This Smells Rank: Cornerbacks

Trading away a starting cornerback puts the Chargers in an interesting situation. They have Antoine Cason ready to step into his spot and they still have Steve Gregory ready to man the nickel. Gregory can't play corner and the team obviously has issues with Cason playing the nickel. The Chargers are not only tasked with adding depth to the position, but are also looking for a guy that could challenge either Cason, Gregory or both for their spots in the defensive rotation. Basically, this almost assures that the Chargers will either spend a 3rd round draft pick or higher on the position or try to address it through free agency. For the purposes of this article, let's assume they will address it with a 3rd round pick or higher. Here's how I have top 10 at the position (with a little help from ESPN's Scouts, Inc and Mel Kiper as well as DraftCountdown.com's Scott Wright)


Rank Prospect College Height Weight Projected Draft Rd.
1 Joe Haden Florida 5'11 193 1st
2 Kyle Wilson Boise State 5'10 194 1st-2nd
3 Kareem Jackson Alabama 5'11 196 1st-2nd
4 Devin McCourty Rutgers 5'10 193 1st-2nd
5 Patrick Robinson Florida State 5'11 190 1st-2nd
6 Chris Cook Virginia 6'2 212 2nd-3rd
7 Donovan Warren Michigan 5'11 193 2nd-3rd
8 Perrish Cox Oklahoma State 5'11 195 2nd-3rd
9 Amari Spievey Iowa 5'11 195 2nd-4th
10 Javier Arenas Alabama 5'9 197 2nd-4th

That top 5 is pretty much a consensus top 5, it's just a matter of which order you put them in. Things get muddled from there. I give more weight to Scouts, Inc since that's a group of people and Mel and Scott are only one person each. There's is a decent set of "just missed" guys here that could probably be in the mix for the 9 and 10 spots. Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee, Oklahoma's Dominique Franks, South Florida's Jerome Murphy and California's Syd'Quan Thompson are the guys in that mix. More on the guys I put in the top ten after the jump.

1. Joe Haden

The current buzz on Haden is a little misleading. He recently ran a 40 time at the combine that was not in the elite range. Don't let that fool you, he's still the top cornerback on the board and will be gone long before the Chargers pick. That's all I'm going to say about him since you shouldn't expect him to be a Bolt anytime soon.

2. Kyle Wilson

This Boise State Bronco was not on many people's radars going into the 2009 college football season. However, he was a 4 year starter and a playmaker who played a big part in Boise State's undefeated 2009 season. He was once thought to only project as nickelback because scouts thought he didn't have prototypical cornerback height and size. Something about him must have just seemed small because at the Senior Bowl he measured at 5'10 190 lbs, which is just fine for an NFL cornerback (for example, both the Saints CBs Porter and Greer are about that size). He might be a little bit of a showboat though, he's definitely a trash talker and in 2007 he was suspended 3 games for violating team rules, but none of those things should get in the way of being a good NFL cornerback. Once you get past his size and attitude you find an excellent athlete with great top end speed and good leaping ability, a solid tackler who can help in run support and a team leader that plays with an edge. He can also return kicks.

3. Kareem Jackson

Jackson is another guy that wasn't high on people's watch list for 2009 mostly because we was a junior and people didn't think he was coming out. However, playing great in man to man for the National Champions tends to change things. He was a blue chip recruit for the Crimson Tide ranking 17th overall among recruits by Rivals.com. He started all but 1 game as a freshmen and had some big games that rookie season. He's not really a physical presence and isn't the greatest tackler (although he will lower the shoulder, he's just not great at wrapping up) so I think that's why he's 3rd on some boards, but 5th or lower on others. However, he plays with such great technique that he often doesn't need to be physical. He can route guys to the sideline without risking a holding or illegal contact call and he he's fluid in and out of breaks so he can stay with his man all day. He also gets good grades for keeping track of the quarterback while he does all of this. His ball skills are strong and he'll snatch away balls from wideouts with the best of them.

4. Devin McCourty

Like Wilson, McCourty is a senior who was thought to be on the smaller side while also being on the slower side. Turns out though that he's not. He's got adequate size and his 40 time was pretty good. Not as good as his twin brother Jason's though who plays for the Tennessee Titans and ran over a 10th of a second better. Devin lost a $100 bet because of this. Like all the guys above him Devin is a great athlete who can turn and run with wide receivers with fluid hips and good top end speed. He's also a reliable tackler and he was a great special teams ace for the Scarlet Knights. This could endear him to a team like the Chargers who don't necessarily have a starting spot open, but do need to fill Cromartie's void at gunner. He also returned and blocked kicks during his collegiate career. He's has long arms, but isn't the greatest at using them. He lacks great hands and ball skills and he has trouble getting a jam at the line.

