Packers draft preview: Top cornerbacks

Apr. 30, 2014
Bradley Roby is the top-rated cornerback in this year's draft.
Bradley Roby is the top-rated cornerback in this year's draft. / Getty Images


1. Bradley Roby, Ohio State, 5-11¼, 194, Round 1

Redshirt junior entry had great sophomore season but was shockingly inconsistent last year, which will scare off some teams in the first round. “The best guy, the most talented guy out there, is the guy from Ohio State,” one scout said. “As far as movement and can be an elite corner in the NFL, he’s the only one from a movement standpoint.” Has average size but great speed, athleticism and natural cover ability. Three-year starter finished career with eight interceptions and 36 passes defended. “Played more zone coverage this year, and that’s really not his cup of tea,” another scout said. “I had him in that 45 to 50 range (overall).” Showed elite explosion and athleticism at the combine (4.35-second 40, 38½-inch vertical) but confounded scouts by botching five attempts at the three-cone drill and then quitting. Suspended for opener last season for getting into an altercation with a bouncer at a bar that summer. “He was going to come out (last year) and didn’t, and was kind of sorry he didn’t come out,” another scout said. “It’s almost like — not to the same scale by any stretch, but it’s almost Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was just trying not to get hurt (last season), and you saw that a lot in Roby’s play. If you go back and watch some of his games in ’12, you’re like, ‘That guy, he’s amazing, he wins games by himself.’ Then you watch the same guy versus the same team in ’13, and you’re like he’s average at best. It’s like, I might be able to beat him on an inside move. What’s that all about? That’s the big thing there. He’s a bigger boom-or-bust guy, but he has the biggest upside of the whole gang (at cornerback), no question.” Was arrested for drunk driving earlier this month.

2. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech, 5-11¾, 190, Round 1

Brother of former NFL safety Vince Fuller and current Detroit Lions receiver Corey Fuller. “I think Fuller is (the best cornerback this year),” one scout said. “The guy that can play both (man and zone) the best, it’s Fuller. He can play off, he can play press, he can play in the slot. He’s a physical enough tackler, not afraid. I like the way he runs as far as stab his guy, turn, retreat, get in position. You rarely see him get fooled.” Started 41 games in four years and had six interceptions and 28 passes defended in his career. Led team with 14½ tackles for a loss in ’11. Ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds, had an excellent 38½-inch vertical and did 12 bench reps. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being a safety,” a second scout said. “He’s just a really good football player from the standpoint he knows what he’s seeing. There were a couple games he played the Will linebacker spot against the option teams. He’s just a smart football player, and he’s got the talent, too. I’m not going to say he can’t play corner in the NFL, but I think he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, whereas he doesn’t have the elite speed outside, that might hurt him at times out there (at cornerback).” Last season missed four games because of hernia surgery.

3. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State, 6-018, 202, Round 1

Three-year starter with good size and cover ability, and great speed. “A lot of the height-weight-speed guys are going to go with Gilbert (first),” a scout said. “Some might take Gilbert over (Michigan State’s Darqueze) Dennard. I’m not a big fan. If you met (Gilbert), that’s what bothered me. He’s not a very mentally tough guy. There’s a lot of give-up in him. He’s not a hard-wired dude. If he never got beat, he might be all right, but he starts having some adversity, I don’t think he’s mentally strong.” Doubles as a dangerous kickoff returner with six for touchdowns and a 26.3-yard average on 102 returns in his career. Smoked the 40 in 4.35 seconds at the combine, had a 35½-inch vertical and did 20 bench reps, which ranked third among all defensive backs who lifted at the combine. “If you’re going to play press man, Gilbert is the best one, if you’re just going to line up and say, ‘That’s your guy’ the whole day,” a second scout said. “When you play him off, he really struggles.” Suspect in the run game. In his final three seasons combined, had 12 interceptions and 21 passes defended. Has great arm length that helps him play bigger than his size in coverage — his 3318-inch arms tied for second-longest of all 59 defensive backs at the combine. “I like his size and raw athleticism,” a third scout said.

4. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, 5-1078, 199, Round 1

Tough, resourceful, competitive player who specializes in man-to-man coverage. Good but not great athlete. “If a corner has to start for you, and you’re a GM that’s had a couple misses and you can’t afford to miss again otherwise you’re getting fired, then you’re taking Dennard,” a scout said. “He’s ready to go, going to be a good starter for 10 years in the NFL. From a technique standpoint and all that stuff, put him out on the field next week and he’s going to be a good player for you. He does everything right. I don’t think he’s as talented by any stretch as Roby. There are going to be guys that run by him and use him up a little bit, especially at the NFL level. But he’s the safest pick (at cornerback).” Was voted the Jim Thorpe Award as college football’s best defensive back last season (four interceptions and 10 passes defended). In four years, had 40 starts, 10 interceptions and 20 passes defended. “I liked him a lot,” a second scout said. “When you put him in press (coverage), he’s good. I liked him when he was blitzing. There were times in the Stanford game they brought him off the edge and he was pretty good. The Ohio State game, he had a couple rushes, he was pretty good. But he was totally a man corner.” Has some durability red flags. Missed five games as a freshman because of a knee injury, three games as sophomore because of an ankle injury and had double hernia surgery after his junior season. Ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds at the combine but didn’t do drills because of a hamstring injury. “You don’t see many receivers run away from him, but I don’t know how truly fast he really is,” a third scout said. “More quick than fast. His best trait is his ability to stay in position and play the ball.”

5. Jason Verrett, TCU, 5-9½, 189, Round 1

Transferred to TCU after a season in junior college. Fast, athletic, quick cover man whose height is a deal breaker for some teams. “I love Verrett,” a scout said. “He’s another short guy, but he’s a good football player. I go off the film, and he plays. And where he’s really going to shine, he’s going to play nickel. He’s going to be a top-shelf nickel for sure. The height might hurt him outside. If he goes somewhere and he’s a zone corner, he’ll do a lot better. But I don’t care where he goes, he’s going to be a good nickel.” Was co-Big 12 defensive player of the year last season. In three seasons at TCU had nine interceptions and 34 passes defended. Despite his wiry build, he’s a willing tackler in the run game. Showed athleticism and explosiveness at the combine with a 4.41-second 40 and 39-inch vertical. “The problem is his height,” another scout said. “You can’t discount his ability. He’s tough, he’s short, but he plays all over the field, he’s everywhere you want him to be, that kind of guy.” Some medical red flags. Missed three games as a sophomore because of a hamstring injury, had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in the spring of ’12 and played most of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, which he had repaired surgically in March.

6. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State, 5-8, 184, Round 2/3

Started at safety most of his career but moved to cornerback last season. Projects in the NFL primarily as a nickel cornerback, where his height won’t be as much of an issue. “If they’re lacking (size), they have to have something to make up for it, and Joyner does,” a scout said. “He’s such a great football player. Does the height bother you? No doubt. The weight bother you? No doubt. But if you just watch the film, he’s the best player on the national championship football team. It’s like, ‘Who’s that guy? Who’s that? Who’s that? No. 20, No. 20, No. 20. What’s his name?’ Worst case I think you have a nickel (cornerback).” Had eight interceptions in his career. Last season had 5½ sacks. “Whoever takes him, if they blitz him he’ll make plays for you,” a second scout said. Never missed a college game. Should play on every special teams as a cover man and returner. Averaged 24.2 yards (no touchdowns) on 52 kickoff returns. “If he was two inches taller, he’d be the first (cornerback) off the board,” a third scout said. “The thing is, he’s 5-8. He’s not 5-818 or 5-8½, he’s 5-8-0, and he’s not getting taller. But you want to talk about playing a dude now. He ran that defense, he was in charge of it. I think you take him just as a football player.”

