2020 NFL Draft cornerback rankings: Jeff Okudah is the unquestioned No. 1, but don't sleep on rest of class
Unlike a year ago, there could be a handful of cornerbacks who find their way into Round 1
A year ago, the first cornerback didn't go off the board until the 30th pick when the Giants traded back into the first round to take Georgia's Deandre Baker, who had an up-and-down rookie season, which isn't all the surprising for a rookie. Baker, it turns out, was the only cornerback to go in Round 1 -- seven went in Round 2 and another three went in Round 3. The 2020 class is much stronger, and as a result, expect more cornerbacks to hear their name called on Day 1.
But there's also depth among this group; even if you don't land a cover corner among the first 32 picks, there will be players who can contribute right away on Day 2, and even into Day 3. With that in mind, let's take a look at the cornerbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft class.
There is very little Okudah doesn't do well. He allowed a completion percentage of just 38.9, according to Sports Info Solutions. And while he was targeted 54 times, he allowed just one touchdown. Okudah displays great footwork, the ability to flip his hips and run with receivers downfield or stop on a dime to plaster comeback routes. He rarely gets beat and is almost always in position to make a play on the ball. Former Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward was the No. 4 overall pick in 2018 but Okudah is more physical, a better ballhawk, and nearly as fast. Put another way: Don't be surprised if he's a top-five selection this spring.
2. Kristian Fulton, LSU
Fulton considered entering the NFL Draft after the 2018 season and he very well may have been the first cornerback off the board. Instead, he returned to LSU where he allowed a completion percentage of 39.3 and ranked first in the nation in forced incompletions, according to Pro Football Focus. Like Okudah, Fulton has unparalleled coverage skills; his ability to stick with receivers will easily translate to the next level given the weekly competition he faced in the SEC. Unlike Okudah, Fulton isn't expected to be a burner, but even if he runs 4.5 he'll be firmly in the first-round conversation.
3. CJ Henderson, Florida
Long-armed and well proportioned, Henderson is physical at the point of attack, and has the strength to match up against NFL wide receivers. In addition to his coverage prowess -- especially on deep routes -- Henderson has the ability to be an effective blitzer out of the slot, and is also a good open-field tackler. He plays with a ton of confidence as both man or zone corner, and he would be a natural fit in, say, Philadelphia, Jacksonville or Las Vegas.
4. Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Diggs is a big, physical cornerback who can run and has ball skills, which makes sense when you remember he's a converted wide receiver -- and also Stefon Diggs' brother. He can sometimes get a little handsy at top of route, and while he got away with that in college he'll draw flags in the NFL. That said, Diggs' quick feet means that he's rarely wrong-footed at the line of scrimmage. And even when he's beaten downfield, it's usually the result of an amazing throw, a tough catch or some combination of the two. Diggs was targeted 50 times last season, allowed just 15 completions, including a passer rating of 16.3.
5. Bryce Hall, Virginia
Hall may wish he came out after the 2018 season; he was our No. 1 cornerback and would've likely been a first-round pick. Instead, he returned to Virginia, where he suffered a season-ending ankle injury after six games. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Hall is the prototypical NFL cornerback, though he will struggle with smaller, quicker wide receivers (which, frankly, could be said about just about every big cornerback in this draft class or any other). That said, Hall is one of the smartest players on the field and that, along with his ability as a wrap-up tackler, makes him a solid if not spectacular option. In fact, he's one of the most physical CBs in this draft class and that will likely be reflected on when he's drafted -- we expect him to be an early Day 2 prospect.
6. Jeff Gladney, TCU
Oh man, there's so much to love about Gladney. He's listed at 6-foot and 185 pounds, and while he's the perfect height for an NFL cornerback he's slightly undersized. He has the frame to add 5-10 pounds but he may not need to; Gladney bench-presses 400 pounds, and squats 620 pounds, according to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, which is freakishly strong for someone his measurables. There's also this: Gladney, who is a burner, is one of the best cover cornerbacks in this class -- to the point where we won't be surprised if a team takes him in Round 1.
7. A.J. Terrell, Clemson
Terrell reminds us a lot of Trayvon Mullen, the former Clemson standout who was a second-round pick of the Raiders last year. Terrell is long, runs well, and might be slightly more physical than Mullen, but both players have good ball skills, and despite a subpar showing against LSU in the national title game, Terrell has the physical tools to be a very good cornerback at the next level. He needs to improve as a tackler but he's quietly one of the best press-coverage defenders in this class.
8. Jaylon Johnson, Utah
At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Johnson has the size and frame to match up against NFL wideouts. He's a physical, playmaking cornerback who can sometimes get grabby in coverage, and what he was able to get away with at Utah will be flagged in the NFL. That said, he's not afraid of anything and is just as tenacious defending deep balls in the end zone as he is driving on slant routes for the PBU. In fact, Johnson excels at disrupting routes at the the line of scrimmage, which can be problematic for offenses that are all about timing. Johnson feels like a Day 2 pick who, like many names on this list, could sneak into Round 1.
9. Damon Arnette, Ohio State
Arnette often got lost in the mix at Ohio State, which is what can happen when you play alongside Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade. (Okudah, as you read above, is a top-10 pick, while Wade returned to school for the 2020 season but would've been in the first-round conversation had he declared for the draft.) He's comfortable in press man, off-man and zone looks, and he can also play in the slot if needed. Arnette has the size (6-foot, 195 pounds) to match up with NFL receivers, but he also has the play-making ability to generate turnovers too.
Dantzler is long -- he's listed at 6-foot-2 -- though he'll need to add some weight to his 185-pound frame. Still, he's a rangy, athletic cornerback that showed up against stiff SEC competition every week. He can line up outside, in the slot, and even match up against tight ends. Dantzler played on Mississippi State's blitz-happy defense, which meant that he often found himself in one-on-one matchups with the opponent's best receiver -- and more times than not, Dantzler came out on top. He doesn't always wrap up when making tackles, but Dantzler can be an asset in the run game, and has shown the ability to be an adept blitzer off the edge.
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