The story of the Eagles’ cornerbacks in 2018 was akin to the Rebel Alliance of the early Star Wars movies. They were a rag-tag bunch of young guns playing way above expectations to help catapult the Eagles to a playoff berth. Despite losing the likes of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby early in the season, a scrappy group of Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von Leblanc, Rasul Douglas, Tre Sullivan and Chandon Sullivan played enough good football to hold the defense together down the stretch.
Heading into the offseason, the Eagles are in a weird spot regarding the position. They have a handful of extremely young players that showed a lot of promise in 2018. Avonte Maddox massively outplayed his draft spot as a fourth round pick in last year’s draft. Maddox had an up and down playoff against some great receivers, but he had a lot of impressive moments in the second half of the season. Then Cre’Von Leblanc played admirably despite being claimed off waivers as a depth piece, performing well enough to deserve a chance at playing time next season. Rasul Douglas had a mercurial 2018 season with memorable highlights and lowlights, but his tackling and playmaking ability deserve recognition. Jalen Mills is recovering from a foot injury and Ronald Darby, an impending free agent, might have played his last down in midnight green. Finally, the team is still waiting on Sidney Jones to warrant the second round pick they spent on him in 2017. Jones is no doubt talented, but injuries have kept him off the field for too much of his first two seasons in Philly. The team should give him another offseason to prove himself, but overall the team could look to the draft for competition.
In this group of young defenders, there is no doubt a lack of a true number one cornerback. In today’s pass happy NFL, having an average secondary just does not cut it. The Eagles should rightfully be encouraged by the flashes made by a lot of their young defensive backfield, but they could also dip into a talented group of 2019 prospects to bring the secondary to the next level.
- Greedy Williams, LSU: Two seasons of playmaking down in Baton Rouge have a lot of NFL teams on notice. With eight interceptions and 19 defended passes over that time, Williams has a knack for the ball. Standing over 6’1”, teams will love the prototypical size and athleticism of the redshirt sophomore. Williams can stand to improve his consistency as the position, but everyone loves a young cornerback with athleticism and ball skills.
- DeAndre Baker, Georgia: While Greedy Williams might be this class’ playmaker, DeAndre Baker is arguably the better, more consistent player. Not only was Baker a staple of some fantastic UGA defenses, he improved every year he was playing. Baker has good size at about six foot and plays with great technique and physicality. Teams will love his football IQ and how steady he is at the position.
- Byron Murphy, Washington: The Huskies continue to churn out impressive defensive prospects. Murphy is another redshirt sophomore who was outstanding as soon as he hit the field for Washington. He is a savvy, physical cornerback with good ball skills.
- Amani Oruwariye, Penn State: Amani Oruwariye has been a major player for the Nittany Lions over the last two years. The 6’1” corner has great size and plays with a mean streak. Speed issues might hurt his projection, but teams will love how he hits and his consistent ability to find the ball.
- Lonnie Johnson Junior, Kentucky: Despite not filling up the stat sheet in 2018, teams will be extremely interested in the 6’3”, SEC cornerback. Johnson is physical, athletic and had a few shutout performances in 2018 to truly wow evaluators. I expect Johnson to benefit from a great draft cycle and a late rise this year.