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2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Steelers Big Board, the Cornerbacks

Ranking and analyzing the top 33 cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After Steven Nelson was released by the Steelers, cornerback became one of the flashy needs for the Steelers. It is unknown how high the Steelers will address it, but I think we would all be shocked if it was not addressed at all.

I am still a believer in Justin Layne and think he would be fantastic in man coverage schemes. Unfortunately, the Steelers have been primarily a zone team during the Tomlin era, which is why he may become yet another blown pick at that position. Undrafted rookie James Pierre showed some flashes and seemed to fit what the coaching staff wanted to run. I’m not sure if the Steelers believe in him enough to make him a starter yet, but he definitely adds depth to the position. Nonetheless, after the loss of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, there is still work to be done at the position.

This is not a great draft for defense, but it is incredibly deep at corner. Not only are there three extremely talented prospects at the top of the list that could be the number one corner in many drafts, but there are also a ton of great day two options such as Kelvin Joseph, Asante Samuel, and Aaron Robinson. There are also some sneaky good prospects that could fall to the later portions of the draft. We will touch on some of those as well.

Because of an extremely busy week for me and some unexpected happenings, I was not able to contribute as much analysis to the board as I wanted to this week, but Necks Nation, Itz JustNoah, and Ryland all stepped up and made this thing work once again.

Before checking this edition of the board, make sure you’re caught up on the previous positions. You can check out the first ten installments of the board here: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers (Part 1), Wide Receivers (Part 2), Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Line, Offensive Tackles, Interior Defensive Line, Outside Linebackers/EDGE, and Inside Linebackers.

As always, the main rankings are steelerfan11’s, while the analysis is a collaborative effort. SNW’s consensus rankings are an average of where the prospects appeared on big boards (ranking all positions) from other draft websites to see where the prospects stack up elsewhere. The websites, in order, are CBS Sports, Drafttek, ESPN, Mock Draft Database, and Tankathon.

Let’s get to rankings:

1. Caleb Farley — #3, Jr, 6’2”, 207 lbs, — Virginia Tech
Top 15 grade
Consensus ranking: 17 (11, 31, 12, 13, 18)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 20, PD 12, Int 4, (11 games)

Necksnation: Farley opted out of the 2020 college season and recently underwent a back procedure, causing his stock to fall, but he has all the tools to be a lockdown corner in the NFL. His combination of size, length, speed, and instincts make him one of the most naturally gifted players in the class. Farley’s 2019 film is fantastic, and if he hadn’t opted out I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the consensus top corner in the class. He excels in press coverage, and is able to stay on a receiver step by step for an extended period of time. His back issues are a legitimate reason for concern, but if he can stay healthy, he should be able to succeed at the next level.

Ryland B.: Farley’s tape is absolutely fantastic, and although there’s some bad plays and mental errors sprinkled throughout, you’ll have a hard time finding a stickier corner in man coverage. Farley possesses great size, speed, and agility, and his ability to smoothly flip his hips is incredible. He has some of the best ball skills of any defensive back in this class. Farley is still a little raw, especially in zone coverage, and his tackling is far from great, but he’s my top corner in this class based off of his stellar play. That being said, he’s had a multitude of injuries while at college, including some to his ACL and back, and paired with him opting out of the 2020 season and failing to work out at his Pro Day, picking Farley will come with a high level of risk.

2. Jaycee Horn — #7, Jr, 6’1”, 205 lbs, — South Carolina
Top 15 grade
Consensus ranking: 17 (30, 12, 15, 16, 14)
2020 season stats: Tackles 16, TFL 1, Int 2, (7 games)

Itz JustNoah: As far as coverage goes, Horn is as good as it gets. He reacts well in man, he recovers quickly, he ran a 4.39 so he’s not gonna get burned over top and his ball skills are right up there with the other top guys. One of the things you notice when watching him is that he won’t get beat right off the line. He watches the opponent’s hips, not their eyes, so he won’t get beat by any “fancy footwork”. Horn does have a tackling problem and he tends to hold more than you would like. If he can clean up his holding problem I think he can be a very, very successful outside corner with the speed and athletic ability to also cover the slot. I like Horn a good bit but he’s not as technical or just plain talented as Surtain. So while I think it’s a great pick if he does fall, I would not want any sort of trade up for him.

Necksnation: Horn is a good cover corner who improved every year that he was in college. Although his pro day numbers indicated great athleticism, it’s not as noticeable in his film. His tackling needs work, and he sometimes struggled getting off of blocks, which shows up in his film. Coverage is his strongest area. He switched from the slot to the outside in 2019, but he has the physical tools to play the slot in the NFL. Overall, I think Horn is a solid prospect, but I prefer Surtain and Farley, and I wouldn’t take him with a top 15 pick.

