2023 NFL Draft: The top 11 cornerbacks

The 2023 NFL draft presents one of the strongest cornerback classes in recent memory, to the point where some lucky NFL teams are going to get players at the position with a ton of starter traits all the way into the third day of the draft.

That isn’t always the case, and the thing about this class that seems particularly interesting is the number of bigger (over six feet tall) cornerbacks with positive traits and intriguing ball skills. Most classes tend to be more of a grab-bag in terms of the NFL’s preferred size profile, but in our Top 11, nine of the cornerbacks are at least 5-foot-11, and only two (Utah’s Clark Phillips III and TCU’s Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson) are obviously under the “You must be this tall to ride this ride” limit.

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From there, it’s all about the traits you need. This class of cornerbacks has everything from press-man monsters with ridiculous wingspans to zone and match detectives who have perfected the art of working receivers into frustrations they didn’t quite expect.

So, it’s time to separate the skill sets for our Top 11 cornerbacks of the 2023 NFL draft class.

You can also read our list of the top nine safeties in the 2023 class right here.

(All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football FocusSports Info Solutions, and Football Outsiders unless otherwise indicated).


(All prospect measurement percentiles courtesy of MockDraftable.com). 

1. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

(Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 5′ 11½” (54th) Weight: 181 (10th)
40-Yard Dash: N/A
10-Yard Split: N/A
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: N/A
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: 73⅝” (18th)
Arm Length: 31¼” (42nd)
Hand Size: 8⅞” (25th)

Bio: Witherspoon was the 2018 Pensacola (Florida) Defensive Player of the Year out of Pine Forest High School, a feat cinched by his seven interceptions in his senior year. He had 329 snaps in 2019 as a true freshman for Illinois, showing impressive maturity in coverage and run support, and he’s been a factor ever since.


Over four seasons, he had two sacks, six total pressures, 118 tackles, 46 stops, and he allowed 88 catches on 172 targets for 1,168, yards, 492 yards after the catch, five touchdowns, five interceptions, 22 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 70.6. Witherspoon had 1,968 college snaps at outside cornerback, 229 in the slot, 69 along the defensive line, 56 in the box, and 12 at free safety.

Stat to Know: Witherspoon picked the right year to put it all together at an utterly ridiculous level — in 2022, he allowed just 22 catches on 62 targets for 209 yards, 71 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, three interceptions, 14 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 25.3. That was by far the lowest passer rating allowed for any FCS cornerback in the 2023 class — Tulsa’s Jaise Oliver finished second at 37.4.

Strengths: Any cornerback is going to be tested deep, especially when he gets to the NFL level. Quarterbacks testing Witherspoon deep might want to have a Plan B, because his combination of backpedal, transitional movement, and balletic footwork make such completions quite difficult.

Witherspoon allowed an opponent quarterback rating of 0.0 on deep passes in 2022. Yes, he went Full Blutarsky.

But it’s when Witherspoon is defending short and intermediate passes that you really see the unusual footwork for his size. He has what I call “match feet,” which allow him to trail receivers through any bend and angle, and then just snuff things out at the catch point.


Weaknesses: That aggression does come with a potential price — Witherspoon was penalized six times in the 2022 season, but NFL officials (such as they are) may find that his proclivity for nearness to the receiver when the ball shows up lands on the wrong side of pass interference more often than one would prefer. He’s going to have to time those hits and breakups microscopically at the next level.


Conclusion: Illinois has become an underrated “DBU” over the last couple of years. Two of the Fighting Illinis’ safeties in this class (Sydney Brown and Jartavius Martin) made out top 9 list there, and 2022 graduate Kerby Joseph, a third-round pick by the Lions, picked Aaron Rodgers off three times in his rookie season. With all that said, Witherspoon comes out of the gate with the most obvious NFL skill set of all these players, and his blend of size, aggressiveness, and transition speed should make him a plus starter at the next level as soon as possible.

