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Ultimate NFL Draft Preview: It’s Time for Sons to Shine at Cornerback

Get to know a jam-packed group of cornerbacks through their personal stories, beyond-the-box-score stats from Sports Info Solutions and scouting from NFL Draft Bible.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Now that you know who might not be a consideration and why the Green Bay Packers need to use a pick or two at this spot, here is a look at the 2021 NFL Draft class of cornerbacks.

First-Round Prospects

Patrick Surtain, Alabama (6-2, 208; 32 1/2 arms; 4.41 40; 39 vertical): A cornerback out of Southern Mississippi, Patrick Surtain was a second-round draft pick in 1998. In 11 NFL seasons, he intercepted 37 passes and was picked for three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2002 through 2004.

Patrick Surtain II almost certainly will be drafted about 30 picks before his father. Will he be as dominant as his famous father?

RELATED: OUR PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON SURTAIN

“I just not try to compare my career to my dad’s career, but just looking at his career he had an ultimately great career,” Surtain II said before of Alabama’s pro day. “I can control what I control by just going out there and playing my game the best I can. And at the end of the day, his legacy is his legacy, and I’m just trying to build on my legacy.”

In three seasons, Surtain started 38 games and intercepted four passes and added four forced fumbles. In 2020, he had one interception and 13 passes defensed to be a unanimous first-team All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. According to Sports Info Solutions, Surtain allowed a 40 percent catch rate and gave up two touchdowns in 2020.

Draft Bible says: A lengthy, tough, physical corner, Surtain thrives in press coverage and owns strong bloodlines. PS2 owns rare height and long arms, along with excellent reactionary speed and shows a natural feel no matter where he lines up. Surtain has played primarily outside, but has also lined up at the star/nickel back position, in addition to playing all special teams for the Crimson Tide. Alabama associate defensive coordinator/safeties coach Charles Kelly has compared Surtain to Jalen Ramsey (Rams), whom he coached at Florida State.

Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-0 3/4, 205; 33 arms; 4.40 40; 41.5 VJ): With the New Orleans Saints, Joe Horn was a four-time Pro Bowl receiver. A fifth-round pick in 1996, he finished his NFL career with 603 receptions.

South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn is blazing his own path to the NFL as arguably the top cornerback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.

RELATED: OUR PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON HORN

“I have a younger brother who plays receiver, my older brother plays receiver and my dad. I’m the only guy on the defensive side,” Jaycee Horn said at South Carolina’s pro day. “What’s crazy is my dad pushed me that way, just because of the aggression I had growing up and with my ball skills. He always harped on that if I could do that at the corner position, one day I would make a lot of money. I pick on my dad saying he wouldn’t be able to get over me, and we go back and forth about it a little bit.”

Horn started 29 games in three seasons. He recorded both career interceptions and recorded eight passes defensed in 2020. According to Sports Info Solutions, he ranks third in the draft class with 1.5 yards allowed per man-coverage snap, fifth with 1.3 receptions allowed per game and ninth with 18.6 yards allowed per game. He gave up a 31 percent catch rate and missed three tackles (18 percent).

NFL Draft Bible says: Horn has had a variety of reps both inside at nickel and on the outside. With superb size and plus athleticism, Horn has the physical profile to match up against a variety of sizes and play styles. He is incredibly physical at the line of scrimmage, showing a nice combination of hand strength and lateral mobility, profiling as the premier press-man cornerback in the entire 2021 class. In the run game, he flashes plus ability at the cornerback position. Horn is the type of player who can follow the opposing team’s top wide receiver all over the field, whether that be inside or outside. His hips are loose enough to transition both vertically or coming downhill. The box score will paint one picture about Horn, but his ball skills are a lot better than what the stat sheet might let on. He easily flips his hips, turns and makes plays on the ball.

Greg Newsome, Northwestern (6-0, 192; 31 1/8 arms; 4.38 40; 40 VJ): Mom, as they say, knows best. That was the case for Newsome.

“Growing up, I played basketball, ran track, played volleyball and obviously played football,” he said at Northwestern’s pro day. “Being a kid from Chicago, I thought I was the best basketball player there was. But with choosing football, it was put in front of me. I knew the opportunities football would afford me. There are more (scholarships) in football. I give all the credit to my mom. When I was in sixth grade, I was playing basketball but 7-on-7 football was just starting up and she just took me out of basketball altogether. I was mad at the time but she chose the right thing for me.”