3. Patrick Surtain II — #2, Jr, 6’2”, 202 lbs, — Alabama
Top 20 grade
Consensus ranking: 10 (15, 8, 10, 9, 9)
2020 season stats: Tackles 38, TFL 3.5, FR 1, PD 12, Int 1, (13 games)

Itz JustNoah: Surtain has the size and athleticism (ran a 4.42, had a 39 inch vert and put up 18 reps on the bench) to start in the NFL right now. He mirrors opponents and reacts well both during the route and when the ball is thrown. He’s extremely good in press-man and can also play zone at a high level. He has great footwork and is a good tackler. Surtain is the most complete corner in this draft, with no real weaknesses except for occasionally getting into unnecessary hand battles downfield. There’s a couple guys where if they fall out of the top 12ish picks I wouldn’t mind a trade up, Surtain is one of those guys. Pittsburgh arguably has the best defense in the league but it’s not exactly the youngest, adding a 21 year old lockdown corner would be a major boost.

Necksnation: Surtain will likely be the top corner off the board in April, and for good reason. In coverage, he is able to follow his man step for step and is adept at forcing incompletions. When he does allow a completion, he quickly and effectively tackles the ballcarrier to prevent any yards after the catch. Surtain is best when he’s playing man, but he’s more than capable of playing zone if he needs to. He does have a tendency to commit pass interference penalties, but he improved in that aspect from 2019 to 2020, so it shouldn’t be a big issue in the NFL. His only other weakness is that he occasionally gets beat downfield, but he does a good job of catching up to the receiver and putting himself in a position where he can still make a play on the ball. Surtain is the only cornerback in the class who I’d use a top 10 pick on, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos or Cowboys select him with either of their top picks.

4. Kelvin Joseph — #1, Jr, 6’1”, 192 lbs, — Kentucky
Late 1st round grade
Consensus ranking: 73 (NA, 111, 46, 69, 66)
2020 season stats: Tackles 25, TFL .5, PD 5, Int 4, (9 games)

steelerfan11: I almost always prefer man corners over zone corners, but Joseph may be the best zone corner not named Patrick Surtain in this draft. He is also capable of playing man coverage at a high level, but he has more experience in zone because of Kentucky’s base concepts. He is very good keeping his eyes on the quarterback in zone, and he has the size and speed to keep up with almost any receiver one-on-one when he is in man coverage. He ran a 4.34 at his pro day, displaying that impressive speed. His instincts and awareness are also top-notch, which is why I believe this guy could develop into an elite NFL cornerback.

Ryland B.: A smart, fluid mover in zone, Joseph had a sneaky solid season in 2020 for Kentucky. I watched his tape against Alabama, and he more than held his own against DeVonta Smith, who was the best receiver and route runner in college football last year. Joseph’s not the quickest, but he still has a good athletic profile to match up with NFL receivers. Joseph’s tackling is by far the worst part of his game, but overall he’s a corner with the instincts and athletic ability to succeed in the NFL.

5. Aaron Robinson — #31, Sr, 5’11”, 193 lbs, — UCF
Early 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 76 (NA, 108, 64, 68, 63)
2020 season stats: Tackles 41, TFL 1, FF 1, PD 7, Int 0, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Robinson is yet another scheme versatile corner who does his best work in man coverage. The dude is just a baller no matter where he is lined up. He can reroute receivers at the line when he is lined up on the perimeter, and he has the quickness and agility to cover receivers coming out of the slot. While he is not the biggest corner in the world, he has good functional strength and seems to be well-built. Robinson actually transferred from Alabama, and I cannot help but wonder what his draft stock would be if he would have stayed. Now, he may not have seen the opportunities he wanted at Alabama, but his tape this season would have made him a surefire first round pick if his production came at Alabama instead of UCF.

Ryland B.: Can’t say I’m a huge fan of Robinson. He’s a corner who wants to be physical but got pushed back a lot in press coverage, sometimes losing his balance or not using his hands well. He’s isn’t the fastest and didn’t seem to move his feet that quickly, and while his ball skills don’t seem to be an issue, 0 interceptions in 2020 shows a lack of big plays. Robinson is fairly quick though and showed some good mirroring ability, and his overall run support and tackling are strengths as well. Don’t get me wrong, Robinson is a good corner, but I’m not sure how well his game will translate to the NFL.

