The NFL season has come to an exciting close, and teams are fully into draft season. To open up the NFL draft season here on Football Savages, I will be doing a series that gives a peek at how the big board is shaping up, by looking at my top five players at each position. This is a very interesting class that lacks talent at the quarterback position, but offers lots of depth at Edge Defender, Running back and Defensive Back.
To start, here is a look at the top-end of a talented cornerback class.
Trae Waynes, Michigan State, 6-1/182, First Round Grade
Waynes was overshadowed for much of his career playing next to former first rounder Darqueze Dennard, but Waynes has been the better cornerback the last two seasons. Waynes is an incredibly physical cornerback who is willing to press at the line, and he has the ability to hold up in man coverage. The Michigan State prospect does not have the best closing speed, but he has solid burst and good recognition skills to function in zones. Waynes is not impeccable, but he has the frame, physicality, and field IQ to be a high level NFL cornerback.
Pro Comparison: Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Ifo Ekpre Olomu, Oregon, 5-9/190, First Round Grade
Olomu flew under the radar for most of the season, due to not being targeted nearly as much as he was last year. In addition, he eventually became injured before the college football playoffs. Olomu has fantastic footwork and recognition skills. He has a great knack for identifying the play and closing on the ball. The cornerback plays the ball very well, and he is incredibly physical for such a small corner. Teams will worry about his size and his lack of long speed, and while those fears have merit, Olomu does a great job playing much bigger than his size. He brings it in coverage and against the run. This past knee injury is obviously the biggest concern that will likely push him down in the draft, but at full health, he has a bright future.
Pro Comparison: Smaller Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons
PJ Williams, Florida State, 6-0/195, First Round Grade
Williams has as much upside as any corner in this class, but there are inconsistencies in his game that hold him back from being higher, though everything is fairly close. Williams is incredibly physical, with great size, length, and speed. He is an incredibly willing run defender, and a violent, strong open field tackler. The Florida State prospect’s biggest issue is over aggressiveness. He bites way too much in coverage, and his eyes are not consistent. Williams has a tendency to get to aggressive as a tackler, and he will miss on the play. These are easy technical fixes, so hopefully he can clean them up at the next level. There are also some questions regarding a hit and run incident, so he needs to answer them to NFL teams. Regardless, there remains NFL potential on the field.
Pro Comparison: Faster Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos
Marcus Peters, Washington, 6-0/198, First Round Grade
Peters is receiving hype as a top five level prospect by many, but there are hiccups in his game that have plagued him in college and worry me a bit about his projection. There are also serious character concerns that got him kicked off of the team and may push him down in the draft. Peters is a long, well built player who does a great job of using physicality to intimidate in coverage, and as a tackler. The cornerback has solid movement, but he is not as fluid as one would necessarily want. However, that is expected with longer corners. There are lapses in technique, and he loses himself in coverage sometimes. Peters is incredibly talented, but it is to be seen if he can overcome his flaws on and off the field.
Pro Comparison: Byron Maxwell, Seattle Seahawks
Kevin White Jr, TCU, 5-10/174, First Round Grade
White is a name that just started to garner hype with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl practices and game, but he already has been playing at a high level for the past two years. His play style is very similar to that of his former teammate and first round pick, Jason Verrett. White possesses quick feet, fluid hips, and an innate ability to click and close on the ball. He can man up, while still looking great in zone coverage. The TCU product can make plays against the run. That said, his footwork can get a little messy at the line and he tends to get overaggressive in coverage.
White’s size is going to be a concern for a lot teams, and he might best be suited in the slot or as a weak-side corner, but he could be incredibly successful in that role.
Pro Comparison: Chris Harris, Denver Broncos