RELATED: OUR PREDRAFT FEATURE ON NEWSOME

After redshirting in 2017 and missing most of the 2018 season with an ankle injury, Newsome finished second in the Big Ten with 11 pass breakups in 2019. That set the stage for his final season. Playing in six games, Newsome recorded the first interception of his career and led the Big Ten with 10 passes defensed.

“I don’t like seeing receivers catch footballs,” he told The Chicago Tribune.

Playing only six games (missed three due to injury), he led the Big Ten with 10 passes defensed and was named first-team all-conference. According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed only 10 catches and a 29 percent completion rate. According to SIS, he ranks first in the draft class with 1.4 passes broken up per game, second with 0.9 yards allowed per man-coverage snap and first with 11.9 receiving yards allowed per game. In 21 games (18 starts), his only interception came in 2020. More troubling, he missed a total of 14 games due to injuries – three-plus in each of his three seasons.

NFL Draft Bible says: Newsome plays with controlled tempo and pace whether he is in press or away from the line of scrimmage. Excellent eye discipline to let plays develop without being overzealous, exhibiting outstanding reactionary quickness due to trusting what his eyes are seeing. Smooth hips allow him to stay attached with receivers, showing excellent short-area quickness driving routes and playing intermediate routes on a lateral plane. One career interception in 20 career starts is concerning when evaluating his ball skills.

Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (6-1 7/8, 197; 33 3/8 arms; DNP testing/back): A star quarterback in high school, Farley moved to receiver upon arriving at Virginia Tech but suffered a torn ACL. Healthy again in 2018, the Hokies moved Farley to cornerback. In his collegiate debut, the opener at Florida State, Farley intercepted two passes.

Farley found consistency and stardom in 2019. Even while playing through a back injury sustained while lifting weights, he led the ACC with 16 passes defensed, including four interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a passer rating of just 26.8 overall and just five completions out of 27 targets on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield.

RELATED: OUR PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON FARLEY

Two back surgeries, including one before pro day, have left his draft stock in limbo. Said one team’s personnel director: “Some people haven’t taken him off the board but they docked him where they wouldn’t take him until the second. Some people have him right where they would have him if he was fully healthy. There’s a few teams that have taken him off the board. We’re in that first group.”

Draft Bible says: There might not be a more physically gifted cornerback in the draft than Farley. With outstanding size and length for the position, Farley has the body type to match up favorably against bigger boundary wide receivers with high effectiveness. Playing mostly off-man coverage, Farley has some uncommon transitional quickness for a player his size. His click and close out of his back-pedal is some of the easiest movements found regardless of his size. In zone coverage, far too often he is out of position, failing to stay disciplined in deep zone coverage. This can lead to some big plays for the offense.”

Eric Stokes, Georgia (6-0 5/8, 194; 32 3/4 arms; 4.29 40; 38.5 VJ): Stokes’ path to the NFL took flight about five years ago. In Spring 2016, then-Georgia defensive coordinator Melvin Tucker attended the Georgia state high school track meet as part of his recruiting duties. When someone by the name of Eric Stokes zoomed past him en route to winning state championships in the 100 and 200 meters, Tucker texted a member of Georgia’s staff.

“Who is this kid?” Tucker wrote.

Stokes, as it turns out, was a 160-pound running back at Eastside High School in Covington, Ga.

RELATED: OUR PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON STOKES

“Really?” Tucker thought to himself in a story told by The Athletic. “That kid’s probably not a tailback. But he does run a 10.3, and he is tall, and you can’t coach speed.”

Stokes had zero interceptions and nine passes defensed in each of his first two seasons but four interceptions and eight passes defensed in nine games in 2020 to earn second-team all-SEC and some All-American honors. According to Sports Info Solutions, he ranks second in the draft class with 12.1 receiving yards allowed per game, third with 1.1 receptions allowed per game, fourth with 2.9 yards allowed per zone-coverage snap and eighth with 4.7 yards allowed per man-coverage snap.