7. Keith McGill, Utah, 6-338, 211, Round 2/3

Junior-college transfer has the length and athleticism that teams looking for the next Richard Sherman will covet. “He’s just a height-weight-speed guy,” one scout said. “Really, it’s that he’s 6-3. They’re trying to find that next long guy to match up with all the tall, big wide receivers, which I totally understand. But you’re rolling the dice on these guys.” After transferring to Utah, missed the second half of his junior season and all of the next year because of a shoulder injury and surgery. Last season, started 12 games and had one interception and 12 passes defended. Plays even taller than his exceptional height because of a great vertical jump (39 inches) and longish arms (33¼ inches) and large hands (10¼ inches). Has good straight-line speed (4.49 40), but his length means he doesn’t change directions as well as a smaller cornerbacks. “I liked McGill better (than Nebraska’s 6-258 Stan) Jean-Baptiste,” another scout said. “They’ll tell you about McGill that maybe they should play him at safety, but he was a safety (earlier in his career) that couldn’t tackle. I’m not a huge fan of Baptiste. I think McGill moves a lot better when you watch him cover and break and all those things he’s really good at. There’s also some times where he’s a god-awful tackler.” Took a year off after high school, then redshirted while injured so is old (25 in March) for a rookie.

8. Stan Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska, 6-258, 218, Round 2/3

The other tall, long cornerback in this draft. Could have great upside because of his unusual combination of size and athleticism. “The Nebraska kid is just size and really, really raw,” a scout said. “A lot of developing to do unless you stick him in press-man (coverage) and tell him to cover that guy.” Attended a junior college for a year but redshirted, transferred to Nebraska as a receiver and didn’t play in ’10, then moved to cornerback early in the ’11 season. “I don’t know, those tall corners are a little leggy in the way they turn and all that stuff,” a second scout said. “I’m more drafting 6-foot, 5-11 guy. Everybody talks about 6-3 corners, it’s very rare you have a guy that has the ability on the outside to turn and run and burst. There’s some great straight-line speed with McGill. Baptiste, I’m not sold on him.” Jean-Baptiste’s 4.57-second 40 is fine for a big cornerback, and his 41½-inch vertical is exceptional for defending fade routes. Did 13 bench reps. In his last two seasons played in 27 games, had six interceptions and 21 passes defended. “I wouldn’t touch him,” a third scout said. “I just don’t like soft corners. They say he’s possibly a safety. If you want a safety that’s not going to hit anybody, have at it. He’s a height-weight-speed guy. Everybody falls in love with the long corner, the Richard Sherman, he’s that guy.”

9. Marcus Roberson, Florida, 6-0¼, 191, Round 3/4

True junior has decent height and athleticism but lacks strength and speed. “The guy’s got some quickness, I saw a burst,” a scout said. “I saw a guy that can physically handle things on the outside. It seemed like he had a handle — with receivers going up the field, it seemed like he was in position. The ability to play the ball, I really liked that part of him.” Started 18 of 30 games in his career and had three interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Ran the 40 in 4.64 seconds, which is terrible long speed for a cornerback. Also had a 37½-inch vertical, which is good. “He’s the athlete guy, but no thank you for me,” a second scout said. “I have him as a backup. Good size, he can see the ball. He’s just not explosive enough for me, he doesn’t change direction real well, a little tight. And tackling, he’ll tackle if he has to, and even then it’s not very good. And his top-end speed, he’s going to get exposed outside. The reason he stays on top of everybody is he bails early on almost everybody he plays. The top-end speed in the NFL, they’re going to find you.” Has a notable injury history. Had neck surgery near the end of his freshman year, then last season missed four games because of a PCL sprain in his left knee. Also suspended for a game last season for violating an unspecified team rule.

10. Bashaud Breeland, Clemson, 5-1138, 197. Round 3/4

Entering draft after his redshirt junior year, has natural cover talent but doesn’t run well. “If you’re looking press-man corner, you’ll like him,” a scout said. “He gets his hands on the receiver and can turn and run with his man. He can be worked off balance and needs to do a better job of trying to find the ball on fade routes, to get his head around. Florida State tried to beat him on the double move but he hung in there and didn’t bite.” Last year, had four interceptions and 13 pass breakups, five tackles for a loss and two sacks. In his three-year career (37 games, 24 starts) had 11 interceptions and 30 pass breakups. Ran the 40 in a sluggish 4.61 seconds at the combine, and had a 34½-inch vertical. “Breeland was more consistent than Roberson,” another scout said. “I’d take Breeland before him.” Did 11 bench reps. In 2012 had an abdominal strain that eventually led to groin surgery.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
579 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
862 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
1025 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
1279 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports


Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports