With the NFL Draft process well underway, there is a much clearer picture of the 2023 class than there was even a month ago. With exhibition games and the Combine now in the past, it is easier to build a full profile of this year’s prospects. This cornerback class is probably the deepest, most talented position group in the draft. The top 15 players could all very well go in the top 75 this year and would deserve it. It’s that kind of class.
1) Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Christian Gonzalez wins with rare size and athleticism at the cornerback position combined with advanced footwork. Gonzalez is far and away the best cornerback in this class. He has everything NFL teams could want in terms of physical traits and he is extremely skilled at a young age (Won’t be 21 until the summer). Gonzalez is smooth in coverage, be it man or zone, and has the physicality necessary to challenge receivers at the line or at the catch point.
Christian Gonzalez can take a leap by becoming more consistent attacking the football and ball carriers. Gonzalez’s ball skills are impressive at times, but leave plenty to be desired. It is a clear area of improvement for him, which is exciting considering how good in coverage he is. As a tackler, Gonzalez is fine, but could bring more willingness. Especially against the run.
NFL Comparison: Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos
2) Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Kelee Ringo wins with great size and speed paired with a physical playing style. Kelee Ringo is built like a safety at nearly 6’2” and 207 pounds. He is a muscled up cornerback who is unafraid of using his strength to bully receivers and other ball carriers. Ringo’s speed means he can line up across from any receiver.
Kelee Ringo can take a leap by tempering his aggressive playing style. Still young (turns 21 this summer), Ringo could definitely smooth the edges on his game. His aggression can lead to biting on head fakes by more skilled receivers (see his matchup with Marvin Harrison Jr.). He can also initiate contact a bit too early and draw costly penalties. At his best, Ringo is as good as any player in this class, but there are key areas for him to grow as a cornerback.
NFL Comparison: Sauce Gardner, New York Jets
3) Joey Porter Junior, Penn State
Joey Porter Jr. wins with size, speed, strength and toughness. Despite playing different positions, Joey Porter Jr. takes after his old man in that they are both tough as nails players. The younger Porter was constantly manhandling Big 10 receivers, disrupting their rhythm at the line and impacting their routes with physical coverage. Joey Porter is an NFL level athlete with great size to hold his own against any receiver in the league.
Joey Porter Jr. can take a leap by continuing to refine his game. His aggressive playing style can sometimes come back to bite him, both in terms of drawing penalties and being displaced by more heady route runners.
NFL Comparison: Jaycee Horn, Carolina Panthers
4) Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
Devon Witherspoon wins with great physicality and instincts. From the shoulders up, Devon Witherspoon is exactly the kind of cornerback any team would want. He is a smart, tough player who is unafraid of getting into it with receivers or attacking in the run game. Witherspoon has great ball skills in part because of his ability to easily click and close with the ball in the air.
Devon Witherspoon can take a leap by finding a scheme that mitigates physical limitations. Devon Witherspoon is a bit smaller for an outside cornerback and is only a fine athlete. He might struggle with some of the better receivers in the game and could top out as a high-level CB2. Hardly a bad thing, but something to consider for teams considering him.
NFL Comparison: Derion Kendrick, Los Angeles Rams
5) Deonte Banks, Maryland
Deonte Banks wins with track level athleticism and impressive flashes as a cover cornerback. Banks has limited experience at the cornerback position but it’s easy to see the appeal. His speed and explosiveness allows him to match with anyone and he has reps where he completely blankets receivers from the jump. Dominant athlete with sky high potential.
Deonte Banks can take a leap with more reps. A lot of where Banks can improve comes down to experience. He is plagued by inconsistency and lack of composure when he loses off the line. His ball skills are okay at best. That being said, more playing time and coaching will go a long way to turn Banks from an athlete into an NFL defender.
NFL Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos
6) Cam Smith, South Carolina
7) Clark Phillips III, Utah
8) Julius Brents, Kansas State
9) Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
10) Jakorian Bennett, Maryland
11) DJ Turner, Michigan
12) Tyrique Stevenson, Miami
13) Tre’Vius Hodges Tomlinson, TCU
14) Eli Ricks, Alabama
15) Cory Trice, Purdue
16) Jay Ward, LSU
17) Kei’Trel Clark, Louisville