Philadelphia Eagles Draft: Cornerback Positional Rankings

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Tre'Davious White (18) intercepts a pass intended for Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Robert Wheelwright (15) and returns it for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Tre'Davious White (18) intercepts a pass intended for Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Robert Wheelwright (15) and returns it for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

News flash: the Philadelphia Eagles need a corner. We chat about some of the top options and how they’d fit in Philly’s scheme.

The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and April 27th will be here in the blink of an eye. Between now & then, teams will be finalizing their draft boards: ranking players based on talent, production, potential, intangibles, scheme fit, etc. Over the coming weeks, we will be doing the same thing. Each week leading up to the draft, Ben Solak and I will rank the prospects of a certain position based on fit for the Eagles. We will discuss & debate the players before finalizing the order; in the same way the Eagles personnel department is currently doing. By the time April rolls around, we will have scheme-specific rankings for each position, which will provide some clarity on the Philadelphia Eagles Big Board as a whole. Thus far, we have covered the following position groups:

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Tackles
EDGE Rushers
Interior DL

This week, we’ll get deep into the Cornerbacks.

Mike’s Rankings

  1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
  2. Gareon Conley, Ohio State
  3. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  4. Sidney Jones, Washington
  5. Quincy Wilson, Florida
  6. Tre’Davious White, LSU
  7. Teez Tabor, Florida
  8. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
  9. Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
  10. Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
  11. Kevin King, Washington
  12. Adoree’ Jackson, USC

Ben’s Rankings

  1. Quincy Wilson, Florida
  2. Gareon Conley, Ohio State
  3. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
  4. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  5. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
  6. Teez Tabor, Florida
  7. Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
  8. Kevin King, Washington
  9. Adoree’ Jackson, USC
  10. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
  11. Tre’Davious White, LSU
  12. Rasul Douglas, WVU

The Discussion:

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MC: I feel like we’ve been building to this point for two months. This is, inarguably, in my opinion, the deepest and most talented position in this draft class. It just so happens it is at a position where the Eagles, inarguably, are thinnest and weakest. Certain injuries aside (see: Sidney Jones), there is a lot of excitement regarding this group…so let’s get started. Tell me: what is it that you see in Quincy Wilson that has him tops on your board?

BS: Quincy! Before we get rolling on this guy, I should quickly share that, on my overall board, Wilson comes in at 11OVR, Conley at 13OVR, and Lattimore at 14OVR. Razor-thin margins separate these players. I’m not the guy to rock the whole 1A/1B nonsense, but with that being said, there’s a legitimate argument for all three of those players as CB1. Sidney Jones was just a tick below them, too.

Wilson gets the edge because, of those three top-flight corners, I like his bump-and-run ability the best. I have to imagine Roseman and Schwartz want to invest in a higher amount of physicality on the boundary. Schwartz’s scheme calls for a nice variety of man and zone coverage, and the Eagles were really limited in their ability to work in man last season, especially when you consider the number of zone blitzes Schwartz had to dial up given the lack of front-4 pressure generated.

I think the Philadelphia Eagles would like to incorporate more Cover 2 Man, more Trail-2 techniques into their multiple coverage schemes. And in those instances, while I’d be psyched to play Conley or Lattimore, I trust Wilson’s length, ball skills, football IQ, and general stickiness the most.

You’ve got 4 corners ranked above Wilson–I’ll let you take your pick of the litter and pound the table.

Philadelphia Eagles
Oct 31, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) works out prior to the game at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

MC: I don’t mind Wilson as a second-round draftee. I don’t see either of the Florida CBs as round one prospects. Wilson, I think, will be limited by his footwork: especially early on. I think they’ll both be limited at the next level by their speed & explosiveness. Tabor, from many accounts, has a questionable work ethic: not helped by his off-season workout numbers. Ultimately, I don’t think either is a CB1 on an NFL defense. I do agree with you that Wilson plays tough at the line of scrimmage and this will appeal to Schwartz.

