Prepare for a two-round run on the draft’s top-ranked cornerbacks

Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Tyson Campbell (3) lines up against the Texas A&M Aggies Nov. 23, 2019, at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Al Eckford/UGA)
Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Tyson Campbell (3) lines up against the Texas A&M Aggies Nov. 23, 2019, at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Al Eckford/UGA)

Credit: UGA Athletics

Credit: UGA Athletics

The good news is there are numerous cornerbacks worthy of being selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, which begins April 29 and ends May 1.

ExploreTop 10 cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft

The bad news is that after that particular group of corners are snatched up, a significant drop-off takes place when evaluating the next tier. Point is, if a team needs a corner, it may not be able to afford to wait past the second round.

That’s at least according to NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who believes this year’s cornerback depth is top heavy in the first two rounds. While Alabama’s Patrick Surtain and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn are locked into first-round slots, it’s possible that Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, Northwestern’s Greg Newsome and Florida State’s Asante Samuel also hear their names among the first 32 picks, too. From there, Jeremiah believes plenty of talented prospects will be there for the taking in the second round.

“I think you look at Kelvin Joseph from Kentucky, who’s really, really fluid, athletic,” Jeremiah said. “He’s got great ball skills. He’s one of those guys that got torched by (Florida tight end Kyle) Pitts, but I’m not going to hold that against him. You’ve got Aaron Robinson from Central Florida, who primarily played inside there, but who’s real tough, physical, aggressive. Easy, easy speed.”

Jeremiah also thinks that Georgia cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell will be good pickups early on the second day.

“If you’re looking for big corners, I think both the Georgia corners are going to go in the second round,” Jeremiah said. “When you look at Tyson Campbell as well as Stokes from Georgia, both those guys are big and fast. Eric Stokes, everybody saw the training; he was running like the 4.2s (in the 40-yard dash). (Stokes) was a state (track) champ in Georgia in high school, (Campbell) was a state champ in Florida. Those are big-time size, speed corners that I think you’ll see come on the board there in the second round.”

Stokes, at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, picked off four passes and returned two for touchdowns during the 2020 season. Campbell, a former five-star recruit who played high school football with Surtain in Plantation, Florida, picked off one pass and recorded five pass deflections last season.

Washington defensive back Elijah Molden in action against Oregon State Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
Washington defensive back Elijah Molden in action against Oregon State Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Other cornerbacks such as Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu and Washington’s Elijah Molden also are worthy of second-round consideration. Melifonwu is a long corner with a 78-1/2 inch wingspan while Molden is shorter and probably best suited to play inside at nickel.

From there, however, the outlook begins to get bleak when it comes to corners who can contribute immediately for an NFL team. Therefore, the first two rounds could see a run on cornerbacks.

“That’s a really good group of corners in Round 2,” Jeremiah said. “And then after that, it really starts to drop off on my list. For those teams looking for corners, they’re going to all go, so you’d better get on that ride early in the first or second round.”

Last season, nine cornerbacks went in the first two rounds, with six going in the first round and three in the second. The Falcons were among the teams to take a cornerback in the first round by taking A.J. Terrell with the 16th overall selection. With the NFL evolving into a pass-first league, the need for talented corners has become even more important and can lead teams to select players at the position earlier than others, especially if there’s a need.

The Falcons don’t have an immediate need, but could fill the roster with an eye to the future. After the 2021 season, Fabian Moreau and Isaiah Oliver are expected to be free agents. Of course, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said he is committed not to reach for needs in the draft.

Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II details what he looks for at line of scrimmage and possibly playing with his father's former team, Miami Dolphins.

With the fourth overall pick, the only cornerback the Falcons probably would consider is Surtain. Even then, trading back would be the more predictable course of action if any of the upper-tier cornerbacks are that high on the Falcons’ draft board.

With the Falcons positioned where they are in the draft, a plethora of options exist as for what they can do. But with at least 10 cornerbacks receiving second-round grades by the majority of draft analysts, the chance of getting a quality player at the position early in the second round remains high.

For his part, Campbell believes he’s worthy of an early selection because of the numerous positions he can play in the secondary.

“I can do it all,” Campbell said. “Whatever team drafts me, they’re going to get a player who’s willing to do anything to help the team out, whether it be playing slot or outside corner, man, zone, anything. I’m all for it. I just want to help the team.”

Explore2021 NFL Draft preview

AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION SERIES

QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs

RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs

WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs

TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs

OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs

OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs

END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs

LINEBACKERS: Deep class for position | Top 10 LBs

CORNERBACKS: Plethora of options for first two rounds | Top 10 CBs

In Other News