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Top 10 cornerback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft (with pro comparisons)

The Eagles still need help in the slot.

NCAA Football: Louisville vs Purdue Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The cornerback situation for the Eagles heading into the 2018 NFL Draft is a bit murky. The team has some intriguing names at the top of their depth chart like Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills while Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas look to make big leaps in their second years. However, there is a huge hole at the slot cornerback position after losing Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby is heading into the final year of his contract. Thus, it is entirely possible that the team could look to spend their top pick on the position. In a relatively deep class, they will have their options in terms of what to do. Here is what the top of the class looks like.

10. Nick Nelson, Wisconsin

Nick Nelson started his career at Hawaii but his career took off after he transferred to Wisconsin and he starred in their defensive backfield. Nelson has a good build at 5’11” and 209 and uses that build well when it comes to being a physical football player. He is incredibly scrappy in coverage, to a fault sometimes when he gets penalized, but he inflicts his attitude on opposing wide receivers. With 42 career passes defended, Nelson knows how to find the football as a former wide receiver. While none of those PDs turned into interceptions, that is more than likely a freak instance than indicative of an inability to create turnovers. Nelson is no a great athlete, but compensates with his physicality and high football IQ. He will need to reduce his grabbiness in the NFL. He suffered a knee injury during his pro-day, something that will severely hurt his stock on draft day and all hopes that he will recover from it.

Key Stat: Led the country in PDs over the last four years despite sitting a season

NFL Comparison: Mackenzie Alexander, Minnesota Vikings

9. Duke Dawson, Florida

Duke Dawson is another player, luckily for the Eagles, who fits into the profile of a smaller but scrappy cornerback. Dawson played much of his career at the nickel for Florida but rewarded them by leading the team in passed defended last year and led them in interceptions this year. Dawson ran well at Indy, assuaging some concerns about him as an athlete, and he is well built at 5’10” and 208 pounds. Dawson does not have great length, something that will likely keep him in the slot in the NFL, but he is a very physical cornerback who will manhandle receivers and contribute in the run game.

Key Stat: Only allowed 6 first downs in coverage in 2017 (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Sheldon Brown, Philadelphia Eagles

8. Mike Hughes, UCF

Mike Hughes is one of the bigger boom/bust players at cornerback this year. He is an immensely gifted athlete that contributes on defense and on special teams, but only started for one year and has rumored off the field concerns. He started his career at UNC but was kicked off the team due to a fraternity incident and he transferred to UCF. Hughes measures in a bit small, but he is a fantastic athlete who can lock guys up on the perimeter. He is also incredibly physical for his size. His aggression can get the best of him and that comes from lack of experience, but his talent is very obvious as a defender. If teams want to take a bet on him, he will at least give them early returns on special teams.

Key Stat: 3 combined special teams touchdowns on 34 return attempts.

NFL Comparison: Bradley Roby, Denver Broncos

7. Donte Jackson, LSU

Donte Jackson gets the reputation as the speed freak in this cornerback class. His 4.32 40 yard dash and 124” broad jump are revealing of his explosive ability. Jackson’s athleticism is obvious on the field as he moves with an ease unlike most other players in this class. He can change direction on a dime and he has insane make up speed, allowing him to constantly take chances in coverage. He is very raw, however, and depends on his athleticism more often than a cornerback should at the NFL level. However, his peaks are immense and teams will love his upside as a pure cover corner. He will need to add some weight to a slight 5’10”, 178 pound frame and his lack of length might relegate him to the slot; but he is certainly gifted enough to at least get a shot as an outside cornerback.

Key Stat: Gave up 304 receiving yards on 39 targets this season (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Jabari Greer, former New Orleans Saints

6. Anthony Averett, Alabama

Anthony Averett has gone relatively unheralded on a consistently star studded Alabama defense. The 5’11”, 183 pound cornerback turned some heads at the combine with a 4.36 40 yard dash however and the tape reveals people should have been paying more attention. He only got a starting job in 2016 due to Alabama’s perpetual depth, but he made an impact immediately. He is a competitive cover cornerback who plays with high level instincts on passing plays. He does a great job in man coverage and also shows instincts and closing speed in zone. He is a bit light, but remains a dependable tackler and brings physicality to the passing game. He is one of the more solid, almost safe, prospects in the class. While he may never be a playmaker on the defensive side, he will turn into a consistent and dependable cover guy.

