It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year's NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.
Today, we rank college football's best cornerback prospects:
1. Dee Milliner, Alabama (6-1, 199, Jr.)
The only lock to be taken in the first round should be this Crimson Tider. The former five-star prospect has developed into one of the most complete prospects in the nation. He can cover, has excellent overall athleticism, can tackle, play physical football and has been extremely well-coached. He has the size and speed to be an elite player. Is he as good as Morris Claiborne? Probably not, but he is close.
2. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State (6-1, 185, Sr.)
Banks, who has a great length to his frame, is just a great all-around football player. He could remind scouts of a poor-man’s Antoine Winfield in his ability to make open field tackles and fill against the run. He has a nose for the football and makes big plays for a defense that puts him on an island. He needs to add some bulk and toughness, but he has the frame to be an NFL regular. Otherwise, he has little to no weaknesses to his game.
3. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (6-2, 215, Jr.)
When it comes to size and experience, few players top Rhodes’ resume. He has elite size for a corner. In fact, his frame may prompt a move to safety much like an Antrel Rolle or Patrick Peterson. But scouts know what coaches do: You can’t throw at him. He is a leader for Florida State and has outlasted names that fans expected to be better, like a Greg Reid. His eventual upside may be tied to his ability to stick at corner.
4. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State (6-0, 190, Sr.)
The Beavers' star defender is a great competitor – on defense and special teams. He has created turnovers, led a defensive renaissance in Corvallis in 2012, and has been a big-play machine in the return game. He may not be an elite talent at any one thing, but he is really solid at everything. He is a tremendous member of any locker room and will be a contributor on the next level in a variety of ways. Poyer is the front-runner for 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
5. David Amerson, NC State (6-3, 185, Jr.)
The Wolfpacker began the year as the nation’s top coverman after leading the nation and setting an ACC record for interceptions last fall. After a few poor performances in big games against elite wideouts, Amerson has dropped down the big board a few slots. He has a long, rangy frame that NFL scouts will crave and his agility and speed will test fine. Yet, the performance straight up against names like Justin Hunter have hurt his stock. He can help himself and his draft stock a lot during the combine season.
6. Terry Hawthorne, Illinois (6-0, 190, Sr.)
The speedster is a converted wide receiver so he should have excellent ball skills. He has outstanding overall athletic ability, speed, agility and quickness. He has progressed nicely at the position over time and should only continue to get better as he continues to learn the nuances of playing cornerback at the next level. Overcoming a serious head injury sustained in 2012 will be key.
7. Nickell Robey, USC (5-8, 170, Jr.)
This smallish Trojan is similar to dismissed defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. The biggest differences between the two? Robey can cover wide receivers and he hasn’t been kicked off his team for repeatedly breaking team rules. The Trojan is much smaller than typical NFL covermen, but he plays bigger, consistently is around the football and can make an impact on special teams as a return man. Look for Robey, who is one of the best pure covermen in the nation, to sneak up draft boards based on his effort and toughness despite his overall lack of size.
8. Tharold Simon, LSU (6-2, 190, Jr.)
One guy that isn’t lacking for elite NFL size is Simon. He was used in 2011 as a coverman as Mathieu was pushed into a nickel role on passing downs. He has a huge frame that is long and extremely athletic. He will need plenty of polish before he can start on the next level, but make no mistake about the Bayou Bengal's tremendous raw upside. Few players have more athleticism and size than LSU’s top coverman.
9. Carrington Byndom, Texas (6-0, 180, Jr.)
The Texas defensive backfield was supposedly loaded with elite talent like Kenny Vacarro and Quandre Diggs. But many believe that Byndom is the top coverman of the group. He is charged with stopping the top targets of the Big 12 — which are elite in their own respects. And no, the defense in Austin hasn’t played well in 2012. However, Byndom has the size, speed and overall athleticism to be a quality pro prospect.
10. Sanders Commings, Georgia (6-2, 215, Sr.)
Brandon Smith was the name getting all the preseason buzz this summer, but in a league with massive down the field wide receivers, Commings' rangy frame will undoubtedbly appeal to scouts. He is one of the biggest corners in the nation and will need to prove he has the quickness, burst and speed to hang with NFL pass catchers.
11. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma (6-0, 181, Jr.)
12. Leon McFadden, San Diego State (5-10, 190, Sr.)
13. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn (6-2, 190, Sr.)
14. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (6-0, 190, Jr.)
15. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State (6-0, 195, Jr.)
16. Johnny Adams, Michigan State (5-11, 180, Sr.)
17. Desmond Trufant, Washington (6-0, 185, Sr.)
18. Logan Ryan, Rutgers (6-0, 190, Jr.)
19. Micah Hyde, Iowa (6-1, 185, Sr.)
20. Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech (6-0, 190, Sr.)
Best of the Rest:
Darius Slay, Mississippi State (6-1, 190, Sr.)
Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma (5-10, 185, Sr.)
Nigel Malone, Kansas State (5-10, 185, Sr.)
EJ Gaines, Missouri (5-10, 195, Jr.)
Travis Howard, Ohio State (6-1, 195, Sr.)
Branden Smith, Georgia (5-11, 185, Sr.)
Melvin White, UL-Lafayette (6-3, 190, Sr.)
Adrian Buchell, Louisville (5-11, 185, Sr.)
BW Webb, William & Mary (5-11, 180, Sr.)
Marc Anthony, Cal (6-0, 200, Sr.)
- by Braden Gall
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