NFL Comparison: Sam Madison. Selected by the Dolphins in the second round of the 1997 draft out of Louisville, Madison transcended any concerns about his size (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) with great movement skills and the toughness to take any receiver right to the woodshed. Madison parlayed all that into four Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro nominations. Witherspoon seems to have the tools to possibly put up an equivalent NFL career, given the right home.


2. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 1⅜” (89th) Weight: 197 (68th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.38 (89th)
10-Yard Split: 1.54 (53rd)
Bench Press: 14 reps (44th)
Vertical Jump: 41½” (96th)
Broad Jump: 133″ (95th)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: 76⅞” (70th)
Arm Length: 32″ (70th)
Hand Size: 9½” (76th)

Bio: A four-star recruit out of The Colony High School in Texas, Gonzalez played his first two seasons of college ball for the Colorado Buffaloes, transferring to Oregon for the 2022 season when cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin moved from Colorado to the Ducks. Gonzalez started all five games of Colorado’s COVID-shortened 2020 season, and kept that status through his collegiate career until he opted out of Oregon’s 2022 Holiday Bowl game against North Carolina.


Over three collegiate seasons, Gonzalez had no sacks or pressures, 115 tackles, 37 stops, and he allowed 89 catches on 155 targets for 1,054 yards, 473 yards after the catch, seven touchdowns, four interceptions, 14 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 82.6. He played 1,524 snaps at outside cornerback, 204 in the slot, 176 in the box, 10 along the defensive line, and four at free safety.

Stat to Know: Last season, Gonzalez lined up in the slot on 29% of his snaps, by far the highest rate for any cornerback in this class — TCU’s Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson ranked second at 28%.

Strengths: Okay, here’s the REAL stat to know with Gonzalez — in 2022, against throws of 20 or more air yards, he allowed two catches on nine targets for 69 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. Metrics aren’t always the optimal indicator of performance, but if a cornerback has more interceptions than catches allowed on deep passes, that’s probably pretty good. Gonzalez’s tape backs that up in a couple of ways.

Gonzales is also the best zone cornerback on this list from a statistical perspective — he gave up nine catches no 21 targets in zone last season for 107 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions, and five pass breakups. Because he’s so smooth and athletic through his transitions, he can make these kinds of deep dropbacks look far easier than they are. You don’t really get the sense that Gonzalez is physically overwhelmed at any time.


Weaknesses: I was surprised that the Ducks wanted Gonzalez in the slot as much as they did, because he just doesn’t seem as comfortable there. Richard Sherman once told me that the tough part of playing in the slot is that the boundary is no longer your friend, and that lack of “friendship” makes him look a bit lost at times when he’s playing inside.

There’s been a bit of talk about Gonzalez’s lack of “killer instinct” — that if he worked more on affecting the receiver instead of just playing the ball, he could be even more dominant. I’m not trying to venture inside his head, but there are times when it’s clear on his tape. If he had Devon Witherspoon’s playing personality, he might be illegal.

Conclusion: There are players at every position in the NFL who just make things look easier than they have any right to make them look. Christian Gonzalez has all the attributes to become one of those players sooner than later at the next level. If he manages to add a bit of grit to the reams of teach tape, there’s no telling how good he can be — especially if he’s aligned as an outside cornerback as much as possible.

NFL Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. There’s a little Richard Sherman to Gonzalez’s game in that he defends every deep fade with a curiosity that any quarterback would try such a thing, but Gonzalez also has a smoothness to his game that’s just unusual for his size, and he doesn’t have Sherm’s obvious desire to physically embarrass his opponent. That puts me in mind of Rodgers-Cromartie, who at his best was just impossible for receivers to shake.


3. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

(Syndication: York Daily Record)

Height: 6′ 2½” (96th percentile) Weight: 193 (52nd)
40-Yard Dash: 4.46 (64th)
10-Yard Split: 1.50 (82nd)
Bench Press: 17 reps (73rd)
Vertical Jump: 35″ (36th)
Broad Jump: 129″ (87th)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: 80⅞” (97th)
Arm Length: 34″ (98th)
Hand Size: 10″ (95th)

Bio: The son of former Steelers, Dolphins, and Cardinals edge-rusher Joey Porter, who played in the NFL from 1999 through 2011, made four Pro Bowls, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000s team, Joey Porter Jr. was a first-team all-state selection at North Allegheny High School in Wexford, Pennsylvania before committing to the Nittany Lions.


Over four collegiate seasons, Porter had one sack, five pressures, 101 tackles, 24 stops, and allowed 72 catches on 120 targets for 783 yards, seven touchdowns, one interception, 15 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 95.2. Porter played 1,387 snaps at outside cornerback, 230 in the box, 44 along the defensive line, 30 in the slot, and 13 at free safety.

Stat to Know: Porter aligned in press coverage on 39% of his 2022 snaps, the third-highest total among cornerbacks on this list — Maryland’s Deonte Banks ranked highest with 45%.

Strengths: Porter is a natural in man coverage, and it’s not just on solo boundary stuff — as he showed on this deflection against Northwestern in Week 5, Porter is quite able to break off against a short crosser in Cover-1 and just demolish it. You’d better run that pick concept correctly and get him out of the way if you want the play to succeed.

There are times when Porter a bit more vulnerable in zone, or he’ll give up short completions that are almost automatic in the scheme, but his 2022 zone defense tape is where the development really shows up.

On this deep deflection against Minnesota in Week 8, Porter took receiver Daniel Jackson all the way up the rail on the right boundary in Cover-3, and there was no way Jackson was moving Porter away from his outside position through the vertical route. Porter has a way of smothering receivers with that aggressive demeanor and developed technique, and this is an excellent example. If you were to change the unform and tell me that this was a Richard Sherman rep from about 2012, I’d be inclined to believe you.


Weaknesses: Porter’s NFL coaches will want to work with him on advanced route combinations, because there are times where his aggressiveness will get the better of him in those circumstances, and he’ll be out of position to get to the ball. Opposing offenses also deal with him by throwing screens and picks at him, and that doesn’t always work in Porter’s favor. This screen against Michigan in Week 7 is one example.

Regarding Porter’s low interception totals, I don’t think it’s an indication of terrible ball skills. I think he’s so focused on breaking up the play, that he’ll forget to go after the ball. The same was said of Sauce Gardner, and Sauce Gardner turned into a pretty good NFL cornerback in his 2022 rookie campaign.

Conclusion: Porter obviously breaks the matrix when it comes to measurables — when you have a cornerback with a wingspan that outdoes a lot of offensive tackles, that’ll get coaches excited. What I think will make Porter a plus NFL starter has a lot more to do with development than traits. He’s still got some work to do with the spatial stuff, but the improvement seen in 2022 augurs well for his future.

NFL Comparison: Jaycee Horn. The Panthers selected Horn with the eighth overall pick in the 2021 draft, and he’s become a lockdown cornerback regardless of coverage concept. While I like to go into the Wayback Machine for a lot of these NFL comps, I think that Porter and Horn have a lot of the same attributes in the sense that they can become scheme-transcendent defenders at the highest level when a lot of comparable players are stuck on one side of the man/zone debate.

4. Deonte Banks, Maryland

(Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 0″ (61st) Weight: 197 (68th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.35 (93rd)
10-Yard Split: 1.49 (89th)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 42″ (92nd)
Broad Jump: 136″ (98th)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 31⅜” (47th)
Hand Size: 9⅜” (68th)

Bio: An All-County selection at Edgewood High School in Baltimore, Banks stayed close to home for his college tenure, choosing the Terrapins and making an impact right away with multiple snaps, and an interception in his final 2019 game against Michigan State.

Over four seasons, Banks had no sacks, one pressure,70 tackles, 16 stops, and he allowed 50 catches on 102 targets for 557 yards, 138 yards after the catch, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 77.1. Banks played 1,321 snaps at outside cornerback, 71 in the box, 63 in the slot, 28 along the defensive line, and six at free safety.