Key Stat: Allowed 22 completions on 49 targets in 2017 (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Ken Crawley, New Orleans Saints

5. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

Colorado put two very good prospects into the NFL last year with Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon. However, Isaiah Oliver could go higher than both of them. A former track athlete with NFL blood lines, it is not surprising how effective Oliver was for the Buffalo once he got a starting job. Even after working through a leg injury and missing time, Oliver took home All-Pac 12 first team honors. Oliver has prototypical size with long arms and is well built. He is incredibly physical as a pass defender, smothering receivers at the line and creating impossibly tight windows on contested catches. He uses his long arms well in coverage and looking for the ball. He is a bit tight hipped and has trouble consistently sinking and changing direction, but he can generally make up for it with his physicality through a route. Teams will love how competitive Oliver is and the type of size he can bring to a defensive backfield.

Key Stats: 26 Pass breakups in the last two years despite only starting 12 games in that span.

NFL Comparison: Keenan Lewis, former Pittsburgh Steeler

4. Carlton Davis, Auburn

What immediately stands out about Carlton Davis is his size. At 6’1”, 206 with long arms; Davis is built like NFL teams would want a cornerback. He is rocked up and those muscles are more than for show. He is a physical guy who will bully receivers with his strength and length. He is a non-stop, high motor cornerback who competes at every level of the route and after the catch to make a play. He is not an outstanding athlete, but what he lacks in movement he makes up in technical savvy and grit. Teams will love Davis’ attitude on the field and he will fit in perfectly on a team that uses a lot of press coverage.

Key Stat: 38% allowed completion percentage in 2017. (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Vontae Davis, former Indianapolis Colts

3. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

Jaire Alexander missed much of 2017 due to various injuries, battling back to play in the final three games of the season. In 2016, however, Alexander was one of the best cornerbacks in the country. He is a smooth athlete with fantastic ball skills and great instincts in coverage. His injury history and lack of size will worry a lot of teams, but he has some legitimately great tape when he’s healthy. It will be a bit of a gamble and teams might prefer his 5’10”, 196 pounds in the slot, but he can be a very good defender if he stays healthy.

Key Stat: Forced six turnovers in 13 games in 2016.

NFL Comparison: Jason Verrett, Los Angeles Chargers

2. Josh Jackson, Iowa

Joshua Jackson is a one year wonder with only 14 starts under his belt, but what a year that was. He got his hands on 27 (!!!) passes, including eight interceptions, two pick sixes and a forced fumble. He notably had a three interception game in Iowa’s upset of Ohio State that included an acrobatic, Odell Beckham-eque, one handed pick. Jackson’s six foot frame is used perfectly as a defender and he has receiver like ball skills. He is incredibly instinctive and is always looking for the big play. His lack of experience will frighten some teams away, but it is hard to deny how big an impact he made this year. If he can maintain his mentality in the NFL, he will keep taking the ball away.

Key Stat: Had an interception or PBU on 25.7% of his targets (

NFL Comparison: Chris McAlister, former Baltimore Raven

1. Denzel Ward, Ohio State

It was a close race between Joshua Jackson and Denzel Ward all season for top cornerback honors, but taking experience into account, as well as combine, the nod had to go to Ward. Denzel Ward is likely to make this the third year in a row that an Ohio State cornerback goes in the first round. Ward garnered an All-Big 10 honorable mention in 2016 despite not technically being a starter and was a first-team All American this season when he finally got the starting reps. Ward is a fantastic athlete, highly intelligent and tough for his size. Teams might go back and forth over whether him being a hair under 5’11” should knock him off their board. Teams do have rigid qualifications for all positions and Ward’s lack of size might eliminate him for some teams. Those stupid teams will regret their decisions, however, since Ward’s size is really his only glaring weakness. He is a very clean, consistent prospect and his athleticism suggests he can get even better.

Key Stat: Allowed 34% of targets completed into his coverage. (CFB Film Room)

NFL Comparison: Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos


Who makes up your top ten? And which corner do you want the Eagles to draft?

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