With the Super Bowl come and gone, we are now officially in the 2018 NFL offseason. We are now in full fledge draft mode across the league. The 2018 NFL Draft is a monumental event for the future of the Cleveland Browns and which direction they go. The Browns hold the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks in the draft and five picks in the first two rounds. So, the Browns have a chance to make a real move this offseason.
To get Browns fans ready and more affiliated with the prospects who make up the 2018 NFL Draft, WFNY has already started covering the draft. Over the last many weeks, WFNY’s Joe Gilbert and Jake Burns have covered most of the offensive and defensive classes for the upcoming draft. Gilbert and Burns have given their early glance at their initial top five prospects and thoughts for many of the position classes.
Today, Gilbert and Burns continue their early glance series by taking a look at the cornerback class. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at both of their top five cornerbacks and overall thoughts on the cornerback class in the 2018 NFL Draft.
|Joe Gilbert’s Top 5 CBs||Jake Burns’ Top 5 CBs|
|1. Denzel Ward, Ohio State||1. Joshua Jackson, Iowa|
|2. Joshua Jackson, Iowa||2. Denzel Ward, Ohio State|
|3. Carlton Davis, Auburn||3. Jaire Alexander, Louisville|
|4. Jaire Alexander, Louisville||4. Carlton Davis, Auburn|
|5. Anthony Averett, Alabama||5. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado|
Best of the Rest: Mike Hughes (UCF), Nick Nelson (Wisconsin), Tarvarus McFadden (Florida State), Duke Dawson (Florida), J.C. Jackson (Maryland), Donte Jackson (LSU), Kevin Toliver II (LSU), Holton Hill (Texas), and Michael Joseph (Dubuque).
Which cornerback do you feel stronger about than most people?
Joe: I feel stronger about Anthony Averett of Alabama than most people. He is a good athlete with quick feet and the fluidity to turn and mirror receivers all over the field. Though he is not the biggest corner in the class, he is not afraid to get physical. He can make plays in the run game and has shown success as a blitzer. Averett is just a good football player.
Jake: Sign me up for Jaire Alexander. I know you can’t ignore durability concerns, but if you just look at raw skills on the field he has enough to warrant being the first name off the board. He is great in both man and zone coverage, has the hips and ball skills to play the position in the league for a long time. If he can stay healthy–he was sidelined by a knee injury and a broken hand in 2017–he has a chance to be a regular at the Pro Bowl for many years.
Who is your No. 1 cornerback in the class and why do you believe he is the best cornerback?
Joe: Denzel Ward of Ohio State is my No. 1 cornerback in the class. In my opinion, he has the best mirror skills in the class and I believe that makes him the top guy in the group. His feet are his best assets. His feet are both quick and technically-sound, allowing him to shuffle backwards with players and changing directions on a drop of a dime. He has fluid hips to flip quickly when his man changes directions. He is best in press man coverage, but he had experience in off-man and zone coverages, too.
Jake: Josh Jackson is the leader in the club house for me before the upcoming combine. Jackson had tremendous production in 2017 with eight interceptions and 18 passes broken up to go along with 48 tackles. He has the size at 6’1 and 192 pounds, to go along with his speed and athleticism necessary to fit within most NFL schemes. I fully expect Jackson to be the first corner off the board, and the most productive out of this class.
What are your thoughts on the overall cornerback class? How would you rate the class?
Joe: I think the class lacks the elite talent like Marshon Lattimore, but the group is pretty solid with nice depth. Compared to last season, this season’s class is not quite as deep in the top level talent and the overall depth of the class. But, this year’s class is not bad and should produce quite a few quality cornerbacks.
Jake: This is a deep group from top to bottom. I think Jackson and Denzel Ward both present the quality top-of-the-board names, and guys like Carlton Davis and Jaire Alexander will be steals in late day one or day two. I expect this group to have upward of ten guys who will make rosters and compete for starting jobs on Sundays.
Who has the best single skill set and what is that skill set?
Joe: I think the best single skill set in the class is Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson’s ball skills. Jackson picked off eight passes in 2017, which was the most in the entire Division I-A last year. He has good hands for a cornerback. His length and athleticism help him get into position to make a play on the ball, either picking it off or deflecting it away for an incompletion. Jackson knows how to get to the ball.
Jake: I think Joshua Jackson is the better overall corner, but what Denzel Ward can do in man to man coverage is tough to beat. He is at his best when he is in press man where he can get his hands on you and stay locked in your hip pocket. He has such fluid hips and his feet are always so quick in and out of breaks. It rare you see him give up separation down field in man coverage. In an NFL that is going to more and more man coverage, he is the ideal fit for teams looking for the lock down corner.
Who is a sleeper cornerback who you are keeping an eye on?
Joe: Darius Phillips of Western Michigan is a sleeper cornerback to keep an eye on. He is a cornerback with the ability to play in man and zone coverage. He has pretty good instincts to read the play and react to where the ball is going. Overall, he is a solid athlete. But, besides being a corner, he is also a dangerous returner, who can change a game on special teams, both in punt and kick returns.
Jake: I have a hard time ignoring Mike Hughes from Central Florida. His performance during his Junior campaign jumped him up many draft boards. Hughes covers with speed, quick feet, and agility. He is very fluid and does a good job of running the route with receivers to prevent them from gaining separation. He has a natural knack for understanding how receivers set up their routes in order to jump them. I also enjoy his closing speed to make up for putting himself in the wrong spot. His workout in Indianapolis will tell a big part of his story.
What is the impact of this cornerback class to the Browns?
Joe: The Browns need a No. 1 cornerback to solidify their already solid corner unit. So, I think this class has a big impact on the Browns. Cleveland could very well use one of their first four picks on a cornerback, which should net one of my top five players. This is definitely a class to watch for the Browns.
Jake: Like Joe said, the Browns certainly need a No. 1 corner type to build their defense. I don’t think they are able to find it in this draft with where they are selecting a player. There is a possibility they use Minkah Fitzpatrick in this manner, much like Jalen Ramsey coming out in 2016. I expect the Browns to sign a big name at this position in free agency then attack the position in the second or third round of the draft.