This draft is loaded with defensive secondary talent. At almost any point in the draft, someone with starter-level skills could be available – it’s that deep.
I realistically expect the Steelers to target this position at some point in the draft, wherever they think they are getting the best value for the pick. That means it could be in any round, including the first. It really depends on who they like at that point in time.
Let’s take a look at this year’s class of cornerbacks, starting with part one (the top of the class) and continuing with the rest in the second part of this edition of Draft Prep.
There is so much talent at this position in this draft that I almost feel like it's all “Cream”. I like guys at every level: Cream, Crop, and Dregs.
The “Cream” of this year's corner class are as follows:
- Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)
- Sidney Jones (Washington)
- Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado)
- Gareon Conley (Ohio State)
- Teez Tabor (Florida)
- Adoree’ Jackson (USC)
- Tre’Davious White (LSU)
Marshon Lattimore - 6’ 0”, 193 lbs.
In my opinion, Lattimore is the top CB in this draft. I give the nod to Lattimore because he’s a little more solidly built, and might stand up better to the big receivers he’s going to face in the NFL.
This is what one Pro personnel director for an AFC team had to say about Lattimore on his NFL.com profile page:
“I've studied the top cornerbacks coming out and he's the best I've seen. He's so athletic that he can just post up under the receiver's chin and shadow him all over the field. And he's tough, too.”
There has been a lot of chatter about how the Steelers feel they need to transition to corners who can play man coverage and not just zone. The downside is he really is only a one-year starter, and he didn’t really have to face that many high-end receivers.
Sidney Jones – 6’ 0”, 186 lbs.
Sidney Jones is a slightly smaller Marcus Peters without any of the off the field issues.
I had Jones and Lattimore dead-even until Jones suffered a potential severe Achilles injury (which Terry covered in an article last week). The injury will certainly drop Jones out of the first round, but the question is "how far?" Depending on the severity of the injury, it's conceivable that Jones could still contribute at some point this season (Terrell Suggs has done it twice with a similar injury) but drafting him is still risky.
His NFL.com profile page has a quote from an NFC East regional scout that sums him up pretty well:
“He marries that great FBI (football intelligence) with an explosive close-out and that will win in the pros just like it wins in college. You will always wish he was 198 pounds, but he won't be.”
The bottom line on Jones is much the same as it is with Lattimore. If he’s there, you have to take the kid. He’s just that good, and the upside potential is All-Pro level performance.
Chidobe Awuzie – 6’ 0” 202 lbs.
I really like this kid. He’s a sticky man-cover corner. When you watch him on tape, he is so smooth. Awuzie has both slot and outside experience, so there is also some position flexibility with him, but he's probably not a first round guy – it’s even possible he is still on the boards when the Steelers draft at 62. I wouldn’t take him at 30, even though I really like him. I think he can develop into a real solid corner and I’d think long and hard about taking him in the second round.
Gareon Conley 6’ 0” 195 lbs.
Conley is Lattimore’s secondary partner, and while he may not be as good as Lattimore, he’s still really good. He is a great press/man talent combined with solid zone instincts. He also has some of the same knocks that Lattimore has, such as lack of competition and he isn’t great in run support. He needs to get stronger (which is a theme through most of this group).
His NFL.com profile says this:
“Press-corner with experience at both cornerback spots and an ability to fit into a variety of coverage techniques. He plays with good top-end speed and has the ball skills to challenge and defend passes on any level.”
It depends on who else is available to the Steelers at 30, but Conley is definitely worth a second thought.
Teez Tabor – 6’ 0” 199 lbs.
Tabor’s stock may be dropping overall. His combine wasn’t stellar. I love the quote that an AFC Southeast area scout was credited with on Tabor’s NFL.com profile:
“I don't think he's a lockdown cornerback. He's a good football player and can cover in our league, but he's also going to be a pain in the ass for whoever takes him.”
He has prototypical size and will get drafted in the first round based on that, and his reputation: he’s willing to drive into a receiver to get them to drop the ball.
This prospect has talent, but if I’m the Steelers, there are too many fish in the sea.
Adoree’ Jackson – 5’ 10” 186 lbs.
Jackson, based on size, is probably more of a slot corner than an edge corner. He has ball skills and was considered by some to be the best pure athlete in college football last year (Jabrill Peppers be damned).
He’s very William Gay when William Gay was younger. If he gets the pick, it might turn into six. If the Steelers want him, they would almost certainly have to use their 30th pick on him, and I’m not sure that will be the best value for them.
Tre’Davious White – 5’ 11” 192 lbs.
An NFC regional scout had this to say:
“He's kind of soft, but he can cover.”
That about sums it up on White. The kid can cover. However, he is smaller than most teams like, and worse, he doesn’t like to tackle. He will, but he won’t seek out contact.
We’ve all screamed about poor tackling over the past season, so adding a guy who doesn’t want to stick his nose in seems like a bad idea. From the Steelers standpoint, I just don’t see them being interested.
Stay tuned for the second portion of our cornerbacks coverage, where I dig into the "Crop" and the "Dregs"; players who should be available when the Steelers draft in the third round (where they have two picks this year).