Bears

Hub Arkush’s 2022 NFL draft positional preview: Cornerbacks

Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary warms up before facing South Carolina on Nov. 20, 2021 in Columbia, S.C.

There is no shortage of first- and second-round talent at cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft. It also runs deep into Day 3, with a number of intriguing athletes and prospects.

Our top three all have grades worthy of a top-10 or top-15 pick.

Among the top cornerback prospects, there are a lot more boundary corners than natural slot or nickel corners, with a handful who can play either.

Because of the quantity of prospects at the position, some of these players will last a bit longer than we might expect.

DAY 1 PROSPECTS

1. Derek Stingley Jr., LSU (6–0¼, 190, junior)

Stingley is the grandson of Darryl Stingley, who played high school ball at Marshall in Chicago and was a first-round pick of the Patriots who was paralyzed by a hit from Raiders safety Jack Tatum in a 1978 exhibition game. Derek Stingley has been downgraded slightly by some since injuries limited him to 10 games over the past two seasons. As a true freshman in 2019, he was the best cornerback in the country on LSU’s national championship team. With the perfect mix of size, athleticism and elite speed, he is a generational talent if he can stay healthy.

2. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati (6-2½, 190, junior)

Gardner has outstanding size for a corner and adds to it with long arms, excellent hands and ball skills. He brings confidence to the edge of cockiness. That has both pros and cons. Almost all of the best at this position have to believe in themselves, but “Sauce” may need a little humbling and technique work to reach his ceiling, which is sky high. His unique physical gifts leave his floor fairly high too.

3. Trent McDuffie, Washington (5-10¼, 193, junior)

Although McDuffie doesn’t have the size of Stingley or Gardner, he isn’t small, and he has excellent cover skills. He is equally efficient in press man and zone coverage. McDuffie may be the best against the run of the top three corners, and he plays the game angry, but extremely focused. He’s a high-character kid who just loves to compete. His only red flag could be how he’ll fare against the NFL’s bigger receivers.

4. Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson (6-0¼, 194, junior)

Booth is a Day 1 talent but may have a Day 2 physical. He has had knee issues on and off, no torn ACLs but a congenital issue that can cause pain and a previous patellar tendon surgery. If he stays healthy, Booth has Pro Bowl-type corner traits and athleticism. He’s a smooth-movement, big corner with a competitive edge and the tools to back it up.

5. Kyler Gordon, Washington (5-11½, 194, redshirt junior)

Gordon is another big corner who, like his smaller college teammate McDuffie, is a fierce competitor who likes to play the run as well as the pass. He’s an outstanding athlete with enough, but not special, speed. He’s equally adept in press man and zone coverages. He lacks the natural instincts and lightning quickness of McDuffie, but the instincts can be groomed and buoyed by better techniques.

6. Kaiir Elam, Florida (6-1½, 191, junior)

Elam has great size and elite speed, and although he may not be as feisty against the run as you’d like, he is ideally built to play tight man coverage and bump and run against the league’s bigger receivers. Elam knows how to use his size to body up receivers and create leverage, and he’s rarely caught out of position, although he has had some issues with the deep ball.

DAY 2 PROSPECTS

7. Roger McCreary, Auburn (5-11, 190, senior)

He doesn’t have the size of some of his classmates, but McCreary isn’t small, and his squat, thick frame allows him to play physical and get under receivers’ skin. He has good, if not great, traits and speed. When you pair it with his toughness and competitiveness, you see a solid No. 2 starting corner at the next level.

8. Marcus Jones, Houston (5-8, 185, senior)

Jones is smaller than you’d like these days. He projects as a true slot or nickel corner with explosive athletic traits. He’s probably the best return man in this draft and has taken a few snaps at wideout as well. His exceptional quickness allows him to crowd and stay on receivers in coverage, but he will need work on his tackling.

9. Alontae Taylor, Tennessee (6-0, 195, senior)

Taylor is a great leader and competitor with excellent size and speed, but he has yet to display great natural instincts for the position. He will need coaching and technique, but his great special teams traits could make him an instant contributor.

10. Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska (6-0, 197, senior)

Taylor-Britt played a lot of football at Nebraska, was a team captain, played both corner and safety, and possesses elite speed. He’s an excellent athlete, but still manages to look awkward at times in coverage. He tends to play anxious. If he calms down and lets his natural gifts take over, he will play on Sunday.

11. Joshua Williams, Fayetteville St. University (6-3, 197, senior)

Tape was hard to find on this kid, but when you hear about a 6-foot-3, 200-pound cornerback who can run, you keep digging. What you’ll find here is a special package that needs a lot of refinement and technique work, but some unique traits that could make him special. As with all small-school prospects, you worry about how he’ll handle the huge step up in class.

12. Coby Bryant, Cincinnati (6-1¼, 193, senior)

Like his teammate “Sauce,” Bryant is another big corner with solid coverage traits and possibly even better ball skills. He’s not quite the athlete, nor does he possess quite the speed of the other top prospects, and he is much more the quiet leader type than Gardner. Some clubs may see him as a safety.

DAY 3 PROSPECTS

13. Joshua Jobe, Alabama (5-11½, 182, senior)

14. Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State (6-2, 199, senior)

15. Jalyn Armour-Davis, Alabama (6-0½, 197, Redshirt junior )

16. Cordale Flott, LSU (6-0½, 175, junior)

17. Vincent Gray, Michigan (6-1, 192, redshirt junior)

18. Damarri Mathis, Pittsburgh (5-10½, 196, redshirt senior)

19. Tariq Woolen, UTSA (6-4, 205, redshirt senior)

20. Derion Kendrick, Georgia (5-11½, 194, senior)

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Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.