Draft Bible says: Cat quick with ideal length, Stokes has the physical profile to match up against a variety of body types and skill-sets. Whether it is transitioning vertically or laterally, he is able to stay in phase out of his breaks. Stokes had several magnificent pass breakups during the last three seasons, playing through the man with high efficiency. He is incredibly pesky at the catch point, highlighting his competitiveness at the point of contact. Working on the vertical plane, Stokes can run with any wide receiver on the professional level.

Samuel, Georgia Duo Top Day 2 Prospects

Asante Samuel, Florida State (5-10 1/8, 180; 30 1/8 arms; 4.38 40; 35 VJ): Asante Samuel was a fourth-round pick and the 120th overall selection in 2003.

Who knows if Asante Samuel Jr. will surpass his father’s 51 career interceptions, but there’s absolutely no doubt about one thing: Junior will be picked perhaps 80 or even 90 spots before Senior.

Samuel Jr. is a superb blend of athleticism (4.38 in the 40) and ball skills (four interceptions, 33 passes defensed in 32 career games at Florida State). He had one interception and 15 passes defensed in 12 games in 2019 and three interceptions and nine passes defensed in eight games in 2020.

RELATED: OUR PRE-DRAFT FEATURE ON SAMUEL

“Of course, I feel that I'm an outside guy,” Samuel said at pro day. “I've been playing outside all my life. I played nickel my freshman year but, at the end of the day, I make my plays on the outside. I feel that I'm a dominant corner on the outside. They try to look at my height and things of that nature, but I'm the same size as Jaire Alexander, and he's a dominant NFL cornerback right now – one of the best in the league. I feel like size doesn't matter; it's about the heart and the dog mentality you have on that field.”

Twenty of Samuel’s 23 starts came during his final two seasons. He had one interception and 15 passes defensed in 2019 and three interceptions, nine passes defensed and one forced fumble in eight games in 2020. According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 52 percent catch rate but just one touchdown.

Draft Bible says: With elite short-area quickness, Samuel is able to click and close with the best. He can line up in multiple spots on the outside and inside. Samuel also possesses an adequate amount of long speed to stay in phase while working vertically. Unlike his father, Junior is a willing run defender who shows solid effort in that area. Samuel is a fun watch and a nice defensive back prospect. Samuel will never be mistaken for the longest corner in the world. For some, he might be better served playing inside on a more exclusive basis with the ability to match up against quicker slot receivers.

Tyson Campbell, Georgia (6-1, 193; 32 arms; 4.36 40; 34.5 VJ): At American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., Campbell shared the secondary with Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. It, obviously, was the best cornerback tandem in the nation. And they probably were the best players at any youth ballfield in the country, too.

Campbell started 11 games as a freshman in 2018 but only three times in 2019, a combination of turf toe and disappointing play. He entered 2020 having to earn his starting job.

"Everything happens for a reason, and I've grown from it," Campbell said in September. "I think it's helped me become a better person and a better player. I think I've matured so much as a player. I came in here young and not really knowing the defense, but the coaches have developed us, and through experience in games, I've developed mentally.”

He bounced back in 2020 to start all 10 games. Campbell is tall and athletic but lacked production with one interception (which came in 2020) and 11 passes defensed in his career.

“Whatever team calls me or drafts me, they’re going to get a player that is willing to do anything to help the team out whether that’s playing slot or outside corner,” Campbell said at pro day. “Man, zone, anything, I’m all for it. I just want to help the team.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 59 percent catch rate and 9.4 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 9 percent and receivers averaged 4.1 yards after the catch.

Draft Bible says: Campbell is very patient at the line of scrimmage, possessing the hip flexibility and smooth transitions to turn and run with the best. There are flashes of athletic upside on film that can’t be taught. With further attention to detail and development, Campbell could finish as one of the most productive cornerbacks in the 2021 draft. However, that projection is all that exists currently when talking about Campbell. There just isn’t enough film to be comfortable taking him early. Campbell is super raw and is currently getting by solely as an athlete. His instincts are a bit hit or miss.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (6-2 1/2, 205; 32 1/4 arms; 4.48 40; 41.5 VJ): One of the big corners of the draft, Melifonwu had three interceptions and 20 passes defensed during his two seasons in the starting lineup. In 11 games in 2020, he had one interception and 10 passes defensed.

