Offensive sells tickets and defense wins championships. This was reinforced during Super Bowl 48, when The Seattle Seahawks number one rated defense shut down the number one rated offense of the Denver Broncos. The secondary of the Seahawks was the main reason why. Their corners played a large part in that dominance. For the most part cornerbacks do not get a lot of credit from your average fan of the National Football League. If teams want to win consistently and in this, now, pass happy league they will need at least one solid cornerback. This year’s class of cornerback’s coming out of college is deep. Here are the top five.
5). Bradley Roby, Jr., Ohio State, 5’11” 193 Lbs.
Roby is the fastest corner on this list running a 4.39 second 40 yard dash time. He recorded 68 tackles, broke up 13 passes and picked off three balls in 2013. Roby is outstanding when turning and running up the field. He shows great route recognition and can read the quarterback from the line of scrimmage. Roby likes to get in on receivers and make it hard for them to create separation. Roby can be a little too physical at times. He displays the ability to snatch the ball out of the air, but too often drops it. Roby does not have the stature or strength to win 50-50 balls against the more stout receivers. He struggles to shed blockers, but does a good job keeping them off of his frame. Roby’s only real red flag is his arrest in July of 2013 for getting into a bar fight in Bloomington, Indiana. With that and his technical issues, he should drop to day two and possibly day three. Roby would be a good fit for the Texans helping to solidify that secondary, playing opposite Johnathan Joseph. Currently he is projected as second to third rounder.
4). Jason Verrett, Sr., Texas Christian University, 5’9” 176 Lbs.
Verrett is the shortest corner on this list. He runs a 4.5 second 40 yard dash time. In 2013 Verrett registered 39 tackles, had 14 pass defenses, two interceptions and one sack in 2013. Verret has above average hip technique and change of direction skills. He’s quick to get out of breaks and possesses a quality short-area burst. Verrett has great hands and body control; he is aggressive against the run and is not afraid to sacrifice his body to make a tackle. However, he can get boxed out by larger receivers as a result of his size. He also lacks ideal strength and has a tendency to get beat on double moves. Verret’s size is a concern that some NFL draft analysts think it could have him drop considerably. He would have been higher on this list if it were not for his smaller stature. But if Verret can put on some weight and add strength, there is no reason he won’t flourish in the NFL. If Verret falls, The Jets could be a landing place for him; they need help on all sides of the ball. Currently he is projected as a second to fourth round pick.
3). Loucheiz Purifoy, Jr., Florida 6’0” 190 Lbs.
Purifoy is the one the faster corners on this list, he runs 4.41 second 40 yard dash time. He had 24 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions and even had two sacks to boot in 2013. Purifoy has good natural talent and very often gets early jumps on the ball. Solid at reading the quarterback's eyes and receivers’ routes, Purifoy needs some improvement, but it should only get better with more time on the field. Not as effective playing off the receiver as he is playing tight man to man coverage. He can start and stop on a dime, and has smooth hips for a taller corner. He’ll need to get stronger and put on some weight if he’s going to play tight man to man in the NFL. Purifoy was also arrested when police saw a large bag of marijuana in his car, but charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Look to Purifoy to fall to the second or third round of this year’s draft. The Raiders would be a great fit for Purifoy, giving up nearly 260 yards in the air last year per game. Purifoy and Raiders cornerback Hayden could work well together.
2). Darqueze Dennard, Sr., Michigan State, 5’11” 189 Lbs.
Dennard comes into the draft running just an average 40 yard dash time, at 4.52 seconds. 2013 was Dennard’s best year, recording 59 tackles, 10 pass defenses and four interceptions in 2013. He reads the quarterback and receiver better than every other cornerback coming out of this year’s draft, and is rarely out of position. Dennard thrives in press and press bail, fights off blocks well and has above average discipline and route recognition. Dennard is tougher than he is strong, playing the entire 2012 season with a sports hernia that required two surgeries in the off season to fix. Dennard also had shoulder surgery in 2012. Additionally, Dennard missed three games in 2011. These injuries are the only thing keeping Dennard from being number one on this list. That being said, if Dennard can stay healthy, he should prosper in the NFL. Look for The Eagles to draft him later in the first round. The Eagles were the worst in the NFL last year, giving up 290 yards per game through the air. Currently Dennard is a first round projection.
1). Justin Gilbert, Sr., Oklahoma State, 6’0” 199 Lbs.
Gilbert also runs just an average 40 yard dash time, coming in at 4.52 seconds. Gilbert led the Big 12 in 2013 with six interceptions, broke up seven balls and had 40 tackles in 2013. Gilbert can also play special teams, having six kickoff returns for touchdowns in his college career. He shines as a big play maker, with two pick sixes throughout his career. He is a threat anytime he gets his hands on the ball. Gilbert is an extraordinary athlete, with great vision and speed, not to mention a large wingspan that will help him play against the larger wide receivers in the NFL. Gilbert is at his finest coverage in zone, and can bump and run with the best. He is a very aggressive tackler and has a natural play making instincts. Some of his weaknesses are that he is stiff in off man coverage and after his breakout season in 2011, some believe he became complacent. Gilbert has a propensity to be lax on coverage, and will lose leverage as an outcome. But Gilbert has great recovery speed. He has not missed a game in the past three seasons. Come the NFL draft this May, Gilbert will be the first cornerback off the board. Look for him to go The Lions, seeing as how they struggled last year with giving up the deep ball, and allowing over 240 yards per game, 23rd worst in the NFL. Currently Gilbert is projected as a first rounder.
Written By, Trent Davis
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