Stat to Know: As we detailed in the Joey Porter slide, Banks had the highest rate of press coverage among cornerbacks on this list at 45%. Targeting Banks in press coverage was not a great idea — he allowed nine catches on 23 press targets for 46 yards, and only seven of those targets were deemed successes.

Strengths: Banks’ reps in press coverage are consistently hilarious, because it’s just bust after bust after bust for opposing offenses with very little relief. If he’s on you from the first step, his sense of technique and “matchability” to the receiver create a suffocating environment for receivers.

And while he wasn’t asked to stick his nose in a lot in run support, Banks has no aversion to it.

Conclusion: Teams in need of a smart, aggressive, consistent cornerback to go to the head of the room in a hurry would do well to look Banks’ way. The off-coverage issues aren’t problematic to the point where they’re going to prevent him from NFL success; they just stand in stark contrast to his press skills. Put him on a team whose defensive coaches want their cornerbacks to breathe all over receivers before the snap, and reap the rewards.

NFL Comparison: Jamel Dean. The Buccaneers took Dean in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Auburn, and were rewarded with a top-notch cornerback with a specific knack for pressing and matching receivers all over the field. Banks has a lot of attributes that make up his game, but any team involved in a lot of aggressive press coverage should find him especially intriguing.

5. Cam Smith, South Carolina

(AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

Height: 6′ 0¾” (70th percentile) Weight: 180 (8th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.43 (72nd)
10-Yard Split: 1.49 (89th)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 38″ (75th)
Broad Jump: 134″ (96th)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: 76⅛” (58th)
Arm Length: 31⅝” (59th)
Hand Size: 9⅛” (47th)

Bio: A noted star prospect at both Meade High School in Maryland and Westwood High School in South Carolina, Smith redshirted his first year with the Gamecocks (appearing for just 40 snaps) before breaking onto the scene in 2020 with a two-interception season.

Over four years with South Carolina, Smith had no sacks, four pressures, 71 tackles, 20 stops, and he allowed 48 catches on 94 targets for 701 yards, 184 yards after the catch, seven touchdowns, six interceptions, six pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 73.9. Smith had 1,009 snaps at outside cornerback, 235 in the slot, 74 in the box, 22 at free safety, and 14 along the defensive line.

Stat to Know: In man coverage last season, Smith allowed just seven catches on 23 targets for 53 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, four pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 21.8.

Strengths: Smith is also excellent in off coverage because he anticipates routes so well, and he closes to the receiver quickly. Once he’s on your track, you’ll have a tough time shaking him.

Weaknesses: As a force defender against the run, or when asked to blow through screens to the ball, Smith might not be your first choice, because he’s more of a technician than an aggressor.

Conclusion: Smith isn’t the most obviously gifted cornerback on this list’ his tape doesn’t blow you away as much as it lulls you into a safe, happy place because he’s just so consistently good in coverage. But most teams would rather have the cornerback who just keeps things under control than amazes and frustrates with boom/bust drama, and Smith fits that role well.

NFL Comparison: Derek Cox. Who is Derek Cox, you may ask? He was selected by the Jaguars in the third round of the 2009 draft out of William and Mary, and he had three different four-interception seasons in four years for Jacksonville, and he had his hands all over the ball, with 11 pass deflections in both 2009 and 2012. Cox stood 6-foot-1 and weighed 180 pounds, and he’s probably the best recent example of how a player with similar build and ball skills to Cam Smith can succeed in the NFL. Most cornerbacks who played at a high level at around 180 pounds did so well before our time, but Cox proved that it’s still possible in the modern era.