At Grafton High School in Boston, he was an option quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back and kickoff and punt returner. He also played basketball, ran track and field and dabbled in lacrosse. “I liked lacrosse a lot,” Melifonwu told Boston Magazine. “After my sophomore year, I stopped running track and wanted something else to do in spring. A lot of my friends played lacrosse, and our school was really good (Grafton played in the state championship during all four years Melifonwu attended). My friends convinced me to do it — and, after two weeks, I was on varsity and getting playing time.”

His older brother, Obi, was a second-round by the Raiders in 2017.

“My biggest strengths are my physicality and tackling as a corner, my size, my length, and my coverage ability in both man and zone,” Melifonwu said in the Boston Magazine story. “I had two different defensive coordinators, so I’ve played a lot of different coverages: man, cover-2, cover-3. Some teams are also talking about me playing different positions — safety, nickel — so I bring a little bit of position flex as well.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a x percent catch rate and x yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was x percent and receivers averaged x yards after the catch.

Draft Bible says: The brother of NFL Combine star, Obi Melifonwu, Ifeatu isn’t an athletic specimen, but he is the better player of the two. Possessing the size/length combo the NFL covets from corners, Melifonwu has developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the ACC. Has impeccable press-man abilities where he utilizes excellent patience to mirror releases, then uses his length to disrupt timing for wide receivers. Capable of playing away from the line of scrimmage with notable short-area quickness driving downhill on throws and hip flexibility to transition when his leverage is taken away. Inconsistent eye discipline leaves him susceptible to coverage bust when diagnosing route concepts and has a tendency to stare at the quarterback in man coverage.

Aaron Robinson, UCF (5-11 1/2, 186; 30 1/4 arms; 4.38 40; 37 VJ): Robinson opened his career at Alabama before transferring. His Central Florida debut was a hit – but the wrong kind of hit. In his first snap in 635 days, on the coverage unit for the opening kickoff, he suffered a concussion and was taken off the field on a stretcher.

A two-year starter for Central Florida, he recorded three interceptions, 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 6.5 tackles for losses during that span. He played 82 percent of the snaps in the slot, easily the most in the draft class. “I feel like I’m making up for lost time,” Robinson told Nicholson Student Media late in the 2019 season. “I feel like it’s always got to be 110%, even more than that when I’m on the field playing just to kind of make up for that lost time.”

His career came full circle, closing with the Senior Bowl back in Alabama. “I’ve always had an ultimate goal, and I took a different approach leaving Alabama,” Robinson told AL.com. “I don’t regret it because, thank God, I’m here today competing with the best. It played out great for me. I believe it played out how it was supposed to play out. It’s definitely the ultimate goal that has driven me to get to where I am now.”

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According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 50 percent catch rate and 6.3 yards per target. He didn’t miss any tackles – a big improvement over 11 in 2019 – and receivers averaged 3.5 yards after the catch. He did give up four touchdowns, though.

Draft Bible says: He has experience playing every cornerback position on the field, but he was used the most in nickel situations and is most effective when in the slot. Blessed with natural speed, Robinson has no issues staying attached to wide receivers. Even when he gets caught out of position, his speed will bail him out of these situations. Robinson has great ball skills as his ability to locate and play the ball is exactly what is wanted from a slot corner. While Robinson thrives in man coverage, he struggles at times in zone as his instincts are not up to par and he seems a bit tentative at times.

Paulson Adebo, Stanford (6-1, 198; 31 1/2 arms; 4.44 40; 36.5 VJ): Adebo is the son of a native of the West African nation of Benin. French is the official language there, and Adebo speaks it fluently. That would make for some fun trash talk, but talking isn’t Adebo’s game.

“Just let your play do your talking. If you have to tell people you’re good, you’re probably not that good. It’s not just in sports. The best in their fields don’t talk about themselves,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. Adebo, who taught himself to play guitar by watching YouTube videos, played two seasons for the Cardinals. That skill is nothing compared to his knack for breaking up passes. In 22 games (21 starts), he had eight interceptions and 38 passes defensed. He earned All-American honors in 2019, when he had four picks and a nation’s-best 24 passes defensed. He opted out of 2020.

“I played a lot of wide receiver in high school,” he told The Draft Network of his ball skills. “I’m a natural when it comes to catching the football. I played both receiver and cornerback all throughout high school. Growing up, receiver was a very natural position for me. I feel very comfortable in my ability to go up and compete when the ball’s in the air. I’m a natural when it comes to making those plays.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 53 percent catch rate and 8.9 yards per target in 2019. His missed-tackle rate was 20 percent and receivers averaged 3.5 yards after the catch.

