The Lookout List: Cornerback
By Alex Chinery
With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books it’s time to shift focus towards the upcoming college football season. Jeff Okudah, one of the best prospects at the cornerback position in a number of years, is now in the NFL. Behind him are a talented group of defenders who love to lock on to receivers and shut down the secondary. My favourite ten for 2020 are below:
Shaun Wade, Ohio State
Shaun Wade turned down the chance to be a day one selection in 2020 to return and be the alpha dog on the Ohio State defense. Comfortable in press or zone coverage, Wade has operated almost exclusively inside over the last two seasons, which is understandable given the talent ahead of him. A chess piece of a corner Wade has a unique blend of speed and agility that allows him to fly around the field but also stick to receivers and suffocate routes over the middle of the field. Not afraid to lower the boom Wade is a solid tackler who likes to get dirty busting screens. His lack of experience on the boundary may count against him in the run up to the draft but looking at the transformation of Jaire Alexander from a similar role to a top boundary corner should give both Wade and teams hope.
Key Game – vs Michigan November 28th
Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The prototype for how a modern cornerback should look, Patrick Surtain has the ideal blend of height/weight/length to play boundary corner in the NFL. A patient player in coverage he isn’t overly physical at the line of scrimmage, but this doesn’t stop him from being a lockdown corner. Surtain suffocates receivers on the outside and loves to shepherd them towards the side-line and close the gap in which the quarterback can throw. Great in contested catch situations, he excels when tracking the ball throughout the play. There are some question marks over his tackling and he needs to be more physical in 2020 or we could see a fall that echoes that of LSU corner Greedy Williams in the 2019 draft.
Key Game – vs Georgia September 19th
Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Adebo made the correct decision to return to school after injury and inconsistency made his 2019 less than stellar. An old school, leggy boundary corner; Adebo has good technical upside but lacks a little in the speed department. Playing on the outside allows Adebo to use his excellent ability to read the game and adjust on the fly to outfox his opponents. A playmaker in both his seasons thus far, Adebo is the type of playmaking corner who makes up for the inevitable mistakes by his increased playmaking ability. A boom or bust player who with hard work could be a Marcus Peters like playmaker at the next level – watching how Adebo performs this season will be fascinating.
Key Game – vs USC 19th September
Eric Stokes, Georgia
Perhaps the best kept secret in college football because of his lack of interception production, Eric Stokes may be the best cover corner in the class. Great in press coverage on the outside Stokes takes one side of the field and locks it down with his ability to stick to a receiver. Stokes has great mirror ability when being attacked by receivers and has the physical tools to be a pest in the red zone. His lack of production will worry some as he isn’t likely to suddenly start making plays in 2020; he is so good on the line that quarterbacks just won’t throw towards him. If your team plays Georgia this season, expect to hate Stokes by the end of the game, because he frustrates in the best possible way.
Key Game – @ Alabama September 19th
Derek Stingley Jr LSU (Not Draft Eligible)
LSU’s freshman phenom at corner burst on to the scene as he locked down half of the national champion’s defense and outplayed second round pick Kristian Fulton on the other side of the field. A playmaker with great ball and coverage skills, Stingley Jr led the SEC in interceptions and pass deflections in 2019. A consensus All-American in 2019 Stingley also contributed as a punt and kick returner. Now the leader on a team that lost a huge amount of talent to the NFL, the time has come for Stingley to step up and prove his worth as a bona fide defensive stud in college football. How he performs will be one of the most interesting storylines of the 2020 season.
Key Game – @ Florida October 10th
Asante Samuel Jr, Florida State
Son of the four-time pro bowler of the same name, ‘Junior’ is a sticky man-cover corner who has an exceptionally clean backpedal action and reads route changes well. Samuel plays taller than his 5’10” size and doesn’t often lose in a leverage battle. He plays under control and doesn’t make many mental errors; this makes him an excellent candidate to play on an island against the opposition’s best receiver. Samuel rarely misses tackles and hits with solid technique – if he can develop his ball skills in 2020 Samuel could rocket up draft boards. I wouldn’t expect many interceptions from Samuel in 2020 but do expect lots of really solid coverage reps.
Key Game – vs Clemson 10th October
Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Horn is a physical corner with a long stocky frame that is useful for bullying receivers. He utilises his physical talent well to lay the boom with his tackling in the open field, and to shut down the space into which the quarterback can throw the ball between the receiver and the sideline. Horn is at his best in zone coverage when he doesn’t have to match footwork with the pass catcher he is covering. Grabby hands could also be a problem at the next level, but it doesn’t hinder him too much in college. Expect to see some highlight reel hits from Horn this season.
Key Game – @ Clemson 28th November
Ambry Thomas, Michigan
Thomas is a developmental corner who has had an up and down career at Michigan and come out stronger for it. A special teams ace, Thomas has been great at contributing in multiple ways before breaking out on defense as a junior in 2019. Thomas played both as a boundary corner and in the slot and put together an impressive season including one of the most athletic interception grabs of the year. Thomas has sometimes been lost against top receivers, particularly against Alabama in the Citrus Bowl at the end of last season. If he can step up against some of the best receivers in the country that are on his schedule this year (Olave, Bateman and Moore) then he will rocket up draft boards. Be sure to tune in to watch him in these matchups and maybe you’ll be rewarded with another incredible interception.
Key Game – @ Ohio State 28th November
Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
A baller with elite speed and athleticism, Caleb Farley may have the most upside of any corner in this class. His smooth movement through his hips allow him to shadow receivers with ease and position himself to make a play on the ball. Near the top of the nation with pass break ups and already posting good interception numbers in his two-year career. Still learning the position, Farley can be a boom or bust player in coverage but with another full year of experience he is going to be pushing the corners at the top of this group. Expect big break ups and crucial turnovers from Farley this season in what could be a big year for his school.
Key Game – vs Penn State 12th September
Chase Lucas, Arizona State
A solid, dependable all rounder who has experience on the outside and in the slot, Lucas is a competitive character who isn’t afraid to tackle. With solid instincts and route recognition he is exactly the kind of mid-round, dependable corner who defies the odd to have a long NFL career. A zone corner with the athletic tools to contribute on special teams Lucas does need to develop some of the more technical aspects of his game. Lucas has some work to do in strengthening his athletic profile because he doesn’t have the long speed to compete in press man. The kind of kid who could explode with a five or six interception season if things break right.
Key Game – @ USC 26th September
the head of seven step drop, the touchdowns analytics page. alex is a Texas longhorns and green bay packers fan. he is one of the college chaps trio and produces the touchdown nfl podcast!