6. DJ Turner, Michigan

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Height: 5′ 11″ (42nd percentile) Weight: 178 (5th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.26 (99th)
10-Yard Split: 1.47 (96th)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 38½” (79th)
Broad Jump: 131″ (91st)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 30¾” (26th)
Hand Size: 9⅝” (83rd)

Bio: Turner helped North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia to the 2017 GHSA Class AAAAAAA State Championship, and then transferred to the IMG Academy for his senior year. He was named Defensive Player of the Game in that 2017 state championship, and was named one of the 20 most athletic recruits in the finals of Nike The Opening in Frisco, Texas. Turner appeared in four games on special teams for the Wolverines in 2019, started to make his way into the secondary in 2020, started to make his way into the secondary in 2020, and then exploded in 2021 and 2022.

Over two seasons with primary cornerback experience in college, Turner had no sacks, three pressures, 65 tackles, 13 stops, and he allowed 59 catches on 130 targets for 675 yards, 215 yards after the catch, four touchdowns, three interceptions, 15 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 62.2. Turner played 1,202 snaps at outside cornerback, 94 in the box, 73 in the slot, five at free safety, and one along the defensive line.

Stat to Know: A lot of cornerbacks on this list are great when pressing receivers, but you’d struggle to find too many who are better in off coverage than Turner is. Last season, he allowed nine catches on 21 off-coverage targets for 93 yards..

Strengths: Turner excels in off coverage because his recovery speed is real, and it is spectacular. Moreover, he’s confident enough in it to flow smoothly from play to play without a lot of anxiety. Even if you turn him completely around, he’ll put himself back together and make up for it in ways that opposing quarterbacks must find shocking when they review the tape.

Weaknesses: Turner isn’t the most physically imposing cornerback on this list — he will get beaten up a bit by more aggressive receivers, and he’s not gong to be your first choice if you need a defensive back attuned to stopping the run.

Conclusion: Turner’s value to the NFL will depend on how many teams value true technicians who move the needle more with their athletic potential and understanding of the nuances of the position as opposed to glass-eaters who just want to humiliate the receivers they cover. I’d be perfectly happy with a cornerback like Turner who can just make receivers disappear, but that’s a subjective thing.

NFL Comparison: Johnathan Joseph. Selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Bengals out of South Carolina, Joseph played 14 years in the NFL for Cincinnati, the Texans, the Cardinals, and the Titans. Joseph at his peak was always an underrated cornerback who did a great job of taking his freaky combine numbers to the field. Similarly, Turner’s tape shows a lot more than just another fast guy running around the field with half a clue.

7. Clark Phillips III, Utah

(Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 5″9′ (7th percentile) Weight: 184 (16th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.51 (44th)
10-Yard Split: 1.51 (74th)
Bench Press: 18 reps (81st)
Vertical Jump: 33″ (13th)
Broad Jump: N/A
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32 (17th)

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 29⅛” (1st)
Hand Size: 9⅛” (47th)

Bio: A four-star recruit out of La Habra High School in Orange County, California, Phillips chose to attach his name to a Utah program that has put out more than its share of fine NFL defensive backs in the last few years. He started at right cornerback in all five games of Utah’s COVID-shortened 2020 season, and remained a plus starter outside and in the slot throughout his collegiate career.

Over three seasons with the Utes, Phillips had one sack, five pressures, 107 tackles, 39 stops, and he allowed 114 catches on 178 targets for 1,362 yards, 557 yards after the catch, seven touchdowns, nine interceptions, 14 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 79.4. Phillips played 1,364 snaps at outside cornerback, 424 in the slot, 87 in the box, seven along the defensive line, and three at free safety.

Stat to Know: Some analysts refer to Phillips as a mostly zone cornerback — maybe it’s the size — but in man coverage for the 2022 season, he allowed just 11 catches on 28 targets for 145 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

Strengths: Smith also works well on an island. When in Cover-1 and Cover-3 last season, he led the nation in interceptions with five, allowing 15 catches on 29 targets for 156 yards, and one touchdown. The footwork, transition skills, and closure to the ball make him an ideal cornerback to own a third of the field without help.