It may surprise some that I still have Sidney Jones ranked fourth on my list of prospects. Here’s my logic. Lattimore, Conley, and Humphrey are the only cornerbacks I have with first round grades. Jones–had he been healthy–would have likely been my CB1: with a bump over Lattimore because of Lattimore’s soft tissue injury concerns. Quite honestly, I still would consider taking Jones in the first round because you get the 5th year option for him coming off the injury…just not at 14th overall.

In the second round, I think he has to be considered at 43rd overall and I like him better than anyone left after Lattimore, Conley, and Humphrey. He has inside-outside versatility and mirrors routes better than any DB in the draft. Down the field, he is a “see ball, get ball” back who seems to get his hands on passes with ease. It’s a shame he tore his Achilles but, ultimately, I think he still has an incredibly bright future in the NFL.

Lattimore is aggressive and technically sound with his hands at the LOS. He is in the receiver’s pocket throughout their routes. He is always “in-phase” and does a solid job reading the WR’s eyes & body to disrupt catches at the last second. I do wish he would not rely on reading eyes quite so much, however. He could really improve his ball skills and come away with more turnovers if he were to get his head around when he is in-phase…which is nearly always.

Lattimore’s counterpart, Gareon Conley, is nothing if not consistent. He is tighter below the waist than Lattimore but Conley still has the receiver-matching capacity. He doesn’t show the same diligence (or effort?) in rush defense as Lattimore. In my opinion, he’ll be a solid professional but may not ever be the NFL star cornerback his former teammate should be.

I liked Humphrey significantly more than I thought I was going to before watching the tape. In watching Alabama games live, I thought that he was the beneficiary of a ridiculous Crimson Tide defense. I was wrong. Humphrey is just a nasty dude. He plays angry and I think the Eagles, and any NFL team, will love that about him. His proficiencies in the return game are gravy on the meatloaf.

So I kinda touched on all of the CBs, instead of latching onto one. When it comes down to it, I’d be fine with any at 14th overall and with Sidney Jones at 43rd overall. I’m gonna send it back to you now on an athletic specimen I know you love in Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley.

BS: Tank is a dude. I think when you’re talking about having the size to carry large receivers into space, and the ball skills to compete at the catch point, Tank is up there with the Kevin Kings and Rasul Douglases of this class. For whatever reason, in that particular aspect of the game, he just doesn’t get nearly as much hype as they do. Similarly to Wilson, I like him best in more of a press-man situation, which is an aspect of the corner game that Philly has been lacking this season.

He definitely takes a bit of a hit because of his struggles in the zone–I think his mental game isn’t necessarily at the top of the class. If he can improve his recognition skills, he’ll go a long way when it comes to closing on routes and overlapping coverages. His athletic testing was also solid, but not exactly ideal, so you have to wonder if he has the requisite twitch.

Regardless, I think he’s about as sticky as they come in one-on-one situations, and in a division rife with high-end receiving talent, I’m excited about his potential as an eraser on the boundary.

That’s a lot of the higher-echelon guys–let’s talk some disagreements. I was really surprised to see Tre’Davious White as high on your rankings as he is. In my evaluation, I didn’t see anything exceptional that jumped off the tape. What has you buying his stock?

MC: There is nothing that is exceptional or transcendent about his game, honestly. Not unlike Gareon Conley, he’s just a consistent cornerback that you can trust in coverage. He can play man or zone, inside and out. He has experience in punt returns and had no problems contributing on Sts as a gunner well into his collegiate career. When you see that on tape, you see a guy that just likes to get out there and play football. He is a four-year starter and high character guy. As we know having had Bennie Logan in town (until recently), they don’t give that #18 jersey out in Baton Rouge to just any player.