6. Greg Newsome — #2, Jr, 6’1”, 190 lbs, — Northwestern
Early 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 27 (NA, 25, 29, 29, 24)
2020 season stats: Tackles 12, FR 1, PD 10, Int 1, (6 games)

Itz JustNoah: A lot of people are high on Newsome, I’m not. He didn’t overly impress me when watching his film. He has pretty good ball skills, he’s a great open field tackler and he’s good in man coverage. But he looks very raw to me. He didn’t play that well in zone, he rarely pressed and it seemed like he couldn’t figure out the right level of physicality to play with. He did run a 4.38 so he’s plenty athletic and that will help him early on. If he can work on his zone coverage and his physicality, he can be a great player. His potential is high so I could see him going in the back of the first round, but personally I wouldn’t want him and would rather address other needs.

Necksnation: Although his tape was somewhat underwhelming, Newsome has the athleticism to succeed at the next level. His physicality and aggressiveness are two of his best traits, although they do make him susceptible to penalties. In addition, he has very good ball skills and open field tackling. Newsome only registered one interception in his time at Northwestern, but in 2020, he had seven pass breakups over three games. Newsome is raw, but his upside is high, which has made his stock rise over the past few months. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hears his name called in the first round, and he could be as high as the third cornerback off the board.

7. Tyson Campbell — #3, Jr, 6’2”, 185 lbs, — Georgia
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 48 (31, 47, 55, 54, 52)
2020 season stats: Tackles 29, TFL 2.5, PD 6, Int 1, (10 games)

steelerfan11: Campbell has an excellent combination of size and speed, but he is still a bit raw. He does a good job pressing receivers at the line and winning with his strength and athleticism. Campbell is a fluid mover who has shown some ability to play zone as well, but he is the most experienced in man coverage. There are a few instances where he just looks unaware of what he needs to do in certain situations. That may come with experience, however. Ball skills are still developing, and he needs to become more consistent in coverage, but overall, Campbell has a ton of talent and could become one of the top corners in the league if he can learn to use his natural abilities correctly and produce on a consistent basis.

Ryland B.: Campbell is a good athlete who is still figuring out the corner position. He has good size and is physical in man coverage, with the speed to match up with top receivers. He’s a smooth mover with good quickness and he flips his hips well, but he can be a slow processor and still end up a step behind receivers. Campbell is an incredibly raw corner with all of the tools to succeed, but he will need to be developed by whichever NFL team drafts him.

8. Asante Samuel, Jr. — #26, Jr, 5’10”, 184 lbs, — Florida State
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 36 (26, 24, 45, 44, 42)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 1, FF 1, FR 2, PD 6, Int 3, (8 games)

Necksnation: The son of a four-time Pro Bowler, Asante Samuel Jr. has been rising on draft boards and has the potential to be a high quality starter in the NFL. Samuel is best in man, and he defends the run well. Although he’s somewhat undersized, Samuel projects as an outside corner in the NFL who can also play in the slot. Samuel doesn’t have great ball skills, but he did register three interceptions in 2020, so he seems to be improving in that regard. The Steelers have reportedly met with Samuel, but I wouldn’t want him selected in the first two rounds.

steelerfan11: This is another guy that Pittsblitz56 brought to my attention before the season. Samuel has the speed, versatility, and bloodlines that would warrant a first round pick, but there have been some past injury issues. He seems to have put them in the rear-view mirror, but it is something to keep an eye on. As it pertains to Samuel’s game, he has experience as both an outside cornerback and a slot cornerback, and I honestly think that his best fit in the NFL is in the slot. He helps in run support, has good fluidity when dropping in zone, and is sticky in man coverage. He is still raw in zone coverage, and the ball skills are still developing, but he can be a slot corner for a team during his rookie season while developing into a potential outside cornerback down the line.

9. Eric Stokes — #27, Jr, 6’1”, 185 lbs, — Georgia
Late 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 58 (65, 70, 62, 48, 43)
2020 season stats: Tackles 20, Int 1, (9 games)

Ryland B.: Stokes’ blazing 40 time (4.25 seconds) likely moved him up on some draft boards, but he’s not necessarily a first round talent. Similarly to his teammate Tyson Campbell, Stokes has some incredible measurables, with fantastic size and speed. He’s also a physical corner in both coverage and run support. However, Stokes is more of a straight line athlete than Campbell, as while he is fast he doesn’t move the smoothest or possess the greatest agility, although it is far from a major concern. Stokes’ ball skills are a plus, but he is still raw and not NFL-ready quite yet. However, Stokes has all of the tools and effort needed to succeed at the next level.

steelerfan11: Stokes is a solid press corner, and his ball skills improved in 2020, but he still has some inconsistencies and sloppiness in his game. He has excellent speed, but you would never guess that he was that fast when you watched him. His teammate, Tyson Campbell, looked faster, more fluid, and the better NFL prospect. Stokes isn’t terribly agile either, and good route-runners can sometimes get the best of him. He has a ton of upside, but he has a lot of development ahead of him.