Weaknesses: Because of his size, Phillips really does need to establish ideal position against his receiver; if you are able to gain that geometric advantage, Phillips doesn’t always have the wingspan to match up.

Conclusion: Phillips’ size will have some teams dropping him on their boards or taking him off altogether, but for teams who have a more open-minded approach could be rewarded with a technician in the slot, and especially outside. It’s not impossible for him to succeed in the NFL; his coaches will just have to understand what he does well, and put him in positions where the measurables don’t matter.

NFL Comparison: Mike Hilton. An undrafted free agent out of Mississippi, Hilton got on with the Steelers, and has been an impact cornerback for Pittsburgh and the Bengals throughout his six-year career. He’s not the most imposing guy at 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, but Hilton proves that you can succeed in the NFL without that stature if you’re a student of the game, and that transfers to the field in positive ways. Phillips profiles very much the same way.

8. Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 5’8″ (1st percentile) Weight: 178 (5th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.41 (78th)
10-Yard Split: 1.50 (82nd)
Bench Press: 12 reps (27th)
Vertical Jump: 39″ (83rd)
Broad Jump: 132″ (93rd)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: N/A
Arm Length: 29″ (1st)
Hand Size: 8⅝” (12th)

Bio: The nephew of TCU alum and Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson committed to the Horned Frogs as a three-star recruit and the 15th-ranked safety in Texas. He chose TCU over Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State, fortunately was placed at cornerback, played in all 12 games of his 2019 freshman, and became a staple in that defensive backfield from then on.

Over four seasons, Hodges-Tomlinson had one sack, two pressures, 114 tackles, 39 stops, and he allowed 72 catches on 184 targets for 975 yards, 228 yards after the catch, six touchdowns, five interceptions, 29 (!!!) pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 56.3. He played 2,160 snaps at outside cornerback, 232 in the box, 66 in the slot, 11 at free safety, and four along the defensive line.

Stat to Know: Only Kansas State’s Julius Brents had a higher average depth of target among draftable cornerbacks in 2022 than Hodges-Tomlinson’s 16.6, and Hodges-Tomlinson tied with Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson for the lowest Deserved Catch Rate at 52%.

Strengths: Hodges-Tomlinson’s tape and metrics scream excellence, so we’re really talking about how his size does or doesn’t show up in a negative sense for his NFL projection. His work against deep passes last season makes me think that I really don’t care how big he is, because he was nuking deep receivers all over the place, allowing just four catches on 21 targets of 20 or more air yards for 109 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, and an opponent passer rating of 9.1. Outside of Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon, no other cornerback on this list came anywhere near Hodges-Tomlinson’s ability to shut down the deep ball.

TCU didn’t like the way things turned out in last season’s College Football Championship game, but watch how Hodges-Tomlinson matched Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey all the way down the boundary, giving McConkey no shot as the deep reception.

You can also rest assured that if he’s asked to play the run, Hodges-Tomlinson doesn’t flinch at the thought of tackling people much bigger than he is.

Conclusion: If Hodges-Tomlinson was three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier with the same skill set he has now, I don’t think there’s any question that he’d be the top cornerback in this draft class, and perhaps the top non-quarterback. The tape and the stats are ridiculous to the point where NFL teams are going to have to push through whatever size biases they may have. Yes, he will be limited in role at the next level, but perhaps not as much as you’d think for a player his size, and in the right system… just imagine.

NFL Comparison: Antoine Winfield Sr. Drafted by the Bills with the 23rd pick in the 1998 draft, Winfield rode a 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame to 14 NFL seasons, three Pro Bowls, and success both outside and in the slot. He did so with incredible on-field intelligence and an utterly fearless demeanor, and though Hodges-Tomlinson comes into an NFL that is less hospitable to cornerbacks of his size, I don’t think he’s automatically limited to a slot-only “gadget” role. 

9. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

(Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 0¾” (70th percentile) Weight: 166 (0)
40-Yard Dash: 4.35 (92nd)
10-Yard Split: 1.48 (92nd)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 37½” (69th)
Broad Jump: 124″ (64th)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: 79″ (92nd)
Arm Length: 32¼” (78th)
Hand Size: 8½” (7th)

Bio: Forbes was a four-star recruit and the No. 1 cornerback in the state out of Grenada High School in Grenada, Mississippi, and his decision to commit to his home state was certainly good news for the Bulldogs. His impact was immediate, as he started nine games and had five interceptions in his true freshman season of 2020. In that season, he became the first MSU defender with two interceptions in a game since Mark McLaurin in 2017, and the first MSU defender with multiple interception returns for a touchdown since Corey Broomfield in 2009.

Over thee seasons with the Bulldogs, Forbes had one sack, four pressures, 130 tackles, 63 stops, and he allowed 110 catches on 191 targets for 1,404 yards, 657 yards after the catch, 14 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, an astonishing six interceptions returned for touchdowns, 17 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 74.6. Forbes played 1,962 snaps at outside cornerback, 192 in the box, 22 in the slot, six along the defensive line, and three at free safety.

Stat to Know: Teams that prefer man coverage might also prefer Forbes — last season, he led the nation with five interceptions in man coverage, and allowed just six catches on 18 targets for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Strengths: With his interception numbers, you assume that Forbes has excellent ball skills, and that checks out. He’s got a great sense for slow-playing quarterbacks, as he did to Will Levis on this pick-six, and shooting in for the ball before anybody knows what happened.

Weaknesses: As is the case for most taller cornerbacks with longer limbs, Forbes tends to struggle with receivers who can keep him off balance with quick route adjustments. When he stays low and works to transition through the route, he can mitigate that to a degree, but it does show up as an issue.

Conclusion: Teams who prefer aggressive defenses in which cornerbacks can just line up right on the receiver and clamp down from there should love Forbes’ tape. And nobody’s going to mind adding a player with his ball skills and production. Forbes could stand to add a few pounds in the interest of  play strength, and there are a few holes in his coverage, but in the right system, he’s going to be a very tough defender to deal with.

NFL Comparison: Samari Rolle. Like Forbes, Rolle was a rail-thin (6-foot-0, 175-pound) cornerback who came into the NFL with all the tools for success except for that whole weight thing. It will only take one team to accept Forbes’ outlier status from that perspective and hope he doesn’t lose a tick of quickness if he beefs up a bit. At his peak with the Titans and Ravens, Rolle was a suffocating cornerback who you tested at your peril, and Forbes has put enough on tape to make me think he has the same potential palette.

10. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 1¾” (90th) Weight: 207 (93rd)
40-Yard Dash: 4.36 (92nd)
10-Yard Split: 1.54 (53rd)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 33½” (17th)
Broad Jump: 122″ (49th)
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Wingspan: 74 1/8″ (24th)
Arm Length: 31¼” (42nd)
Hand Size: 8½” (7th)

Bio: Ringo came out of Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona as the No. 4 overall prospect nationally, the No. 1 cornerback nationally, and the top prospect in Arizona, and he committed to Georgia at the All-American Bowl in front of a national television audience. He redshirted the entire 2020 season recovering from off-season surgery, but he made the Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC Team in 2021 with 15 games and 12 starts.

Over two seasons with the Bulldogs, Ringo had one sack, one pressure, 71 tackles, 19 stops, and he allowed 66 catches on 137 targets for 898 yards, 303 yards after the catch, four touchdowns, four interceptions, nine pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 67.1. He played 1,474 snaps at outside cornerback, 87 in the box, 50 in the slot, and five along the defensive line.

Stat to Know: Ringo in man coverage in 2022: 17 catches on 33 targets for 232 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, and an opponent passer rating of 61.7. Ringo in zone coverage in 2022: 15 catches on 30 targets for 203 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and an opponent passer rating of 80.3. We’ll get into the specific reasons for this disparity in efficiency.

