NFL Draft 2018: Defensive Back Rankings and Analysis

This class of safeties and cornerbacks are all talented enough to play outside or in the slot—a characteristic once seen as a negative is now increasing in value in the NFL.
Publish date:

The MMQB is teaming up with Pro Football Focus for The MMQB Draft Preview Show With PFF, exclusively airing on SI TV (click here to subscribe). In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL draft in Dallas, these guys are going to be breaking down every position in this talented draft class.

On the sixth episode, Pro Football Focus’s Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson discuss the defensive backs of this NFL draft, lumping together cornerbacks and safeties. Once upon a time, being a ‘tweener’ was seen as a negative, but now these are seen as valuable matchup weapons on defense. Today’s NFL is all about versatility, and these guys have it.

Ranked at No. 5 is LSU’s Donte Jackson. The cornerback has the speed and quickness to be an outside guy or a slot guy—a recurring theme throughout this class of defensive backs. He has some experience playing in the slot, which is crucial to succeed in today's NFL. A knock against him could be his height, Jackson has the ability to elevate to the catch point and play through the receivers, and he showed at LSU that he can make the plays no matter what.

Coming in at No. 4 is OSU’s Denzel Ward. Forced to play in the slot, he boasts the combination of outstanding speed and footwork; most guys who have that speed don’t have the agility or shiftiness and vice versa, but Ward has both. He can get beat up against bigger receivers at times, but was mostly excellent throughout his college career. He got his hands on a number of balls last season, and he was coached to play through the receivers arms.

The No. 3 defensive back prospect is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. A potential top-10 guy, he’s received some comparisons to Jalen Ramsey, who played a similar role at FSU. Fitzpatrick’s positional versatility makes him intriguing for many teams, because he could play different places based on which franchise drafts him. He could be outside perimeter corner or an interior guy who can play all across like Tyrann Mathieu. Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick can do it all.

How to the rest of the top defensive backs rank? What about under-the-radar players and hidden gems? Click here to watch the entire episode on Amazon.

Don’t miss the previous episodes, featuring quarterbacks, pass catchers, running backs, offensive and defensive linemen, and edge rushers. Which players have the versatility that NFL teams crave and who might require some coaching up in order to succeed at the next level? Learn all about that and more.

MMQB Draft Preview Show with Pro Football Focus