10. Shaun Wade — #24, Jr, 6’1”, 195 lbs, — Ohio State
Early 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 100 (144, 66, 108, 98, 86)
2020 season stats: Tackles 35, TFL 1, PD 1, Int 2, (8 games)

steelerfan11: Wade had a fantastic year in 2019 when Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette were manning the outside, but Wade struggled mightily when he was asked to be a boundary corner in 2020. Wade made a few decent plays, but he struggled for the most part. However, literally whenever Ohio State moved him to the slot for a few plays, he was his old self and was blanketing receivers. Ty Fryfogle of Indiana absolutely torched Wade all day when he was playing on the outside, but on the few occasions he was put in the slot, he did well against Whop Philyor and the other Indiana receivers. As a prospect, I like Wade’s athleticism and upside, and I think the 2020 season was just a fluke. Some think that he will move to safety, but I honestly think playing the nickel is what he does best. If he can be an inside-only corner for a team, he could be a potential pro-bowler down the line.

Ryland B.: Wade is a very interesting prospect at corner. He was considered a surefire first round pick entering the 2020 season as a slot corner, but he moved outside in his final season and struggled greatly, tanking his draft stock. And that’s the important thing with Wade, play to his strengths and you get a fantastic corner, put him in bad situations and he may not rise to the occasion. In the slot, Wade played physically and aggressively, showing off his good ball skills and athletic ability. On the outside, that aggressiveness was gone and replaced with a corner who sat back and bailed far too often, giving up a lot of plays. I’ve seen some draft analysts say Wade should move to the safety position, where he can watch the game play out in front of him and use his ball skills, athleticism, and aggressiveness to be a playmaking backstop for a defense. It isn’t a bad idea, but Wade has better value as a starting slot corner for an NFL defense. He had a rough 2020, but definitely isn’t a player to give up on just yet.

11. Robert Rochell — #9, Sr, 6’0”, 195 lbs, — Central Arkansas
Mid 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 149 (NA, 188, 82, 177, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 27, TFL 1, FF 1, FR 1, PD 3, Int 0, (7 games)

Ryland B.: The small school could be a concern, but I really liked what I saw of Rochell’s tape. He’s an athletic, physical corner who is well-suited for the outside. He has good ball skills, is good in press coverage and playing off, and is solid in run support. However, he’s not the most agile or the smoothest mover, despite his impressive athletic profile. Ultimately, Rochell is the stereotypical outside press/man corner, but he does have more upside and versatility than most.

12. Ambry Thomas — #1, Sr, 6’0”, 183 lbs, — Michigan
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 173 (120, 209, 166, 196, NA)
2019 season stats: Tackles 38, TFL 3, FR 2, PD 4, Int 3, (13 games)

steelerfan11: Thomas opted out of the 2020 season, but the 2019 tape was pretty impressive. Michigan played almost 100% man defense in Don Brown’s defense, but he has shown good fluidity and instincts, which would make one think that he could be solid in zone coverage as well. I expect him to pick up zone defense fairly quickly, but in year one, you will only want to see him on the field when your defense is playing man. When lined up on the outside for Michigan, he did a great job of disrupting receivers at the line of scrimmage and getting good position against receivers that were bigger than him. Quite honestly, the only time in his college career that he was dominated by a single player was DeVonta Smith in the Citrus Bowl last year, but Smith pretty much dominated every corner this past season. Looking back on it a year later, I doubt that very many teams are looking at that tape and saying that this guy has no shot in the NFL. If that were the case, a lot of corners the next couple years are going to be off teams’ boards as well. If Thomas can shake the rust off from sitting for a year, he could be a productive player as soon as year one.

13. Paulson Adebo — #, Sr, 6’1”, 192 lbs, — Stanford
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 94 (110, 97, 73, 95, 96)
2020 season stats: Tackles 33, PD 10, Int 4, ( games)

Itz JustNoah: Adebo has the size, athleticism and length to be an elite level cornerback. He’s good in both man and zone coverage, he recognizes routes and is able to easily stay with receivers, his ball skills are great and his footwork is phenomenal. He does need to get his head around quicker on deeper routes and he might need to be a tad less physical at the next level but overall he’s a very underrated prospect that can be something special if he puts it all together. For teams that are in need of a corner but ready to win now, Adebo would be a great pick in the second or potentially third round.