5. Patrick Robinson

Unlike the previous 4 on the list Robinson is not rising up draft boards. He's spent all of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 near the top and it looks like he'll hold on to be one of the top 5 cornerbacks taken. He's an absolutely fantastic athlete and physically has everything scouts want from a corner. His hips are super fluid, his feet are quick, his top end speed is elite, his acceleration is excellent, he can jump and he looks good with his shirt off. He also has some of the good non-physical characters like getting good jams, doing well in both man and zone and he doesn't drop many passes he should catch. However, its some of the little things that add up to keep him from Joe Haden elite territory. He lacks focus and can't get overly aggressive. He'll struggle to tackle bigger backs. He was suspended for academic fraud in 2008 and was suspended from the Seminoles' bowl game in 2007. Basically, he needs some good coaching and mentoring. He comes from a great Florida State pedigree of cornerbacks, but Chargers fans also know that the last one on their recent list of alums in the NFL is Antonio Cromartie.

6. Chris Cook

Let me start out by saying, I like this guy. Obviously, his measurables stand out. He's bigger than everyone on this list and he ran the second fastest 40 time at the combine. He also played at Virignia where they run a 3-4. He lines up near the scrimmage and get  good jams on receivers so I could see him easily beating out Gregory for the nickelback role. Even at his size though he does need work on tackling. He can fight through blocks, but is inconsistent at finishing in run support. He has had some injury issues including a missed season in 2005, but none in 2009. He has some academic issues as well that got him into trouble. I think his speed and quickness are underrated (although, less so after the combine) and that combined with his size make him a guy with a lot of upside. Some teams might see him as a future free safety, which might be okay for the Chargers too since Weddle doesn't have a contract extension yet and the other safeties are young. If teams underrate him enough to let him slip to the Chargers in the second round I definitely want them to pull the trigger on this Cavalier.

7. Donovan Warren

Warren is a guy whose stock is all over the place. Some want to put him in the top 5 and some wonder if he belongs in the top 10. I don't know what to make of him so I split the difference. He seems to have all the skills, size and speed to play the position and start in the NFL, but for whatever reason he's not wowing some. He's a physical corner, but not too physical. He can turn and run adequately and I guess that's where scouts take issue because they want a guy who is good or excellent at doing that. There's some talk that he might be a better fit for safety in some NFL schemes. He did play some safety for the Wolverines. He's also a leader and will direct other players to their proper spots on the field. There is also a chance that he's being underrated because of how bad Michigan was this year (the same has been said about teammate Brandon Graham).

8. Perrish Cox

Oh boy. Perrish Cox seems to have set off all kinds of character flags. It started with two separated curfew violations, which resulted in a suspension from Oklahoma State's Alamo Bowl appearance. After the suspension he decided that as a junior he'd had enough of college and would declare for the draft. When asked about his interviews at the combine he referred to them multiple times as being "harassed", but he also saws that he admits his mistakes and takes full responsibility for them. Oklahoma State has barred him from their Pro Day, which is important because at the combine he ran much slower than scouts would have liked. So, basically, the combine to him was getting harassed and dogging an important test. He needs to make up for that effort at a Pro Day, so he's going to hold his own at a high school in Waco, Texas. When he was actually playing football he was quite a star for the Cowboys. He started returning kicks his very first game at OSU and returned the first one he ever saw for a TD. He started 8 games his sophomore year and was a full time starter as a junior. He's a good tackler and solid in run support. Despite his lackluster effort at the combine he looks fast on film and can accelerate with a good closing burst out of his backpedal. I doubt the charges will want to take on his character issues, but if he slips far he could be worth a look as a nickelback and kick returner.

9. Amari Spievey

A junior college transfer who started all his games in his two years in Iowa, he seems to be a sleeper of sorts. There never seems to be any buzz about this Big Ten standout. In a way, his scouting report reminds me of Chargers CB Quentin Jammer. He's a strong tackler and can give a big hit. He mainly played off coverage, but he can turn and run with the receiver if he tries to run by. He doesn't jam much and is inexperienced at it, but he's strong enough to have an impact on the route when he executes the jam well. He's good at catching the ball on routine interception and has even displayed an ability to make the circus catch. He has no injury history and he runs well. He doesn't have elite speed and he struggles in a jump ball situation, both of which are key to being a #1 CB. Basically, he ranks this low because his upside is a solid #2 where everyone above him has a chance at being a #1.

10. Javier Arenas

The other half of the National Champion cornerback duo. Actually, that's kind of a funny thing to say because Arenas was the star in college and Jackson was the blue collar guy. His height is most likely going to hold him back in the NFL, at least as a cornerback. As a return man he was something special. He set an SEC record with 7 punt returns for touchdowns. Those dynamic skills on punt returns translate well to the cornerback position and he even has good leaping ability to make up for his height, but it's not enough to rank him with the elite CBs in this draft. He's great in run support where his bulk and lower center of gravity can help him shed tackles and his high motor carries him to the ball carrier. He's also good at anticipating routes and jumping them. That could work well as a nickelback. He's a high effort guy in practice and is the kind of guy you like having on your team.

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