The 2022 NFL Draft is a week away, so now is the perfect time to get to some of the top prospects in this year’s class. I’m breaking down each position and also giving you a look at some teams who may be in the market for that type of player. After my position rankings are done, I’ll give you my final mock draft Wednesday April 27th. Next up on the preview list is the cornerback position.
As I’ve mentioned before, the NFL is a passing first league. As such, teams value players on defense who can shut down the passing game. This year’s class offers some intriguing, young options for teams looking to upgrade their secondary. Here are my top ten cornerback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
1. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner CB, Cincinnati 6’3 190 lb
Sauce Gardner was as dominant as they come as a press-man corner at Cincinnati allowing zero touchdowns on 138 career targets. Gardner is a bully at the line of scrimmage and led the FBS with 397 coverage snaps in 2021 and will be one of the top corners in the league within a year or two. His level of competition is brought up as a weakness, but Gardner only allowed 14 yards on 4 targets against Alabama.
2. Derek Stingley Jr. CB, LSU 6’0 190 lb
Derek Stingley Jr. burst on to the scene his freshman year in 2019 for the Tigers snagging six interceptions and earning a 91.7 grade according to Pro Football Focus. Stingley has all the tools you want in a cornerback, but he has only played 10 games the last two seasons due to injuries. If he stays healthy and interested, Stingley has the potential to be a top corner in the league. Consistency and health will be key going forward.
3. Trent McDuffie CB, Washington 5’11 193 lb
Trent McDuffie is the best zone corner and tackling corner in this year’s class, earning an 86.3 PFF grade. While he played mostly on the outside for the Huskies, McDuffie has shown the versatility to move inside to the slot or even play a safety role if needed. His size and length leave much to be desired and his ball skills will need to improve with only 9 pass breakups on 100 targets.
4. Andrew Booth Jr. CB, Clemson 6’0 194 lb
Andrew Booth Jr. has all the tools to play man coverage but primarily played in zone coverage during his time at Clemson. Booth has great feet and possesses the awareness and burst to challenge throws. A solid all-around player, Booth will need to improve on his 23.9% missed tackle rate which has more to do with technique than effort. Booth has missed most of the pre-draft process with hamstring and core muscle injuries.
5. Kaiir Elam CB, Florida 6’2 191 lb
Kaiir Elam is the most physical corner in the class and is one of the most experienced with 959 career coverage snaps against high level competition playing in the SEC. Elam has the ideal build to play press-man coverage but would be ideal in a zone-press scheme. Penalties were an issue a season ago as Elam had 7 in 10 games and tends to get handsy with receivers.
6. Roger McCreary CB, Auburn 5’11 190 lb
Roger McCreary is an aggressive, press-man corner who displays some of the best technique in the class and plays faster than his 4.5 second 40-yard dash. McCreary is a seasoned player with nearly 1,200 career coverage snaps and led the FBS in forced incompletions with 20 in 2021. His short arms seem to regulate him to the slot position and lacks the ability to smoothly change direction.
7. Kyler Gordon CB, Washington 6’0 194 lb
Kyler Gordon only started one season for the Huskies but was on the field a ton filling in wherever he was needed, versatility that will benefit him at the next level as he could even see snaps at safety. Gordon is aggressive at the line of scrimmage with receivers and has good ball skill despite only 2 career interceptions. Billed as a super athlete, Gordon had a very disappointing combine.
8. Martin Emerson CB, Mississippi State 6’2 201 lb
Martin Emerson is a long, physical corner who would ideally play man coverage but was primarily asked to play zone at Mississippi State. Martin uses his length to attack the catch point but lacks the speed and agility teams look for in a corner. He can get handsy in coverage, leading to penalties, and tends to dive at the legs of ball carriers rather than wrapping them up.
9. Marcus Jones CB, Houston 5’8 174 lb
Whoever takes Marcus Jones is getting an instant impact, return game specialist who had 9 career returns for touchdowns (6 kicks, 3 punts). Jones has fluid hips and quick feet in coverage (5 interceptions in 2021), but his size will limit him to a slot role exclusively on defense.
10. Tariq Woolen CB, UTSA 6’4 205 lb
Tariq Woolen converted from wide receiver in 2019 but has all the tools a coach could want. Woolen ran a 4.29 40-yard dash and, at 6’4, is huge for the position. Woolen is still very raw as a cornerback and needs a lot of technique work, but the upside is intriguing.
Teams Targeting Cornerback
Buffalo Bills- Tre’Davious White is coming off a torn ACL in November and there isn’t much depth in the room behind him. The rest of the Buffalo defense is rather good so filling their need at corner will go a long way in what Bills fans hope is a Super Bowl run.
Minnesota Vikings- Patrick Peterson re-signed with the team on a one-year deal and he’ll be 32 years old at the start of the season. Cameron Dantzler was decent a year ago, but the Vikings definitely need to add depth to the position, potentially at pick 12.
New England Patriots- The Patriots love to play press-man coverage and right now they don’t have the depth to do so effectively. They have Jalen Mills and the recently retired, recently signed Malcolm Butler, neither of which are elite, and not much after that.
New York Giants- The best player they have at the position is James Bradberry and he is on his way out the door. Adoree Jackson was okay last year but DC Wink Martindale loves to play man coverage so look for the Giants to target one early.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Carlton Davis re-signed with the team on a 3-year, $44.5 million contract. Strapped for cap space, Tampa Bay will be unlikely to afford both Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean who become free agents after this season. In win-now mode, look for the Buccaneers to draft someone who is more pro ready in the first two days of the draft.
What are your thoughts? Any prospects you think I missed? Follow me on Twitter @devinlowe123 and let’s engage!
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