14. Ifeatu Melifonwu — #2, Jr, 6’3”, 213 lbs, — Syracuse
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 58 (46, 81, 51, 56, 55)
2020 season stats: Tackles 55, TFL 3, Sacks 1, PD 9, Int 1, (11 games)

Ryland B.: An extremely underrated corner, Ifeatu Melifonwu has legitimate starter ability if he can fix a few inconsistencies in his game. He has elite size but has excellent athletic ability to go along with it. And unlike most big, lanky corners, Melifonwu is an incredibly smooth mover who can flip his hips well and has good change of direction. He has some physicality to his game in press and is a good run defender as well. His awareness isn’t the greatest however, and his overall aggressiveness can be lacking as well. Despite some issues, Ifeatu Melifonwu projects as a starting boundary corner in the NFL.

15. Elijah Molden — #3, Sr, 5’10”, 191 lbs, — Washington
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 57 (58, 63, 49, 57, 60)
2020 season stats: Tackles 26, TFL 1, Sacks , PD 2, Int 1, (4 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 79, TFL 5.5, PD 17, Int 4, (13 games)

Ryland B.: Molden has been profiled as a fringe first round talent by some, but his smaller size and average speed will likely concern some teams. Still, Molden is a scrappy, physical defensive back with great agility and ball skills. He’s an instinctual player who can make an impact when blitzing or in run support, and although he projects best in the slot at the NFL level, he can play some boundary corner and safety as well. My best pro comp for him is actually Mike Hilton, and I think he’d be a great replacement for the former Steeler in the middle rounds.

16. Keith Taylor — Jr, #8, Sr, 6’3”, 191 lbs, — Washington
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 191 (NA, 138, 247, 188, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 9, TFL 0, Sacks 0, FF 0, FR 0, PD 1, Int 0, (3 games)

Necksnation: The depth of this year’s cornerback class will likely push Taylor into Day 3, but there’s a lot to like about the former four-star recruit. He’s a good tackler, and can develop into a great run defender if he can get off blocks with more consistency. In coverage, he plays best in man, and is very good in press. Taylor ran a 4.41 40 yard dash at his pro day, but also only recorded a 33 inch vertical. If he develops, Taylor could be a solid outside corner at the next level.

17. Kary Vincent, Jr. — #8, Sr, 5’10”, 189 lbs, — LSU
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 152 (136, 189, 158, 125, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 9, TFL , PD 1, Int 0, (4 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 59, TFL 2, PD 5, Int 0, (13 games)

steelerfan11: Vincent is a great athlete who has the chance to be an exceptional slot corner at the next level. He has very good speed, loose hips, and great ball skills. While Vincent has the tools to succeed in any coverage, he needs to get better at reading defenses and route combinations better. His size could also be an issue. It does not affect him much in coverage, but he is not a very good run defender, and he needs to become a better tackler. He struggled to wrap up bigger running backs and receivers. There is no denying that he has some things to work on, but the ceiling is very high.

18. Darren Hall — #23, Jr, 6’0”, 190 lbs, — San Diego State
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 209 (183, 152, 252, 250, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 38, TFL 2, PD 9, Int 3, (8 games)

Itz JustNoah: Like Newsome, Hall’s tape is less than impressive (I had much higher expectations for Newsome of course). Hall has good ball skills and reactive instincts. But he’s soft in coverage, his man coverage just isn’t that great in general and his tackling is average. His feet are quick but he doesn’t have a ton of deep speed and that could be a big concern considering the NFL is getting faster and faster as a whole. I think he’d be worth taking if you’re a team that needs cornerback depth, you just have to hope he can fix up his coverage. Personally I wouldn’t take him higher than the 5th round but i could realistically see him being taken in the 4th.

19. Deommadore Lenoir — #0, Sr, 5’10”, 202 lbs, — Oregon
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 192 (NA, 217, NA, 166, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 30, FF 1, PD 1, Int 1, (7 games)

steelerfan11: Lenoir wasn’t the most flashy player per se, but the guy was consistent while occasionally showing flashes of brilliance. Oregon’s defense requires versatile players who can be moved all over the field. Lenoir can play outside or in the slot, but I think he has more upside as a slot corner. Lenoir has loose hips and solid speed, which gives him the ability to play both man and zone. He is more comfortable in zone, however. He has a nice backpedal and great instincts, and those skills will be better utilized in a zone-heavy defense. He is also a decent run defender and a sure tackler. If he can prove his value in both man and zone concepts to NFL teams, he may get drafted sooner than we expect.