Strengths: If you were only allowed to watch Ringo cover receivers in a relatively straight line down the field, you could be excused for wanting to select him with a top 10 pick. On this interception against Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, and covering underrated receiver Cedric Tillman, Ringo has it on lock, because all he has to do is turn and go.

Weaknesses: Ringo is a good straight-line cornerback, but things get weird when he’s asked to take angles and make quick transitions. This rep against Marvin Harrison Jr., which would have been a completion based on Ringo’s coverage were it not an overthrow, is but one example.

Conclusion: There are two players in this draft class whose tape is more frustrating to study than any other, and that’s Ringo, and Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, because I have absolutely no clue what I’m getting from snap to snap. To make it more clear in Ringo’s, I know what I’m getting if Ringo can just trail without transitioning, and I know what I’m getting when he’s forced to do more. As “more” is quite often a requirement in today’s NFL, I’m not really sure how Ringo fits into a modern professional defense. I can say that he needs to play man and trail receivers vertically, but how many times will NFL quarterbacks let him get away with that, and not poke at the obvious liabilities?

NFL Comparison: Chris Gamble. The player comp works, and the comp name also does, because Ringo is a gambler on the field for good and bad. Gamble was great for the Panthers from 2004 through 2012 when he could just get right up on top of a receiver and go for it, but would tend to get a bit lost when spatial awareness and short-area closing skills were required. Ringo has that to deal with in his NFL transition, unless he lands with a team that lets him go mano a mano more often than not. As I’ve said, the success of that proposition is a mystery.

11. Julius Brents, Kansas State

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6′ 2¾” (96th) Weight: 198 (73rd)
40-Yard Dash: 4.53 (36th)
10-Yard Split: 1.57 (41st)
Bench Press: N/A
Vertical Jump: 41½” (96th)
Broad Jump: 138″ (99th)
3-Cone Drill: 6.63 (93rd)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.05 (80th)

Wingspan: 82⅝” (99th)
Arm Length: 34″ (98th)
Hand Size: 9⅝” (83rd)

Bio: Brents was ranked the 28th-best cornerback in the Class of 2018 by 247Sports out of Warren High School in Indianapolis, so there was nowhere to go but up. He committed to Iowa and played three seasons there before transferring to Kansas State for the 2021 season. That’s where the light really went on.

Over five collegiate seasons, Brents had no sacks, one pressure, 94 tackles, 34 stops, and he allowed 67 catches on 136 targets for 811 yards, 259 yards after the catch, nine touchdowns, six interceptions, eight pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 71.7. He played 1,678 snaps at outside cornerback, 149 along the defensive line, 44 in the box, 19 in the slot, and five at free safety.

Stat to Know: Brents only lined up in press coverage on 30% of his 2022 snaps, which seems… interesting for a player of his size profile.

Strengths: Brents uses his size as an advantage in that if the ball’s anywhere near him, it’s as much his as it is yours. Some of his interceptions happened just because he was close to the ball, and he was able to go all superhero to get it. That allows him to adjust in quick-twitch situations where some other bigger cornerbacks might struggle.

That said, Brents is good in off-coverage because his recovery speed is good enough, and again… that wingspan really announces itself with authority on his tape.

Conclusion: Given Brents’ size, willingness to face up in the run game, and his displayed ability to cover tight ends in the box (there’s not a lot, but it’s there)…

…I wonder if he might be seen as a cornerback/safety hybrid at the next level. I might move him into that role, with the understanding that his debits in quick-twitch and certain one-on-one matchups will be offset by the fact that he’s learned to take his preposterous measurements to the field in a positive sense.

NFL Comparison: Trumaine Johnson. I’m stealing this one from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, because it just makes too much sense. Selected by the then-St. Louis Rams in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Montana, Johnson used his size (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) and ball skills to put up a few dominant NFL seasons for the Rams and Jets. Johnson also saw some time in the box and the slot, which would align with what I think Brents’ ideal usage strategy should be.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire