It’s still mock draft season, so before you go off and generate your next mock draft, I’ve got something for you to consider before you slot your next cornerback to the Lions. Below is a list of the top cornerbacks in this year’s draft and how they fit (or if they fit) under Matt Patricia’s scheme.
Jeffrey Okudah, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds (Ohio State)
No surprise here.
Okudah is scheme-transcendent and the top cornerback in the class for a reason. Put him anywhere and he will succeed. With his size, athleticism, skillset and confidence, he’s a starter Day 1 for Detroit opposite of Desmond Trufant.
Kristian Fulton, 6-foot-0, 197 pounds (LSU)
Fulton may not be in the Lions’ range, but if they decided to trade back to No. 9 overall or later, or if he miraculously happened to fall into their laps in the early second, I think they can feel pretty happy with him as a consolation prize to Okudah.
LSU's Kristian Fulton forced an incompletion on 37.5% of press-man coverage snaps since 2018.— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 1, 2020
By far the highest rate among CBs. pic.twitter.com/2J4cqRyYAR
In press-man coverage, Fulton is relaxed, times his punches extremely well and does a remarkable job of disrupting the timing between receiver and quarterback. When facing some of the top receivers in the country last year, he made sure to erase them completely.
Noah Igbinoghene, 5-foot-10, 193 pounds (Auburn)
Some may be put off by his height, but Igbinoghene more than makes up for that hindrance with his long arms and explosive leaping ability. He’s a phenomenal athlete and converted receiver with just two years of experience at cornerback, but has shown a lot during that short span.
Enjoying Noah Igbinoghene’s recovery and ability to stay sticky. He has a lot of nuance to his game, especially considering he’s only played CB for two years... pic.twitter.com/6oPDBhlqhV— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) February 10, 2020
(top of screen)— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) February 27, 2020
It resulted in a flag, but this gives you a good indication of the recovery ability (sa quickness) that Noah Igbinoghene plays with.
vs. *maybe* the best RR in the class. pic.twitter.com/9LkOmDokJv
For Noah, the game doesn’t seem to be too fast for him. In fact, it’s the opposite. His ability to match-and-mirror wide receivers in man coverage is uncanny. It’s almost as if there is someone out there, banging their drums for him, letting Igbinoghene know exactly what route he’s going to face on that snap.
Igbinoghene is one of my favorite Day 2 options for the Lions, and I believe he would be a great fit in Matt Patricia’s man-heavy scheme as a versatile defensive back who can line up on the outside or in the slot, depending on where they need him.
Damon Arnette, 6-foot-0, 195 pounds (Ohio State)
Much like his teammate and counterpart, Jeffrey Okudah, Arnette is well-versed in the art of man coverage. He is a technician in press-man and uses his hands well to jam his target and disrupt their timing as well as challenge the catch point. He’s as physical as they come in both phases, though like most cornerback prospects, his tackling technique is a work in progress.
Arnette didn’t test fully at the NFL Combine but did slightly disappoint when running his 40-yard dash. His 4.56 official run was a bit slower than expected, but not bad enough to drop him too far. It’s a fine enough time for a press corner, but it does explain his grabby tendency. For the Lions, Arnette should be in heavy consideration on Day 2 of the draft.
Trevon Diggs, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds (Alabama)
Diggs is in a similar boat with Arnette where many are questioning his long speed and overall athleticism, but Diggs was unable to put any of those worries to rest after deciding not to participate in off-field combine drills and saving them for his pro day. He did, however, participate in the on-field drill portion of the Combine and looked very smooth for his size.
If Diggs could shut down the speed concerns, I would probably have him as a perfect fit for the Lions, but there are instances where I feel that it might be a legitimate issue for him, and that’s where he starts to get overly grabby in coverage. Regardless, Diggs was absolutely dominant in coverage as a senior, completely shutting down his side of the field and only allowing 22 catches thrown his way all year.
A.J. Terrell, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds (Clemson)
Terrell’s claim to fame is getting absolutely torched in the National Championship game by LSU, but that shouldn’t deter you from him as a prospect, because the rest of his film is really good.
Terrell offers plenty of experience in press-man, off-man and zone coverage with elite length and athleticism, to boot. He is sticky in man coverage for the most part with decent click-and-close ability in off coverage. He tested extremely well in terms of pure speed, but was in the below-average range for agility drills, which is not uncommon for a taller corner. Terrell is expected to be off the board early Day 2.
Jaylon Johnson, 6-foot-0, 193 pounds (Utah)
The Utah product is another tall, lengthy cornerback with an aggressive play style that Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn will likely have on their radar. I don’t like Johnson as much as those above him on this list, but I would still feel very comfortable taking him if he’s there on Day 2, preferably in the third round.
Johnson is at his best lined up inches away from his target and shuts down vertical routes with ease. It’s when he’s given up some cushion or gives up the free inside release that he tends to get panicky and defaults to grabbing a handful of jersey at the top of the route.
Bryce Hall, 6-foot-1, 202 pounds (Virginia)
Hall is a relatively capable man-coverage corner, but is much better suited for a zone scheme. He’s smart and instinctual, which is why he’s so good with his eyes on the quarterback and gets a hand on the ball often.
He doesn’t have much experience in press-coverage, so that could be an immediate red flag for bringing him into this scheme and there are concerns about his overall athleticism. Unfortunately, he was not able to test at this year’s Combine due to recovering from his season-ending ankle injury mid-way through the 2019 season.
C.J. Henderson, 6-foot-1, 204 pounds (Florida)
On paper, there might not be a better looking cornerback in the class than Henderson. He’s tall, lengthy and ultra athletic. But when you turn the tape on, you begin to see why the Lions probably won’t have him as high on their board (if at all) as other teams.
Henderson’s athleticism and cover skills are very apparent on film, and a lot of teams are going to like him, but his complete unwillingness to even attempt to tackle other human beings is something I haven’t seen since Gerod Holliman. Poor technique is one thing, but the complete lack of desire to tackle is likely something that would infuriate Matt Patricia.
The lack of physicality and toughness also shows up in pass coverage, where Henderson is prone to get outmuscled by bigger, stronger receivers at the top of routes.
Cameron Dantzler, 6-foot-2, 188 pounds (Mississippi State)
Dantzler is tall, and I’m very sorry if you’re reading this for some reason Cam, but that’s about it. Despite being 6-foot-2, Dantzler’s arm length (30 and 5/8 inches) is in the 23rd percentile of all cornerbacks. He also ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, and I know some of y’all will stop reading and move on because of that.
Due to his measurables, I do not think Dantzler is a fit for anything other than a zone-heavy scheme. That is where he succeeds on tape and that is likely where he will thrive in the NFL.
Jeff Gladney, 5-foot-10, 191 pounds (TCU)
At the Combine, Gladney measured smaller than expected by a full two inches, though he does have fairly long arms for his size. His 3-cone time was also in the fourth percentile among all CBs.
Though he has experience in man coverage, I don’t think that is where he’s at his best. Gladney often struggles to maintain his speed through his transitions and appears stiff-hipped when changing directions. He gives up too much cushion on breaking routes and is occasionally slow to react. With his ball skills, instincts and impressive route-recognition, I think Gladney is better suited playing in a scheme that doesn’t force him to press often.