20. Nahshon Wright — #2, Jr, 6’4”, 188 lbs — Oregon State
Late 4th round grade
2020 season stats: Tackles 30, FF 1, PD 4, Int 2 (7 games)
Consensus ranking: 322 (NA, 360, NA, 283, NA)

Ryland B.: Wright is a big, athletic corner who was a bright spot in an Oregon State secondary that struggled in 2020. He is big and physical with a scrappy style of play, and combined with a solid athletic profile, he was very successful in man coverage. Long speed isn’t the greatest, though. His ball skills are a plus, and he’s very physical at the catch point. He plays with a great attitude as well. Wright has starter upside as a boundary corner in the NFL, although his lack of experience in zone coverage could be an issue.

21. Olijah Griffen — #2, Jr, 6’0”, 170 lbs, — USC
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 208 (NA, 130, 267, 228, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 22, TFL 1, PD 4, Int 1, (6 games)

Ryland B.: Griffen is a quicker than fast corner who is a good athlete despite lacking elite long speed (4.53 40 yard dash). He’s lacking in size but plays aggressively and physically. He has good ball skills although his hands aren’t great, as he can be counted on to knock the ball down but not necessarily intercept it. He’s a willing tackler in run support as well. Griffen has his limitations, but he could be a very good corner in the NFL.

22. Mac McCain III — #29, Sr, 6’0”, 186 lbs, — North Carolina A&T
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 390 (NA, 390, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 26, FF 1, FR 2, PD 6, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Sleeper alert!!! I absolutely love this guy on tape, and his athleticism isn’t too bad either. He is very aggressive at the line of scrimmage, although being too “grabby” is something that scouts may mark as a negative. I like his competitiveness and physicality despite not being terribly big, and I appreciate his willingness to help in run support as well. He also tested well at his pro day, running a 4.45 in the 40, a 4.12 in the short shuttle, and a 6.94 in the 3-cone drill. This guy may not even get drafted, but he has the tape and talent that is worthy of a day three selection. This dude has serious upside, and somebody is going to get a steal.

23. Rodarius Williams — #8, Sr, 6’0”, 195 lbs, — Oklahoma State
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 134 (126, 133, NA, 143, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 18, TFL 1, FF 1, PD 0, Int 0, (9 games)

Necksnation: Williams is one of the oldest players in this class, as he will be 25 years old by the time he plays his first game. The brother of current NFL cornerback Greedy Williams, Rodarius Williams is excellent in off-man coverage. He is aggressive when the ball is thrown his way, and his instincts help him make plays on the ball, as he registered 27 pass breakups in 45 games at Oklahoma State. Williams is not much of a run defender, and he sometimes struggles to get off of blocks. His tackling could also use some work. Williams will likely go somewhere in the 4th and 5th round, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he slipped into round 6.

24. Benjamin St. Juste — #25, Jr, 6’3”, 200 lbs, — Minnesota
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 127 (NA, 196, 117, 68, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 14, PD 3, Int 0, (5 games)

Ryland B.: St. Juste is someone who the Steelers have had some interest in during the draft process, and I can see why. He fits the mold of what they often draft in corners: big, physical, and athletic. He plays very aggressively and has good functional strength, really showing off in press coverage. He’s also very explosive for a 6’3” corner and breaks on the ball really well. He has good ball skills and will fight for the ball until the play ends, a trait I really appreciate. As can be expected of a cornerback his size, St. Juste isn’t the smoothest when it comes to transitions, but overall he’s a very solid defender. I really like the way this guy plays, and although he’s more of a press/man corner, I think he’d be a solid late round pick for the Steelers.

25. Tay Gowan — #23, Sr, 6’2”, 185 lbs, — UCF
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 185 (NA, 213, 157, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 1, FR 1, PD 8, Int 2, (12 games)

Ryland B.: Gowan is a plus athlete with good ball skills in coverage. He has solid size and plays with decent physicality, moreso in coverage than as a tackler. He isn’t the quickest, but can stay with most receivers, and he’s good when it comes to hand fighting and press coverage. His tackling isn’t great, especially when it comes to technique, and his effort, while not bad, doesn’t seem to be the greatest. He has versatility to play in both man and zone, which is always a plus. I really liked how Gowan played when the ball was in the air. He drives for the ball well, and puts himself in position to make a breakup or interception a lot. He’s a solid corner with enough upside to justify a mid to late round pick.

26. Antonio Phillips — #21, Sr, 6’0”, 191 lbs, — Ball State
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 439 (NA, 515, 363, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 32, PD 8, Int 2, (8 games)

Itz JustNoah: Phillips is polished in coverage even though he isn’t super impressive athletically. Phillips is physical, he has good route recognition and great ball skills. He knows when to get his head around and his timing is phenomenal. He’s also a great open field tackler and provides solid run defense on the outside. Despite all this, Phillips is less than impressive with his footwork, change of direction and speed over the top. He can’t make up ground once he’s beaten and if he were to be put one-on-one against most receivers in the league, he would most likely get cooked. He has the coverage ability and ball skills to be a good corner, he just needs time to develop. If a team wants to take a chance on him because they think they can develop him, it could be a good move but very “high risk, high reward.”

27. Shakur Brown — #29, Jr, 5’11”, 190 lbs, — Michigan State
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 106 (82, 132, 139, 71, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 25, PD 4, Int 5, (7 games)

steelerfan11: Brown is not going to wow you with his athleticism, but he has tremendous ball skills and plays a very smart game. I was listening to Trey Wingo and Tony Pauline’s show the other day, and Pauline compared Brown to Buster Skrine. He is not a gifted athlete, but he will be a guy who can play inside, outside, and contribute on special teams. His lack of speed may limit him to zone concepts, but a smart defensive mind may be able to get some solid production out of this guy.

28. Israel Mukuamu — #24, Jr, 6’4”, 205 lbs, — South Carolina
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 146 (158, 114, 136, 174, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 10, PD 0, Int 2, (6 games)

Ryland B.: A cornerback who played a good bit of safety at South Carolina, it will be interesting to see where Mukuamu lands in the NFL. He’s a big, physical corner who plays with good strength and can neutralize larger, slower receivers and tight ends. His athletic profile is what you’d expect from someone his size: not bad but a little stiff. His physicality is apparent in man coverage, and he has the smarts and ball skills to excel in zone. His ball skills aren’t bad, but not anything to write home about, either. Mukuamu is a strong tackler though, and combined with the rest of his profile many see him best as a safety in the NFL that can be moved to cover tight ends or bigger receivers when needed. Mukuamu will succeed when put in the right scheme, but simply doesn’t have the athleticism to be a starting corner in the NFL. However, in an NFL that is valuing versatility more and more each year, Mukuamu could be a true defensive weapon at the next level.

29. Shaun Jolly — #3, Sr, 5’9”, 180 lbs, — Appalachian State
6th round grade
Consensus ranking: NA (NA, NA, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 41, TFL 2, Sacks .5, FF 1, FR 0, PD 5, Int 0, (12 games)

steelerfan11: Jolly is an intriguing prospect due to his excellent ball skills and incredible instincts. He is a threat to jump on a route and pick the ball off at any time, and his fluidity, tackling ability, and smooth backpedal make him a nice fit in zone coverage. Don’t think that he is limited to zone, however, because he has the speed and awareness to keep up in man coverage as well. His size may limit him to the slot, but he has a chance to become a starter down the line.

30. Cameron Bynum — #24, Sr, 6’0”, 198 lbs, — California
6th round grade
Consensus ranking: 167 (NA, 178, 200, 122, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 19, TFL 2, PD 0, Int 1, (4 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 63, TFL 3, PD 19, Int 1, (13 games)

Ryland B.: Bynum doesn’t have a ton of “wow” traits, but he stands out at being really solid all around. He doesn’t have great size but didn’t seem to be outmatched physically too often thanks to his technique. He isn’t the greatest athlete either, but similarly his excellent footwork and positioning keeps him in the play at all times. He has good ball skills and is a very good mover who transitions excellently. I saw him play in man coverage a lot but I’m sure he’d be a good fit for zone as well. He’s a technically sound corner who lacks much upside, but he’d be a good value pick in the later rounds as excellent depth who could eventually start.

31. Tre Brown — #6, Sr, 5’10”, 186 lbs, — Oklahoma
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 190 (137, 316, 168, 140, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 1, PD 1, Int 0, (10 games)

steelerfan11: Brown is much higher than this on most boards, but I have never seen anything to get me excited about him. I have never seen someone line up 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage and get burned on a fairly consistent basis. He was totally lost at the Senior Bowl, and his 2020 season wasn’t too great either. He was a boundary cornerback for Oklahoma, but his size will likely force him to become a slot corner in the NFL. Maybe that will actually help his overall game, but I was not impressed at all with this guy. Maybe he can prove me wrong, but I would not touch this guy.