Draft Bible says: Adebo demonstrates top-notch footwork and balance, along with prototypical length, excellent contact balance, great foot quickness and is very smooth in and out of his breaks. He’s a smart corner in terms of baiting quarterbacks, tempting them with space that he can cover up. He is also very physical at the point of attack, he gets his nose dirty in run support and displays animosity towards the ball-carrier. While he figures to test well on paper, there are concerns about his long speed and he is a bit stiff in the hips.

Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech (5-10 5/8, 196; 30 3/4 arms; 4.50 40; 40.5 VJ): McPhearson might feel a bit at home if drafted by the Packers. His sister, Kimberly, is part of the UW-Green Bay women’s soccer team. One of his brothers played baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system. One of eight kids, they all played collegiately. A brother, Gerrick, was drafted by the New York Giants in 2006.

“Zech and I are a year and a half apart, so there are so many memories that I have with him,” Kimberly said in a family Q&A for CBS Sports. One that I will never forget is my first day of high school ... He kept me close and didn't want anyone to approach me or even look at me. At the time I didn't like it because it didn't make sense, but every day (now) I appreciate his protection and unconditional love. I call him my twin ... When he left for his first year at PSU, I slept in his bed for two weeks. I missed him so much.

McPhearson spent his first two seasons as a backup at Penn State. He transferred to Texas Tech for his final two seasons. As a senior, he had four interceptions and 10 passes defensed.

“That transfer did a lot for me as a player and as a man, just being able to graduate early and step out and go away from where I’m comfortable,” McPhearson said at pro day. “I definitely would say it helped me build my character and coming to this team, being an older player, it changed my responsibility. A lot of the guys, I was older than, so they looked up to me as a leader, and that definitely has helped me as a player, just being more knowledgeable with things that I can help the younger guys with on and off the field.”

According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a catch rate of 61.5 percent but only 2-of-8 on deep passes. His missed-tackle rate was just 5.3 percent.

Draft Bible says: McPhearson owns very quick feet and the ability to mirror opposing receivers, along with great hips, which allows him to flip and stay engaged in coverage down the field. A very willing defender in the run game, he’s not afraid to attack downhill when diagnosing the run. The Maryland native displays natural instincts that allow him to react suddenly in the screen game. Despite his competitiveness, his small frame limits his ability to win in contested situations against bigger receivers. McPhearson’s instincts and willingness to work downhill in the run game makes him a very intriguing prospect in the mid-rounds.

Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas (5-11 3/4, 193; 32 1/2 arms; 4.39 40; 43 VJ): Rochell, a top sprinter as a high schooler in Shreveport, La., arrived at Central Arkansas as a 160-pound slot receiver. Steve Campbell, the head coach at the time, offered a life-changing question. “Do you want to make money in this sport?” he asked in a story told by the Herald Bulletin. With that, it was off to cornerback, where he became a star.

Rochell started 31 games over four seasons, and now he’s going to make his money. He had four interceptions and 10 passes defensed as a sophomore and five interceptions and 18 passes defensed as a junior. As a senior, he had three PBUs and a forced fumble in seven games. He was picked for the Senior Bowl in a memorable moment in front of his teammates. "That was a real authentic moment," coach Nathan Brown told NWAOnline.com. "Well-loved guy. He's going to have a long successful career in the NFL, in my opinion."

Draft Bible says: Rochell checks every box on paper from a measurable standpoint. What makes him so intriguing, though, is that he came into college as a running back and receiver. He is so green at the position yet has made a name for himself as a cornerback. Rochell is still raw, in that his instincts aren’t there, and he will play out of control at times. He’d give up receptions and wasn’t breaking on the ball well. The ball skills are there, though, and it is hard not to see the potential he possesses.

Big Guys Lead the Day 3 Prospects

Keith Taylor, Washington (6-2 1/4, 187; 31 1/8 arms; 4.52 40; 33.5 VJ): Taylor started 19 games, including all 13 in 2019 and all four in 2020. He had zero interceptions and 10 passes defensed, with five of those breakups coming in 2019. With a quiet season due to COVID, a big Senior Bowl and strong pro day were key.

