Cornerbacks – Looking at the Draft

If you look through the past week of postings on PackersTalk.com, you will see much coverage regarding the Packers at the cornerback position.  It’s surprising that at this point they have not signed a free agent corner, considering they have around the same amount of cap space they did to start free agency, even after signing Jimmy Graham and Muhammed Wilkerson.  And they offered a significant contract to Kyle Fuller.

Its safe to say, that the Packers are a virtual lock to take a cornerback in the first two rounds of NFL Draft late next month, regardless of if they acquire a veteran cornerback.  Listed here are a few corners that grade as 1st and 2nd round picks at this point.

Denzel Ward – Ohio State – 5′ 10 7/8″ 183

40 Yard Dash – 4.35

Ward is a best-case scenario for the Packers.  If the Packers have a crack at him, they would likely jump at the chance.   He is the one, top-level talent corner in this draft.  The Packers may also consider trading up to take him.  They do have the ammo to make a modest move up while still retaining the draft capital to fill out some needs and provide some depth.   In any case, their chances of obtaining him improved with the Jets trade into the top five.  The Jets will either be taking Saquon Barkley or a Quarterback.  Cornerback is a need for them, and it wouldn’t have been a stretch to draft Ward at six.  Regardless, he is a special talent with elite athleticism.  In addition to that, he has good natural cover skills, allowing a 32% completion rate when thrown at.  The only question mark is his size and his ability to play press man with more physical wideouts.  This may dictate or show that he is better as a slot defender, which in today’s NFL is totally fine.  But as we saw with Casey Hayward, assuming a playing with talent is better in the slot is not always a smart move.  The Packers have to love Ward, and be strongly considering him.

Here is a video of Ward.   In the video, you can see his speed and his ball skills.  You also, see he is not afraid to hit and he has great instincts.  As best evidenced, by his hit on Mark Andrews of Oklahoma, by dropping his man to help on Andrews then delivering a crushing legal hit to jar the ball loose.

Josh Jackson – 6′ 0 3/8″ 196

40 Yard Dash – 4.59 (He stumbled a little for his 2nd attempt after having run a 4.48 on his first, unofficial attempt)

Jackson was a popular pick in January and February.  He has ideal size, and plays the part of a big physical corner.  He had an incredible eight interceptions and 27 passes defendedd this year.  He has good athleticism overall, being able to attack the ball and fight for jump balls.  He is also one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft experts, with several stating that he didn’t not have a good combine, such as Bucky Brooks of NFL.com and Peter Bukowski of Locked on Packer due mainly to his positional drills, while others such as Ben Fennell stating his affinity for him as the best corner of the draft.  Personally, I am conflicted, as I have seen tape of him get turned around rather easily by some better Wide Receivers and route runners while seeing a lot of wow plays that scream NFL.

Here is a video to see for yourself.  You can see the athleticism jump of the screen, while some of his interceptions were just by chance.

 

Isiah Oliver – Colorado – 6′ 0 1/4″ – 201

40 Time – 4.55

Oliver has ideal size and length to in the NFL.  While he stands just over six feet tall, he has go go gadget arms, with a wingspan of 80 5/8″.  And has the frame to go with such length.   This allows him to play well in press man situations.   On the field, he plays with confidence and has good ball skills overall, accumulated 32 pass breakups in three years in college.   He does well to get his head turned around.   This is one to certainly keep and eye on.  Many mocks and rankings have in at at the end of the 1st, early 2nd range, which is an ackward spot of the Packers.  But of course, much can change between now and then, and the Packers could always trade up (or down).    He is a highlight video of him.  His length, athletism and swagger are what is most noticeable.

Jaire Alexander – Louisville 5′ 10 1/4″ 196

40 Time: 4.38

The biggest red flag for Alexander as for as the Packers are concerned is that he is below the Packers threshold historically of 5′ 10 1/2″.  This stems from Ron Wolf’s time with the Packers, and something that Gutekunst, based on his comments about evaluating players will take in to account.  They have very rarely strayed from such as standard with the most notable exception being Ahmed Carroll, which of course was a disaster.  Alexander had a great combine.  Matt Miller of Bleacher Reported considers his stock to be the fastest rising for cornerbacks.  Miller also consider Alexander to be the best slot cornerback in the draft.  Very fast and athletic.  He is not  consistent in terms of balls skills and was injured much of 2017, with a sprained knee which had mostly battled through.  While toughness is a good trait, there also has to be an injury concern.

 

Carton Davis – Auburn – 6′ 0 1/8″ 206

40 Yard Dash – 4.54 – 1.59

Davis has similar size as Oliver, though not quite as long.  His str  He is your ideal big corner, who loves to play phsycial in press man coverage.  A potentially good boundry corner and a good tackler.  Not as smooth as some others in coverage and a major concern is that he had seven pass interfences penantiels this year.  That only figures to get worse in college.  The talent is there, and he may be in play in the second round.

Donte Jackson LSU 5′ 10 1/2″

40 Yard Dash – 4.32

Jackson is one of the most dynamic corners in the draft.   His game speed is so impressive that his 40 time was worse than it was expected to be;  there was some speculation that he could break John Ross’s record time of 4.22.   In the end he tied for the best 40 yard time at the combine. He has the ability to play either inside or outside, which is very valuable in todays NFL.  His movement is smooth, has good body control and is fairly natural in coverage.  The knock on him are his less than ideal size.  He barely, meets the Packers’ supposed height requirement of 5′ 10 1/2”.    He is slight, only had seven bench press reps and a below average tackler.  The other issue, is that he is not that instinctive in zone coverages, not reconizes route concepts, etc.  Jackson could be in play in round 2.

There are a handful that the Packers may have an oppurntunity to take in the 1st or 2nd round.  Ward is defentility the cream of the crop, with the other providing a mix of bigger corners or those that are faster and quicker, more suited for the slot.  The Packers have plenty of ways to attack this and still may very well be able to put toghther a solid secondary especially if Kevin King stays healthy and improves in year two.

 

Originally from Glidden Wisconsin, Jason Straetz is a lifelong Packers\' fan, who has lived in Maine for over 30 years. He is a writer for packerstalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @jsnstz
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