From a technical standpoint, he plays close to his man and closes the top of routes with noticeable acceleration. What worries me about him is his lack of turnover production in his career. He seems to get hands on the ball to break up passes but doesn’t have the interception numbers you’d like to see out of a four year starter. This is unlikely something that will develop in the NFL. Similarly, I would worry about his desire to contribute in the run game. He seems comfortable with “flashing the jersey” to set an edge and force the play inside to help. I just don’t know that he is going to be someone who sticks his nose into the play and brings down a back with the kind of aggression we want in Philly.

He’s squarely in the second tier of CBs in the draft. He is a cover corner who is unlikely to give up big plays and will be, at most, a solid CB2 in the NFL…but, not a star.

I guess that brings us to the pair of Colorado cornerbacks. You want to lead us out west and start with Chidobe Awuzie before I jump up and down for Witherspoon?

BS: Fun player, man. I’ll sip the tea real quick and say that I’ve been high on Awuzie for a bit now–he was hanging around 53 in my Top-100 Big Board in January, and even though he’s picked up some Round 1 hype, I haven’t really wavered in my evaluation of him. He’s a borderline Top-50 player, in that he’s incredibly talented, but I’m not sure he can live on the perimeter without consistent safety help. He’s a little sloppy when turning and running, especially when transitioning out of off-man. I worry about him getting burned over the top too often.

That being said, I think he’s quick-twitch and mentally there. I like him playing short zones a good deal, so there’s definitely a spot for him in Philly’s Cover 2. Really, I prefer Chidobe as a slot corner (as I do with Jourdan Lewis, only a few slots behind Awuzie). That being said, in Philly, for as much as I like Awuzie…we need to address the boundary corners first.

Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 24, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon (23) intercepts the ball against Oregon Ducks wide receiver Darren Carrington II (7) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports /

MC: The only reason I think Philadelphia needs to address the outside first is because they have players currently on the roster who can cover the slot. I think this is where Mills is best suited. I think Jenkins plays the slot extremely well: though this depletes from your back-end coverage. The Eagles, like most other NFL defenses at the moment, are facing 3+ WR sets nearly two-thirds of the time they are on the field. Slot CB in today’s NFL is essentially a starting position. This is a large part of my rationale for having Lewis and other inside-outside versatile prospects ranked higher than some other writers might.

Speaking of players that fit that mold, it’s time for me to bullhorn-it for Ahkello Witherspoon. I believe he is the better of the two Colorado cornerback prospects in this draft. He has the size & length the NFL covets in cornerbacks right now. He stands 6’3” tall and has a 33” arm length. Couple this with a 40.5” vertical jump and 127” broad jump and you have a prospect whose catch radius is just absurd. He was a soccer player in high school and his footwork on film shows it. He has natural fluidity in his lower half. This coupled with his wide defense radius makes it very difficult for receivers to separate downfield. In 2016, he led the nation in passes defended.

He needs to add some mass to his impressive frame. He needs to improve in run defense. Time in an NFL strength & conditioning program should improve these faults. He is exactly the type of prospect to take a flier on in the third round with that 99th overall pick if he is still on the board.

We could keep going all day with the cornerback prospects in this draft. Partly out of necessity and partly out of entertainment. This is a fine class of prospects and the Eagles would be wise to come out of the draft with at least two CBs given the depth. If anyone should have any more thoughts or questions regarding guys we didn’t touch on, Ben & I can be reached on the Twitter.

The Big Board

  1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
  2. Gareon Conley, Ohio State
  3. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  4. Quincy Wilson, Florida
  5. Teez Tabor, Florida
  6. Tre’Davious White, LSU
  7. Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
  8. Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
  9. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
  10. Kevin King, Washington
  11. Adoree’ Jackson, USC
  12. Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
  13. Rasul Douglas, WVU

Next: Jim Schwartz’s Cornerback Tendencies

Writer’s note: These are our joined cornerback rankings for the Philadelphia Eagles. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter what you think. Next week we conclude our series with a look at the safety position.