“I never want to come out and say I’m the sleeper or whatever, but I feel like I most definitely did have something to prove,” Taylor told the Seattle Times about his Senior Bowl. “My college career didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to. Having no picks and nothing like that, I didn’t really have that flashy career. But I just wanted to go out there and show them that I could play, and I think I did a pretty good job of that. I feel like I can go up against anybody, no matter what conference they’re in. I think I proved myself pretty well.”

His father, Keith Taylor Sr., reached the 1984 Olympic trials in the long jump. He imparted his athletic wisdom on his son.

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 45 percent catch rate and 7.5 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 23 percent and receivers averaged 3.0 yards after the catch. He tied for fifth in the draft class with 1.3 receptions allowed per game.

Draft Bible says: A physical man-to-man corner, Taylor will enter the NFL with no interceptions in his career, but it is not indicative of his play on the field. A reliable, smart and consistent performer for the Huskies, Taylor seemed destined for a bust-out season in 2020, but the haphazard Pac-12 season prevented that from happening. A reactive athlete in man coverage, Taylor does a great job with his hip transition, which allows him to stay with many receivers. He does a great job pressing receivers and making them uncomfortable as soon as the play starts. There is also no doubting his football intelligence as he just understands how to play the position.

Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota (6-3 1/4, 202; 32 5/8 arms; 4.52 40; 34.5 VJ): St-Juste had zero interceptions and 13 passes in 14 career starts over two seasons with Minnesota. Ten of those came in 2019. He had three in five games in 2020, having missed two games due to COVID-19.

The native of French-speaking Montreal, he didn’t learn English until he was 17. Nonetheless, he graduated from Michigan in two years and transferred to Minnesota in search of playing time and a master’s degree, which he also got in two years.

“I always told myself, if I get a serious injury or something happens and I can’t play, how can I maximize my opportunities?” St-Juste said via the Montreal Gazette. “I didn’t want to go back home because I wasted all my time … banking just on football. Every day, I tried to put as much effort in my school work — and football.”

Canada is about hockey, so getting to a major college, let alone the NFL, is quite an accomplishment. He attended several U.S. camps to get attention. That got him to Michigan. “We don’t get as much attention when it comes to football. Hockey is the primary sport that is where all the attention goes,” St-Juste told the Star-Tribune. “You have to put double the effort and double the motivation and hard work to get to the NCAA level if you come from Canada.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 35 percent catch rate and 6.6 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 12 percent and receivers averaged 12.0 yards after the catch. He finished fourth in the draft class with 1.2 receptions allowed per game.

Draft Bible says: Plays with impeccable tempo to match receivers, shuts down quick throws with incredible click and close abilities. Excellent short-area quickness accompanied with beautiful hip fluidity allows him to consistently contest throws from off coverage. Composed in press coverage, displaying patience with his feet to mirror receivers so he can then use his excellent length to stab and reroute. No interceptions in his career, has no tape of him high pointing the football to create takeaways.

Ambry Thomas, Michigan (5-11 7/8, 191; 32 1/4 arms; 4.40 40; 38 VJ): A one-year starter, Thomas collected three interceptions and seven passes defensed in 2019 despite a bout with colitis that put him in a hospital for a month and left his season in peril.

"The first three weeks, I was just depressed laying in bed," he told MLive.com. "The last week when I started seeing improvement, my mom made me get up, get active. There were some staircases right by the hospital on the outside, and I walked them. I couldn't run them, but I walked them every day twice a day, and I started feeling a little better day by day."

He opted out of the 2020 season but believes he’s a top-five cornerback, anyway. “I believe teams are convinced,” Thomas told MLive.com. “I don’t think I have to convince anyone (that I can play). They all know my story. They all know I was in the hospital for 30 days, lost 34 pounds in the hospital and still came back to play that season; (was) able to play Week 1 and make plays. They’re all amazed by that.

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 49 percent catch rate and 7.7 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 17 percent and receivers averaged 5.5 yards after the catch.

