fuller Virginia Tech 2nd Round
7. Jeremy Cash Duke 2nd-3rd Round
8. Sean Davis Maryland 2nd-3rd Round
9. K.J. Dillon West Virginia 3rd Round
10. Darian Thompson Boise State 3rd Round