Every week, this is where we grab five more prospects and really give them the eyeball -- 200 snaps -- and try to look at what they do and don't do well, projecting how they would fit A) in the NFL, and B) in the Cowboys' defense. Some, obviously, look like terrific pros, but not a scheme fit.
This week, we are going to put the pass rushers on the back burner and move over to the defensive backs for a while. I have made a rather quick observation that if the Cowboys choose two places to look in the early rounds of the draft - particularly Rounds 1-3 - they will be pass rusher and DB (add in WR and we might go 3 for 3).
The reason for this, of course, is that the Cowboys are awfully short on corners at the moment. So, they can either pay handsomely to keep Morris Claiborne (who has plenty of risks aside from the money) and Brandon Carr, or they can modify that idea and draft a young and cheap replacement.
The Cowboys top four corners took about 2,700 snaps in 2016. If you assume Claiborne and Carr would have started throughout if healthy, they are trying to replace roughly 2,000 of those snaps. Maybe Anthony Brown can handle tougher assignments next year, but that is a bit of an unknown. It sure looks like the Cowboys better grab a good corner early. The good news for that way of thinking is there sure looks to be an awfully large crop of top 60 players at this position. It looks like between 12-16 corners could go in the first two rounds, so let's get to know some of the more significant players in this position group.
Corner is one of the more complex positions to evaluate from the college to pro level, I have found. The facts are pretty simple: College football QBs are not very good. So, we have a difficult time evaluating college corners, because the good ones are seldom challenged and when they are, it is often not with too much precision and quality. We are left to look for traits and apply some guesswork.
The traits we all look for are similar but different. This is where several who evaluate use the simple Ice Cream Flavor example. Do you like vanilla or strawberry? Because this guy looks like one flavor, but this guy looks like another. Which do you like? Which fits your philosophy?
For me, I am looking for a certain type of corner who is rare. He is physical. He is a ball hawk. He enjoys run support. He also can cover in man coverage. He has recovery speed. He can find the ball in flight. He can make a play on the ball. He can sometimes blitz. He understands that it is 11 on 11, so as much as he wants it to be 1 on 1, at a certain point of the play, he needs to join the team. Size helps, but for me, disposition is just as important. And, of course, to play corner, you better have some wheels.
Now, how many corners check all of those boxes? Very, very few. Charles Woodson and Antoine Winfield are the two examples I always use, but obviously since they are both nearly 40, I better update the prototypes. Richard Sherman is that guy. Aqib Talib looks like that guy. Maybe even someone like Janoris Jenkins seems that way more and more. That is my kind of guy. He plays corner with a safety's mentality, but with better hips and short space quickness. Anyway, with that bias exposed, let's look at the first group of 5 that I have heard so much about:
Stats, last two years: 27 games, seven interceptions, 85 tackles, six tackles for loss, 16 passes broken up, six forced fumbles, and two touchdowns.
Jones is a text-book ball hawk who also did not allow a single touchdown in coverage.
POSITIVES: Jones is a real confident corner who knows where he is going and then gets there in a hurry. Washington uses him all over the place to make a difference as a play-maker who is trying to wreck plays in the backfield on well-timed blitzes, blow up screens with conviction on the edge, and then when the ball is in the air, he turns into a bit of a receiver. His speed and fluidity all appear to be a plus, and he has that ferocity that is a rare trait in a corner. He plays outside and looks comfortable in any coverage. He is baiting the QB and looking to jump a route. He also has an inordinate amount of production statistically for how many times he got his hands on the ball. He looks really up for a confrontation or challenge. He is not backing down.
CONCERNS: He is a bit skinny. So you wonder about the stronger receivers in the NFL trying to bully him. As with any ball hawk, you want him to remember his top priority is to defend his man and not to guess on routes or freelance. He does well there, but that might be his only issue that concerns me a bit. Otherwise, this guy is a clear first-round corner in my book. I really like his varied skill set.
Marshon Lattimore: CB, Ohio State
6'0 | 192 | Redshirt sophomore | #2
Stats, last two years: 19 games, four interceptions, 46 tackles, one tackle for loss, 12 passes broken up
Maybe the best corner in the entire draft, Lattimore seems pegged for a selection in the first hour of the first day.
