June 24, 2021


Hub Arkush’s 2021 NFL draft positional preview: Cornerback

Over the past decade or so it seems cornerback has annually been one of the strongest positions at the top of the draft and one of the deepest.

While this year will be no exception it does feel like the first-round guys come with a hair less excitement than in recent seasons, but it’ll be balanced out by the unusual size of most of the top 20 prospects.

This is also a position that is impacted a bit more by some of the measurables that come out of the combine and not having consistent and accurate speed, quickness, agility and strength measurements is likely to make scouting reports for corners a bit less accurate.

DAY 1 PROSPECTS

1.  Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (6–2, 208, Junior)

His dad, Patrick Surtain, was a Pro Bowl cornerback and now a high school coach so as you’d hope, Surtain is more than just a special athlete with outstanding size for the position. He appears to be NFL ready with excellent technique and outstanding man-to-man cover abilities. With starts in Alabama’s last 38 consecutive games, you can count on him to show up every Sunday.

POTENTIAL BEARS TARGETS

2.  Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-1, 206, Junior)

Horn is another plus-size corner with NFL genes (dad Joe was a wide receiver for the Saints) and he is also outstanding in man coverage. He was sturdy and dependable with 19 consecutive starts before opting out after Week 7 last season. What leaves him behind Surtain is still developing ball skills, and he’ll need to prove he can get a bit more physical.

3. Greg Newsome, Northwestern (6-0, 190, Junior)

Newsome has very good size but is a notch below the big two at the top. He has all of the skill and technique you look for in a first-round corner, but injuries have been an issue, causing him to miss half his freshman year in Evanston and all of his sophomore season. He was then injured in game seven of the 2020 season, causing him to miss the Big Ten championship game and then sit out the Citrus Bowl to get ready for the draft.

4.  Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (6-2, 197, Redshirt Junior)

Farley would be right there with Surtain and Horn but a history of injuries and recent back surgery make him difficult to project. He’s a special athlete with great speed, but he needs coaching and technique to make up for time lost to injury and opting out in 2020. He has a chance to be special but where he is drafted will depend on how comfortable teams can get with his back.

SECOND-ROUND TARGETS TO WATCH

5.  Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (6-2 ½, 205, Redshirt Junior)

Another big corner with excellent traits and he adds exceptional toughness. He is a big hitter some teams will think about at safety, but his coverage skills and size could make him special on the corner.

6. Eric Stokes, Georgia (6-1, 194, Junior)

Stokes isn’t just fast; he’s quick as a hiccup and could fit either on the boundary or in the slot. Not sure if he’s physical enough to handle NFL studs in press and bump-and-run coverages, but he is minimally an exciting slot prospect that could become a 60-minute guy with coaching and patience.

7. Tyson Campbell, Georgia (6-1, 193, Junior)

Physically he’s a clone of his teammate, Eric Stokes, but he’ll have to play outside until he gains confidence and technique to play inside.

8.  Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky (5-11 ½, 197, Redshirt Sophomore)

Special traits but only nine games as a starting corner in college. Joseph has a ton to work with and a lot left to prove.

9. Elijah Molden, Washington (5-9 ½, 192, Senior)

Another protégé – dad Alex was an NFL DB – Molden is more a sky-high character gym rat than special athlete, and the first “little guy” on our board.

10. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida St. (5-10, 180, Junior)

You know him because his dad of the same name is a four time Pro Bowler with two rings. He’s the same size as dad but not quite the athlete.

11. Aaron Robinson, Central Florida (5-11 ½, 186, Redshirt Senior)

12. Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas (6-0, 193, Redshirt Senior)

THIRD ROUND AND HIGH DAY 3 TARGETS TO WATCH

13. Paulson Adebo, Stanford (6-1, 198, Redshirt Junior)

14. Shakur Brown, Michigan St. (5-10, 185, Redshirt Junior)

15. Kary Vincent Jr., LSU (5-10, 185, Senior)

16. Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota (6-0, 202, Redshirt Junior)

17. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina (6-4, 212, Junior)

18. Ambry Thomas, Michigan (6-0, 191, Senior)

19. Shaun Wade, Ohio St. (6-1, 196, Redshirt Junior)

20. Marco Wilson, Florida (6-0, 191, Redshirt Junior)

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media