Draft Bible says: Thomas is a scrappy defender who could potentially serve various roles inside and out in a pinch. He’s a solid enough athlete who has the ability to turn and run vertically with most wide receivers. When the ball is in the air, Thomas remains patient and shows a nice amount of ball skills to finish through contact. Thomas has adequate enough length to make an impact near the line of scrimmage. While he has a nice amount of pop in his hands in press, he has some slow reactions at the line of scrimmage, giving up leverage too quickly and getting thrown into chase mode. Thomas has solid enough deep speed, but is a pretty ordinary overall athlete. He has a slender frame that is going to need some serious development in a short amount of time.

Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State (5-11 3/4, 189; 31 1/2 arms; 4.52 40; 36.5 VJ): You want experience? Williams started all 48 career games. Both career interceptions came in 2018 and he finished with 33 passes defensed – including seven in nine games in 2020.

His younger brother, former LSU standout Greedy Williams, was a second-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2019. “That’ll be real special,” Rodarius Williams told the Tulsa World. “We may even get to play together. It’s real good man, just two brothers being successful, doing what we love to do. I feel like we’re making our parents proud. It’s a great feeling.” Cornerbacks are known for their trash talk. Now, imagine trash-talking brothers. “He’s definitely critical,” Rodarius told The Oklahoman. “On both ends, I give him trash talk and he gives me trash talk. At the end of the day, that made both of us great corners.” He became a father in 2019, which helped him mature.

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 41 percent catch rate and 7.2 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 5 percent and receivers averaged 3.6 yards after the catch. By its count, he had almost as many passes broken up (seven) as completions allowed (nine).

Draft Bible says: Well put together with prototypical length/frame to last on the outside, Williams is a press-man cornerback who exudes confidence and physicality to counteract bigger body pass-catchers outside the numbers. Super aggressive, Williams is equally as sufficient physically as a tackler as he is at the line of scrimmage. He wants to get his hands on opponents, forcing the issue early in reps. There is no questioning the confidence Williams plays with. Williams isn’t the quickest player in the world, lacking the change of direction skills to stay in phase against shiftier wide receivers if he isn’t able to gain control early in reps. His press technique is sound, but he can get a bit grabby early in reps.

Marco Wilson, Florida (5-11 5/8, 191; 30 3/4 arms; 4.34 40; 43.5 VJ): Wilson started 35 of 36 games in his career. He started all 11 times as a freshman in 2017, bounced back from a torn ACL to start all 13 games in 2019 and got the call in nine of 10 games in 2020. In total, he intercepted three passes (all in 2019) and had 20 passes defensed (half as a freshman).

He’s most famous for throwing the shoe of a LSU receiver in a huge SEC showdown. The penalty cost the Gators the game and resulted in death threats and slurs via social media. "In that type of energy, what did people expect?" Wilson told ESPN recently. "Like I was going to hand it back nicely to him? I was super excited and I threw it. I didn't purposely do it; it was just a reaction. It went pretty far. I mean, I didn't think it would go that far. But it did."

He is the brother of former Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson, a second-round pick by the Colts in 2017. He was driven by his brother and the thoughts of other Gators cornerbacks greats. “Every day I think about that every time I go out there at practice,” Wilson told the Orlando Sentinel. “I know there is a lot of great guys that came here. When I leave here, I want to be one of those guys that is talked about. I just want to make sure I do things necessary so I get talked about when I’m gone.”

According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 49 percent catch rate and 7.7 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 17 percent and receivers averaged 5.5 yards after the catch.

Draft Bible says: Possessing intriguing movement skills, he can change directions in space and carry most wideouts vertically. In a zone-heavy defense, he played a lot of Cover 3 and Cover 4. Here his inability to play the ball in the air hurt him time and time again as he panics and can’t locate the ball. Wilson lacks physicality in run support as he is not willing to tackle and often misses when he has to. Inconsistencies in his technique and eye discipline have made him susceptible to giving up big plays too frequently. His undisciplined nature culminated in the infamous shoe throw against LSU.

Shaun Wade, Ohio State (6-0 5/8, 192; 33 1/2 arms; 4.46 40; 37.5 VJ): Wade was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year in 2020. Don’t let that fool you, though. Having given up six touchdowns, last season was a struggle. In the national championship game, Alabama’s Jaylon Smith caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. In the first half.

Wade blamed it on turf toe. "It shows on film that I was injured," Wade told ESPN.com. "Teams understand that."