POSITIVES: Lattimore gets right in the face of his man in press coverage and then is quite capable of remaining in the hip pocket of his man throughout the route. He seems like a classic "man on an island" type corner that has me seeing a Patrick Peterson type when you study him. He is strong and dictates the terms of the interactions with most receivers. He is so impressive. His best game might have been the highly publicized showdown at Oklahoma where he put together a ridiculous night where he victimized the Sooners repeatedly when they challenged him down field. He speed jumps off the screen and he is incredibly gifted. He also has rare ball skills that make him an elite prospect.
CONCERNS: He doesn't appear to always enjoy run support or underneath tackles in traffic. This is not rare with corners of his quality - in fact, I made the mistake of overvaluing this trait with Washington's Marcus Peters in his draft year and have learned my lesson. That said, Michigan clearly was trying to bully him and challenge him physically in their game, so it appeared to be something the opposition picked up on. He also has played very little in college: just two seasons and the first was marred with a significant hamstring injury that kept him out of most of the action. That said, he looks the part of a top-10 pick.
Jalen 'Teez' Tabor: CB, Florida
6'0 | 191 | Junior | #31
Stats, last two years: 25 games, eight interceptions, 77 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, two sacks, 20 passes broken up
Tabor is yet another corner who has been incredibly productive and has the traits for a first-round prospect.
POSITIVES: He is a very lanky corner who likes to play aggressive coverage and press at times. It appears Florida will mix coverages quite a bit and that he is comfortable in both man and zone. He has good, fluid movement and nice hips that project well at the next level. He gets incredibly comfortable and squats on QBs, looking to go get the ball. He likes to get physical at the top of the stem of routes and certainly will work hard. He also has a nice trait of helping and running down plays that have very little to do with him or his man. Will battle bigs on run plays to get to the ball. Also, he's ready to help play major roles on special teams coverage units. Has some playmaker skills for sure.
CONCERNS: It sure looks like he is on the border of penalties on many plays. He wasn't called for too much defensive holding or pass interference, but obviously, in the NFL, they are far less lenient in most cases. Also is susceptible to the double moves and getting caught peeking at the QB while his man loses him. But overall Tabor seems awfully talented.
Tre'Davious White: CB, LSU
6'0 | 197 | Senior | #18
Stats, last two years: 23 games, two interceptions, 79 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 21 passes broken up, TD
White is yet another very high-end corner with traits that suggest he can be a difference maker on Sundays for years.
POSITIVES: White is another candidate to play press coverage with shadow-caliber skills. He is a thicker corner who has really nice man coverage ability down the field and then impressive ball skills as well. He looks like he can play everywhere and can close fast. One of the only guys in this group who played plenty in the slot or wherever they wanted to deploy their top guy. He is certainly confident and also has the component of being LSU's main punt return man for three straight seasons. He has the hips, the size and the disposition to make me buy plenty of his stock.
CONCERNS: Like manyphysical corners, he does look like he is a bit grabby down the field and that can turn into penalties. He also lost focus a time or two in games that were in hand and allowed a long touchdown at his expense. He is a willing tackler, but his conviction level varies. But, overall, I really like White.
Quincy Wilson: CB, Florida
6'1| 213 | Junior | #6
Stats, last two years: 27 games, five interceptions, 62 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 11 passes broken up
Wilson has exceptional size for a corner and this allows him to be pushed up the board as a real physical rarity.
POSITIVES: When you are a corner over 210 pounds, you have some tools in your bag that others just won't offer. You have the same size as someone like Dez Bryant and won't be overpowered. When you also have agility and speed to back it up, you can really change the entire balance of the defense. Wilson has all of this and plays with an edge. He also blitzes and competes very hard on inside routes. He seems most comfortable in zones where he can watch the QB's eyes and sometimes freelance over to make a huge play - which he did plenty of in his career. He wants to get his hands on you and steer you and can handle deep routes pretty well. Nothing comes easy against Wilson.
CONCERNS: For a man his size, I would like to see a little more ferocity on his tackles and a sign of conviction that he is interested in doing it more often. He wore down against Alabama's edge rushing, in particular. You might have to make sure he is matched up properly against "bigs" and not with the real small, evasive types. But, he is very quick for a large man.
All five of these guys are definitely looking like first-round quality. This is a really deep group, so if you are going to take best player available, you will have a decision to make. The best player might be a corner at #28, but also, there's a chance that a good player is there at #60 might also be corner. They will have quite a decision to work through.