the lookout list: CB

By Simon Carroll

With the college season fast approaching, Si issues his penultimate lookout list and identifies ten cornerbacks set to impress on Saturdays:

Bryce Hall, Virginia Cavaliers


Out of all the cornerbacks returning to school for 2019, none of them are as hyped as Bryce Hall. Proving himself to be the epitome of a shutdown corner, Hall recorded 62 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 sacks. According to PFF Hall had a 31.9% forced incompletion rate, denying receivers eighteen times as a junior. That was enough to earn him an overall grade of 91.2 and comfortably rank as the top corner in the nation.

Bryce’s closing speed on the football is incredible. Whilst maybe not picking off the quarterback as often as he’d like he always gets an arm in the way. Even when the receiver has the ball in both hands the play isn’t over for Hall, routinely ripping it out as they come back down to the turf. He’s also adept at tackling in space and shows he can come down into the box and be a factor in the run game. If Virginia are going to live up to their promise and challenge for the ACC Coastal division they’ll need Hall to be as dominant in his senior year as he was in 2018.

Jaylon Johnson, Utah Utes


The Utes are stacked at every position on defense, and most of them on offense too. And with Jaylon Johnson at cornerback it’s no wonder Utah are heavily favoured for a return to the PAC 12 championship game in December. An instinctive corner who plays with a chip on his shoulder, he likes to ket the opposition know what they’re in for. And he backs up his bravado too – 41 tackles and 4 interceptions in his sophomore year attest to that.

Johnson can adjust to the ball when it’s in the air probably better than any other corner on this list. He prefers to sit deep in his zone and attack downhill but can comfortably match up in man and make his presence felt. With Julian Blackmon moving to safety the stage is set for Johnson to have a monster junior year and help Utah to their first division championship since realignment back in 2011.

CJ Henderson, Florida Gators


At 6’1” and 202lbs, CJ Henderson has the length that pro scouts covet in today’s NFL. Gators Defensive Co-Ordinator Todd Grantham describes Henderson as ‘the best player I’ve ever coached’ – lofty praise indeed but if you watch the gametape you can see why. Henderson makes a living coming underneath the route and getting a hand on the football. It’s an effective style that has seen him record six interceptions in his college career so far.

My favourite part of Henderson’s game is his determination. Watch his tape and you will see countless examples of him refusing to give up on a play. He comes down hard and fast on third down runs or short passes, abandoning his zone to stop the ball carrier making the line to gain. And twice on broken plays last year his hustle denied the opposition a touchdown. Take a look at this stunning play to see why CJ Henderson is one to watch in 2019:

Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern Eagles


Always delighted when a guy from a smaller school gets on the lookout list. And Kindle Vildor is well worthy of being a part of this cornerback group. Seven interceptions in his Eagles career shows just how valuable a commodity he is to this Georgia Southern football program. He’s pretty much around the football every time he is targeted, with 19 passes defensed and allowing a stingy 50.8 passer rating in three years.

Destroying the narrative that he’s up against weaker opposition in the Sun Belt week in, week out, Vildor has impressive numbers against power five opposition in his career. In 2017 The Eagles were butchered by Auburn in the opening game of the season, but Vildor more than held his own. And last year Georgia Southern faced the eventual National Champs Clemson. They were soundly beaten but Vildor put on an absolute display, holding The Tigers to just ten yards when thrown his way and picked off Trevor Lawrence to boot. That put him on the NFL radar, and if he develops his game even further he’ll be a hot commodity come April.

Shyheim Carter, Alabama Crimson Tide

A lookout list wouldn’t be complete without a member of The Crimson Tide gracing it. Shyheim Carter is the first true slot corner we look at here; quite sturdy at 6’0” and 191lbs he loves to play physical and suffocate receivers across the middle. Carter excels in man coverage, sticking to his receivers like glue and disrupting their routes with bump & run. As with most Alabama players he’s excellently coached, knowing exactly when to throw his hand inside the pass catchers and deny the reception.

Carter only has two interceptions in his college career, but he took both of them back to the house. Heading into his senior year he’ll want to prove to scouts that he’s the dominant slot corner in this draft class, and he has all the potential to do just that. Carter’s ceiling is high and Nick Saban will be relying on him to shutdown the middle of the field and help The Tide go one better in their quest for another National Championship.

Kristian Fulton, LSU Tigers


Whilst not necessarily the best player, you may have noticed by now that I always have a favourite on each lookout list. Kristian Fulton is that guy from the cornerback group. As sticky in coverage as Shyheim Carter and as physical in play as Jaylon Johnson, Fulton has an all-round game that makes him very difficult to play against. His demeanour screams slot corner but as you can see from this video clip, he is just as proficient playing on the outside as well:

It’s no secret that Fulton has struggled to stay eligible for the Tigers since he committed in 2016. He’s also had some injuries including one that ended his season and required surgery last year. This adversity means that he’s got a smaller body of work than the other corner’s on this list. But with Greedy Williams moving on to the NFL the opportunity is there for Fulton to show the watching world that he has the athleticism and aggression to be one of the SEC’s true shutdown cornerbacks.

Paulson Adebo, Stanford Cardinal

Take one look at Paulson Adebo and everything about him screams NFL cornerback. He has the requisite length and speed to play on the outside at the next level. And this makes it all the more crazy that 2018 was the first time Adebo stepped foot on the field for Stanford – as a freshman he was put on the scout team, struggling to break through a heavy depth chart. Adebo confounded expectations last year when he stepped into a starting role, recording 64 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 4 interceptions.

The scary thing about Adebo is he’s barely scratched the surface of his potential. Sometimes you see him make mental errors but more often than not you’ll witness an athletic play that will make your jaw drop. Stanford have seen a lot of talent depart from last year and will be hoping that Adebo continues his meteoric rise and pushes for All-American honours in 2019.

Jeff Gladney, TCU Horned Frogs


Ball hawking, hard hitting cornerback Jeff Gladney has a game based around timing. He’s an absolute nightmare to throw against because he can look disinterested on a play before arriving late and knocking the ball away. If it’s thrown towards him, guaranteed there’s a limb there trying to divert the ball away. Watch the tape and you wonder how the three year starter only has four career interceptions – he could have maybe triple that if the ball stuck to his gloves.

Despite a languid style that almost encourages quarterbacks to look his direction, Gladney is a definite shutdown corner. According to PFF he allowed less than 48% of all passes thrown his way to be caught, which is better than Bryce Hall, Shyheim Carter and Kindle Vildor. In a competitive Big 12 conference it will be interesting to see if Gladney can improve his all-round game in his final season in Fort Worth.

Essang Bassey, Wake Forest Demon Deacons


Ultra productive during his three years at Winston-Salem, Essang Bassey just makes plays. At only 5’10 he’s slightly on the smaller side but he plays as big as any of the other corners on this list. He possesses elite speed which allows him to get to the football all over the field; He’s particularly explosive on blitzes and run support where he is in the backfield in the blink of an eye.

Sometimes he seems to be out of a play only for his athleticism to get him back to make the tackle. There was one play against Rice where the ball was ten yards overthrown of the wide receiver but Bassey, in man coverage and running back to his own endzone, made a diving interception. 167 tackles and 34 passes defensed in his college career attests to his game changing abilities.

Lavert Hill, Michigan Wolverines

One of the senior men of this defense, Lavert Hill returns for his final year as a Wolverine. A respectable career in the big house hasn’t really translated to the stats sheet as you might expect, but don’t let that fool you; Hill can play football. He takes care of business in a very deliberate and understated fashion, but when the ball is there to be had he’ll take it. And quite often he makes big plays with it too – two out of his three career interceptions have been returned for a touchdown.

Hill is the master of making contact look incidental. His highlight reel is littered with receivers on the floor and the ball harmlessly hitting the turf. That’s a subtle skill that is undervalued at the college game, and whilst he’ll be under much more scrutiny in the NFL it shows he has football smarts. Ultimately, if he can improve his tackling numbers he’ll cement his Michigan legacy and potentially open up doors for a professional career.

Simon Carroll


previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.