The Detroit Lions don’t have a pressing need at corner with several young and talented corners on the roster. But they are dealing with a couple of injuries (Jeff Okudah and Jerry Jacobs), have a starter on an expiring contract (Amani Oruwariye), and it’s never a bad idea to invest in the position with a league full of pass-happy offenses.
If you missed any of our previous NFL Combine reviews, be sure to check out:
- 8 quarterback standouts
- 10 running back standouts
- 15 wide receiver standouts
- 8 tight end standouts
- 7 offensive linemen standouts
- 8 interior defensive line standouts
- 12 edge rusher standouts
- 8 linebacker standouts
Let’s take a look at the cornerbacks who stood out at the 2022 NFL Combine.
With Derek Stingley (LSU) and Andrew Booth (Clemson) not participating, it was a two-man race for the top corner at the Combine status between Sauce Gardner (Cincinnati, 6-foot-2 3⁄4, 190) and Trent McDuffie (Washington, 5-foot-10 1⁄2, 193).
Everything looked easy for Gardner. He ran fast (4.41, 40-yard dash), glided when he moved, gained ground in his backpedal, and displayed explosion when changing direction. I anticipate most analysts having Gardner as their CB1 leaving Indianapolis.
McDuffie was incredibly smooth in all of his movements, moving with ease during drills. His 40-yard dash time (4.44 seconds) was just a tick below Gardner’s but he remains a player who can stick on the outside or push into the slot.
The second round nickelbacks
Kyler Gordon (Washington, 5-foot-11 1⁄2, 194) and Roger McCreary (Auburn, 5-foot-11, 190) are both inside/outside players, but their most ideal positions will likely be at nickelback in the NFL. Gordon (4.52, 40 y/d) showed quick feet, as well as the ability to locate the ball and close/recover if out of position. McCreary (4.5, 40 y/d) was fluid in with his hips and constantly played at his top gear.
My post-Combine guess is that pick No. 34 is too early for either player, but if one falls to pick No. 66, they would be considered by Detroit.
The “could fall into the Lions laps”
Coby Bryant (Cincinnati, 6-foot-1 1⁄2, 193) entered the Combine with a late second/early third-round grade. But after running a 4.54, 40 y/d and delivering what several analysts called an ordinary workout, it’s possible he slides in the rankings.
I actually thought Bryant, the 2021 Thorpe Award winner (best college defensive back), looked solid in drills. He played under control, had smooth hips, displayed some foot quickness, high-pointed the ball illustrating his ball skills, and drove with explosion when asked to attack downhill.
If he falls to the end of the third round, I’d consider him, because he won’t be there when they’re back on the clock in the fifth round.
Tariq Woolen (UTSA, 6-foot-3 1⁄2, 205) was the talk of the cornerback's group after running a 4.26 40-yard dash, which at his size is highly impressive. He got a lot of attention throughout the afternoon and will surely make several “winners” lists, but to me, he is far from polished and several concerns stood out. While fast, he did seem to throttle down at times, especially in his backpedal, indicating he wasn’t trusting himself enough. Additionally, some of his change-of-direction steps got a bit choppy, but he did look sharp when moving laterally. The upside is there, but I’m not sure the Lions would be overly interested in grabbing him on Day 2, then waiting a year for him to develop.
Cam Taylor-Britt (Nebraska, 5-foot-10 1⁄2, 196) was stylistically compared to Amari Oruwariye by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, but Taylor-Britt is three inches shorter and ran 0.1 seconds faster with a 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds. He looked smooth in drills and showed he had an extra gear to go get the ball when he needs it.
Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston State, 6-foot-2, 199) was the only cornerback to try his hand at the agility drills, but it made a ton of sense for him to do it when you see the results.
His speed, explosion, and agility show up on the field too, as he displayed smooth movements throughout the day, but it was also clear his ball skills needed some work. He remains a project at this time, but he was with the Lions coaching staff at the Senior Bowl and has enough athleticism to gamble on at a cheaper price than Woolen.
Alonte Taylor (Tennessee, 6-foot-0, 196) ran a 4.36, 40-yard dash and that speed was noticeable when moving laterally. His hips looked a bit stiff, which backs up the idea that he could be a candidate for a position change to safety.
Kalon Barnes (Baylor, 5-foot-11 1⁄2, 183) became the fastest defensive player to ever test at the NFL Combine after running a 4.23 second 40-yard dash. Because of how the drills are set up for television, I’m not sure we saw half the drills he participated in, but when he did, the speed translated.
Joshua Williams (Fayetteville State, 6-foot-2 1⁄2, 193) looked a bit wobbly in his backpedal early in drills, but at his height, that’s not overly surprising. He got more fluid as the drills continued, showing above-average explosion and ball location skills.
Cordale Flott (LSU, 6-foot-0 1⁄2, 175) didn’t participate in any of the measured drills, but when he stepped onto the field, LSU’s nickelback looked fluid in his movements and did a really nice job of gaining ground in his backpedal.