Wade might have been a first-round pick last year but chose to return for 2020, due in part to getting kicked out of the national championship game against Clemson following a questionable targeting penalty on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. “I could have definitely done better. Even though we had COVID issues and I had a couple injuries, I know I could have done better,” Wade told The Athletic. “(Last season) showed me a lot about myself and what I need to work on. I know I can be a great, great NFL prospect and NFL player for a lot of years. I’m still a great college player, but this showed me that I’ve still got to work and get better.”

Wade wore No. 24 to honor Jacoby Wright, a murder victim in their hometown of Jacksonville who wore No. 24 in AAU basketball.

In three seasons, he recorded six interceptions, 25 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. He was at his best in the slot early in his career. In 2020, according to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 58 percent catch rate and 9.4 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 15 percent and receivers averaged 4.5 yards after the catch. After passer ratings of about 50 his first two seasons, he yielded a mark of 112.1 in 2020.

Draft Bible says: An experienced corner who garnered a reputation inside the Ohio State football program as a shutdown defender, Wade possesses prototypical size and speed, along with playmaker instincts. Long, fast and physical, Wade owns a high football IQ. Has played a variety of roles, lining up primarily at inside corner, stepping up and contributing against the run, while even being utilized as a blitzer during his sophomore season. Wade moved exclusively outside in 2020 and disaster ensued. In the worst case, Wade’s film inside should provide immediate help both at nickel and safety early on in his career.

Camryn Bynum, Cal (6-0 1/4, 196; 31 3/4 arms; 4.56 40; 34 VJ): Bynum started all 42 career games, piled up six interceptions and 35 passes defensed, and was a two-year captain. He had 10-plus passes defensed in each of his first three seasons. He had one pick and three passes defensed in four games in 2020.

Bynum built himself into a college star and pro prospect after being a “puny” 160-pounder on the JV team. So, he hired a trainer. “That’s where I made all my closest friends, training every day after school and staying at my training facility for hours and 7-on-7 season,” Bynum told the Daily Cal. “Just that as a whole — training — is probably my favorite memory of all time.” He wore No. 24 because of Kobe Bryant.

For his career, according to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a 50 percent catch rate and 8.1 yards per target. His missed-tackle rate was 9 percent and receivers averaged 3.4 yards after the catch.

Draft Bible says: Bynum shows outstanding patience/eyes and is a smart player who is rarely flagged. He does a nice job getting off blocks and making tackles against the run. The knock on Bynum is timed speed. Despite lack of top-end gear, Bynum is a versatile piece who can assume a lot of roles on the back end. Despite some good tape on the outside, Bynum may be a better fit inside at nickel or safety. He lacks upper echelon athletic traits to work against bigger wide receivers on the next level. His intelligence, on the other hand, is where he wins. Bynum’s feel in zone coverage is outstanding.

Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina (6-4 1/8, 212; 34 arms; DNP 40/hamstring; 36.5 VJ): Mukuamu, whose father is from the Congo, led the team in interceptions in each of the last two seasons. He had four picks and 13 passes defensed in 2019 and two picks and two interceptions in five games in 2020. Before he opted out of the final few games, his final season was split between corner and safety. He played both spots throughout his career.

“Sometimes you can get a bit lazy with bending down, but that’s what comes with it,” he told The Draft Network of playing corner at 6-foot-4. “When you’re bigger, it’s just harder to bend, but for me, one thing that I say that I’m different for is that I can really move at 6-foot-4. A lot of people try to frame me as a safety. ‘Oh, he’s big’, so they automatically project me as a safety, but I feel like if you really watch my tape and you come out and actually watch me in person, you’ll see that I’m not your average 6-foot-4 guy because I move way better than an average guy that size.”

Because his 2020 season was so limited, Mukuamu’s career marks from Sports Info Solutions are a 48 percent completion rate, 8.1 yards per target and a missed-tackle rate of 9 percent.

Draft Bible says: Shows exceptional football intelligence with a natural feel for seeing and leveraging route concepts as they develop. He brings outstanding length to the position to aid him at the catchpoint in coverage. Displays the foot speed to have the range needed from a split-field safety. He is an excellent tackler in the open field that rarely misses, consistently showing the ability to bring down ball-carriers utilizing his arm length to contribute to his tackling radius. Tight-hipped player who is high cut at the waist, limiting his short-area quickness and lateral agility.