32. DJ Daniel — #14, Sr, 6’0”, 183 lbs, — Georgia
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 154 (NA, 177, 193, 93, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 9, TFL 1, PD 1, Int 0, (8 games)

Ryland B.: Daniel isn’t as big or fast as his Georgia teammates Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell, but a lot of what I said about them could be said about him as well. He’s a good athlete with a lot of upside who plays a physical brand of football. He’s good in press coverage, using his strength to his advantage. In man and zone he’s solid, but is still fairly raw for a senior. Daniel is an interesting developmental prospect who might surprise some in the NFL.

33. Bryce Thompson — #0, Jr, 5’11”, 190 lbs, — Tennessee
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 290 (NA, 410, 231, 228, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 36, TFL 2, FF 1, FR 1, PD 2, Int 2, (10 games)

Ryland B.: The first thing that stood out to me when I saw Thompson was how aggressive he played, or maybe eager would be the better word. He’s not a top tier athlete but he flies around the field for the ball, whether it’s in coverage or run support. It’s a good trait to have, but it can hurt his game at times. He’s solid in coverage, although his athletic limitations can show up, but his ball skills are very impressive. In run support, he’s certainly willing, but his tackling technique can be lacking, often diving at the ankles and failing to wrap up. I like the way Thompson plays, but I’m not sure how it will hold up at the NFL level.

Notable prospects who decided to return to school for 2021:

Clemson CB Derion Kendrick

Alabama CB Josh Jobe

Should the Steelers draft a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft?

steelerfan11: I understand that the Steelers have absolutely stunk at drafting cornerbacks in recent years, but at some point, you have to be able to develop your own talent and not depend on free agent signings year in and year out. Just because recent history says that they have struggled to draft corners should not stop them from taking one. Personally, I believe that the Steelers’ failures at corner are more due to scheme rather than the prospects themselves. I do not want to beat a dead horse, but we all knew that Justin Layne was a press-man corner who would likely struggle in zone. I was excited when we drafted him because I thought it meant we were going to become a defense that plays more man coverage. However, that has not been the case, and Layne has struggled in Keith Butler’s zone-heavy concepts.

As it pertains to this draft, the depth is excellent. Many people will complain about how the Steelers can never get a truly elite corner in the draft because they pick too low, but there is a really good chance that there will be one available at 24. I understand the durability concerns with Caleb Farley, but the only other flaw in his game is tackling. He is excellent in coverage, has great ball skills, great instincts, and can play in just about any defensive scheme. If he is there at 24, I think that they should at least consider it. However, it seems as if the Steelers plan on moving Cameron Sutton to the outside and drafting a new slot corner.

If the top running backs and linemen are gone, Asante Samuel, Jr. could be in play at 24 as well. If I am the GM, I am looking at a few day two guys, Kelvin Joseph, Aaron Robinson, and Shaun Wade. Joseph is primarily an outside corner, Wade will be an inside-only guy, and Robinson can play either inside or out. All three of these guys can make an impact in year one, but what is more exciting is what they could potentially develop into. I would also add my guy Mac McCain III with one of my final picks to bolster the depth.

Ryland B.: Corner is the gigantic need on the Steelers that not everyone is talking about. With Mike Hilton and Steve Nelson departing during the offseason, the Steelers only have two corners who are proven starters in Cam Sutton and Joe Haden — and the team starts three. We don’t really know how far James Pierre and Justin Layne have progressed at this point, but it’s fair to say that the Steelers would be wise to have a backup plan if either of them were put into the starting lineup. If this was the case, the Steelers would be wise to sign a veteran at the position and then find some depth late in the draft (thankfully, it’s a deep class).

On the other hand, the Steelers could keep Layne and Pierre as depth, and be in the market for another starter. It appears as if the Steelers have plans on keeping Sutton on the outside, opposite Haden, meaning the team would be in the market for a slot corner. While a veteran would be an option here, I really like some of the options in this draft, including Elijah Molden, Shaun Wade, and Kary Vincent, all of whom could be found in the middle rounds. Regardless of who the Steelers plan on starting in 2021, cornerback should be on their list of draft needs.


When should the Steelers draft a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Round 1
    (4 votes)
  • 52%
    Rounds 2-3
    (41 votes)
  • 35%
    Rounds 4-5
    (28 votes)
  • 3%
    Rounds 6-7
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    UDFA/Don’t draft a cornerback
    (2 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now

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