6 cornerbacks for the Commanders to watch at the NFL combine
It’s no secret that the Washington Commanders need help at cornerback. Washington returns its top cornerbacks from a year ago in 2023. Veteran Kendall Fuller is entering the final year of his contract but is a player who should receive an extension. Fuller played well in 2022.
Benjamin St-Juste had a bit of a breakout season in 2022, but an ankle injury robbed him of five of his final six games. St-Juste was having an excellent season before the injury. Now, that is the second time in two years he’s ended the season on injured reserve.
The third cornerback was supposed to be 2021 free-agent signee Willam Jackson III, but the Commanders paid a steep price to get rid of Jackson. Danny Johnson and Bobby McCain played well in their roles, but an upgrade is needed. McCain was cut earlier this week, and Johnson will never be counted upon as anything more than a key reserve.
Washington is looking hard at cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL draft. Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. acknowledged spending “a lot of time” with the Commanders at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. Washington will likely meet with several others this week.
On Friday, the defensive backs will run and go through individual drills. We pick six cornerbacks for the Commanders to watch, mainly focusing on those who will be selected in the first or second round because Washington will likely pick one early.
Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.
Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr.
We know the Commanders have met with Porter. There’s a good chance he doesn’t make it to No. 16. At 6-foot-2, Porter has the size you love. He is competitive, plays the run and has plenty of experience. It will be interesting to see how he tests.
Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez
Oregon Ducks defensive back Christian Gonzalez (0) returns a interception. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Another long, tall cornerback, Gonzalez should test well at the combine. He is the player most often going to Washington in mock drafts. Gonzalez is a day-one starter in the NFL.
Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon
Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31). Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Devon Witherspoon doesn’t have the length of Porter and Gonzalez, but he still has solid size [6-foot-0, 180], is super athletic, physical and versatile. Witherspoon has the mentality Washington defensive coaches love in its defensive backs. He’s not afraid to mix it up in the run game. He can cover, too. My pick as the top corner in the draft.
South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith
Defensive back Cam Smith #9 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Cam Smith is flying under the radar, which is good for teams needing a cornerback late in the first round. The Gamecocks have a recent history of producing good NFL cornerbacks in Stephon Gilmore and Jaycee Horn. Smith has length and is always around the ball, it seems. He was a bit grabby in college, but that can be coached. A lot of folks have questioned his speed, so Friday is a big opportunity for him. Smith is good.
Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes
Mississippi State Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Forbes is of similar size to Witherspoon. He’s a terrific athlete and is not afraid of sticking his nose in the run game. Forbes is an ultra-aggressive cornerback, which can be good and bad. He’s viewed as a second-round pick, but good testing numbers could move him up. He can play.
Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson
Miami Hurricanes cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (2). Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrique Stevenson began his college career at Georgia before transferring to Miami. He really came on with the Hurricanes and looks like a solid day-two pick. At 6-foot-0, 204 pounds, Stevenson is well-built and is a fantastic athlete. His numbers will be exciting to watch because they could push him up the draft boards. Go back and watch Stevenson in 2022; his tape is really good.