The '20 Draft: Cornerbacks

Okudah

JACKSONVILLE – The consensus at corner is overwhelming.

More than any other position in the 2020 NFL Draft, and more so than in any other year at the position in recent memory, there's no question about the best cornerback:

Jeff Okudah is at the top of the list.

"And it's not close," CBSSports.com NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson said.

How good is the Ohio State cornerback? Good enough to possibly merit being selected No. 3 overall, which is early for a cornerback. And good enough that analysts discuss him as perhaps the draft's second-best player behind his Ohio State teammate, edge defender Chase Young.

That's lofty stuff for a corner, but analysts say Okudah deserves the status and speak of him not only as being as close to a can't-prospect as there is in the '20 class, but as good as any cornerback prospect in recent memory.

"He's way up there," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said, adding that only Marshon Lattimore – the No. 11 overall selection by the New Orleans Saints in 2017 – had a higher grade from him than Odukah among recent corners. "I've got a big grade on him.

"He just does everything you'd want in terms of size, length, twitch, competitiveness, intelligence, ball skills, toughness. He checks all the boxes."

Jeremiah and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. both compared Okudah favorably with New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Associated Press's NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.

"He, to me, is what Stephon Gilmore was coming out and what Patrick Peterson was coming out," Kiper said. "He's going to be expected to be one of the best cornerbacks in this league. He has the skillset. He has the mindset for it."

Okudah has been projected anywhere from No. 3 overall to No. 9 to the Jaguars, who many believe will select a cornerback on Days 1 or 2 of the draft. While Okudah is projected by most analysts to be selected before No. 9, cornerback is considered perhaps the draft's best position – along with an unusually deep receiver class.

"It's deep," Wilson said of the corner class.

"It's a talented class of corners," NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said.

C.J. Henderson of Florida emerged during the pre-draft process as the No. 2 corner according to many analysts.

"I think he'll be the second one to go," Jeremiah said. "He's just really explosive. He can play press. He can play off. He's real loose and fluid. He shows the ability to play the ball down the field. The main knock on him is just tackling. He's just missed way too many tackles. That's kind of the flaw."

Other corners considered by many on nearly the same level as Henderson include Kristian Fulton of Louisiana State, Trevon Diggs of Alabama, A.J. Terrell of Clemson and Jeff Gladney of Texas Christian with players such as Noah Igbinoghene of Auburn and Bryce Hall of Virginia early Day 2 possibilities.

"It's a good group," Jeremiah said. "If you want to take a corner in the second round, that's the list of names you would be choosing from. And I think there's a lot of good players in that group."

POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND CORNERBACKS

Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State; C.J. Henderson, Florida; Trevon Diggs, Alabama; Kristian Fulton, Louisiana State; Jeff Gladney, Texas-Christian; A.J. Terrell, Clemson; Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn; Jaylon Johnson, Utah; Bryce Hall, Virginia.

CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE A CORNERBACK IN ROUND 1

Very high, perhaps second only to defensive tackle.

JAGUARS AT CORNERBACK

Tre Herndon, Rashaan Melvin, D.J. Hayden, Parry Nickerson, Brandon Watson.

OEHSER ANALYSIS

The Jaguars seem certain to select a cornerback early, with the main question being how early. While the team likes Herndon as one starter, and while the signing of Melvin as an unrestricted free agent last month gives them an option at the other, the position needs a young front-line player to replenish a position depleted in the last year by the trades of former starters and Pro Bowl cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. The guess here is Okudah will be gone when the Jaguars select at No. 9, and it seems doubtful the team will trade up for him. While need could meet value here when the Jaguars select No. 20 overall in Round 1, the position is deep enough they could find a front-line starting corner at No. 42 overall in Round 2.

SEXTON ANALYSIS

When the 2018 season opened, the Jaguars had what they believed was the NFL's best cornerback tandem that when paired with their pass rush created a nasty combination. Most of those guys are gone, so you can expect the Jaguars to find a top corner somewhere early in next week's NFL Draft and there are plenty from which to choose. Let's assume they have no shot at Okudah unless they're willing to part with draft capital to move up. Henderson, Diggs and Terrell figure to hear their names called Thursday evening, but even this abbreviated draft process has uncovered gems who won't wait much longer. Follow Gladney, Fulton and Johnson because they're expected to contribute immediately as well as the guys expected to go in Round 1. My guess is the Jaguars will use one of their first three picks on a cornerback. It likely will be at No. 42 in Round 2 where the value seems strongest.

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