By Michael Stewart
Introduction: With the uncertainty of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a possibly casualty to the salary cap and despite the drama surrounding Eli Apple currently on the mend. GM Dave Gettleman could be on the lookout for a cornerback in the 2018 NFL draft. In fact, I could see Gettleman looking to add a CB via free agency before the draft as well. This year’s group is deep (projected 32 could be drafted) and the Giants could wait in either day 2 or 3 to find a quality CB. Below are a few options for the Giants in each round courtesy of Walterfootball.com.
Minkah Fitzpatrick-6’1/203 (Alabama): Fitzpatrick had 60 tackles, one interception, eight passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2017. He played well, covering receivers downfield, staying around the ball, and helping out his cornerbacks. With his versatility, Fitzpatrick can play nickel corner over slot receivers, cover tight ends in man, and be the deep free safety center fielder who protects the deep part of the field. He also can function as a strong safety and be the eighth man in the box; which is why you’ll also see him featured with the safety prospects.
Joshua Jackson-6’1/192 (Iowa): Many had Jackson as the highest-graded cornerback for the 2018 NFL Draft. It is easy to understand why Jackson is held in such high esteem as he had tremendous ball production in 2017 with eight interceptions and 18 passes broken up to go along with 48 tackles. Evaluators like Jackson’s size to go along with his speed and athleticism. With his skill set and production, Jackson could be the first cornerback off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson put an exclamation point on 2017 with a three-interception game against Ohio State. The Iowa coaching staff wanted Jackson to turn more tips and batted passes into interceptions, and he responded by doing that against Ohio State with those three picks. Jackson has a good size for the NFL with length and athleticism. Denzel Ward-5’10/191 (Ohio State): Ward totaled 37 tackles with 15 passes broken up and two interceptions in 2017. For the NFL, Ward has good speed, athleticism, ball skills, and quick feet to run the route to prevent separation. He looks like a future starter and could have No. 1 corner potential. While he is shorter than ideal, Ward is very good at blanketing receivers and keeping them from getting open.
Carlton Davis-6’1/195 (Auburn): Davis totaled 36 tackles, 11 passes broken up and one interception. He is a good corner with size, speed and length. The junior can battle big wideouts as he is a physical defender who really competes. Davis can also have issues with coverage downfield and deep speed, like many big corners. Some sources believe Davis could end up being a first-round pick, but others aren’t as high on him.
Mike Hughes-5’11/185 (Central Florida): Hughes is a natural cover corner with speed, quick feet, and agility. He is very fluid and does a good job of running the route with receivers to prevent them from gaining separation. He keeps receivers from coming open and is quick to recover if they get a step. Hughes has nice hips to turn to run downfield with speed receivers. He also is a willing tackler.
Jaire Alexander-5’11/188 (Louisville): Alexander missed four games because of a knee injury early in 2017, and then dealt with a broken hand that caused him to miss two more games. When on the field, Alexander played well with 19 tackles, four passes broken up and an interception. He is a good cover corner who would be a first-round pick if it weren’t for the durability concerns.
J.C Jackson-6’1/193 (Maryland): Team sources from multiple teams have really liked what they’ve seen from Jackson’s film. They say that staff at Maryland speak well of him as a person and that he hasn’t had problems there. Evaluators are grading Jackson for Day 2 because of the off-the-field concerns, plus they say that he has some eye-discipline issues and free lances too much. Jackson is a superb athlete who could be a steal as a second- or third-rounder, if he can stay out of trouble.
Isaiah Oliver-6’1/190 (Colorado): There is some media buzz about Oliver being a first-rounder, but his play doesn’t warrant that high of a grade. Oliver has size, length, and movement skills, but he hasn’t played up to his skill set yet. He also needs a lot of work to play off-man coverage. In 2017, Oliver totaled 13 passes broken up, two interceptions and 25 tackles. In speaking to some team sources, they thought Oliver could be a solid second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Tarvarus McFadden-6’2/198 (Florida State): McFadden is at his best in press-man and zone coverages rather than off-man coverage. He can struggle with deep speed down the sideline and doesn’t always play the ball well. He has eye discipline issues and struggles with the ball over his head. Sources from multiple teams thought McFadden should return to school and improve before going pro, but McFadden decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Team evaluators say McFadden is receiving second-day grades because of his skill set, but I believe he could slip into day 3.
Kevin Toliver-6’2/193 (LSU): Toliver recorded 28 tackles with 10 passes broken up and an interception in 2017. In speaking with scouts at multiple teams, Toliver is a bit of a love/hate prospect. Some sources are very down on him as they say he has first-round talent, but that he doesn’t play up it or work to maximize his ability. Toliver gives up too much separation on a consistent basis. They are critical over his lack of instincts as well. Others like him and feel that he was played out of position. They say that he is a press-man corner and that LSU put him in off-man coverage way too much. Christian Campbell-6’1/194 (Penn State): Campbell has excellent size to defend big receivers in the NFL. The senior turned in a solid 2017 season, notching 45 tackles with 12 passes broken up and one interception. As a junior, he totaled 31 tackles with six breakups and an interception. Campbell could really help himself at the Senior Bowl by showing the speed to run with receivers and prevent separation. Sources say that Campbell is a workout warrior and is expected to run really fast at the combine and in pre-draft workouts, but he doesn’t play up to that speed.
D.J Reed-6’1/194 (Kansas State): Reed is an undersized corner, but one who has the speed and coverage skills to prevent separation. He totaled 47 tackles with nine passes broken up and four interceptions in 2017. He also was a star on special teams, averaging 14.9 yards per punt return with a touchdown and 34 yards per kick return with a touchdown. For the NFL, Reed projects as a nickel corner who also could be a team’s feature returner on special teams. In 2016, he recorded 75 tackles with 16 passes broken up and three interceptions.
Holton Hill-6’3/200 (Texas): Hill was having a quality junior season for the Longhorns with some quality games against the good receivers on Texas’ schedule. However with three games remaining, Hill was suspended by the Longhorns coaching staff. In 2017, he totaled 51 tackles with two interceptions and six passes broken up. Hill decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
Final Thoughts: Unlike former GM Jerry Reese, Gettleman is not projected to have as much value on the cornerback position as opposed to offensive or defensive linemen. Therefore; I can see Gettleman selecting a cornerback somewhere on day 3 and by all indications; will have plenty of talent still available.