JACKSONVILLE – Family matters. A lot, actually.
We're talking about the cornerback position, where family and bloodlines have taken on a particular importance in the 2021 NFL Draft.
"You've got a lot of legacy candidates," NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks said.
Four of the '21 draft's top cornerback prospects – Patrick Surtain II of Alabama, Jaycee Horn of South Carolina, Asante Samuel Jr. of Florida State and Elijah Molden of Washington – are sons of former NFL players: former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain II, former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, former NFL cornerback Asante Samuel and former NFL cornerback Alex Molden.
"It seems like all these kids are coming up, and they've grown up around the game," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I've never seen anything like where we've had this many guys at one position. I think it's pretty cool."
Brooks and Jeremiah said the family connection bodes well for the players' chances of transitioning successfully from college to the NFL.
"The transition is not going to be a big deal to those guys," Jeremiah said. "They're comfortable. They grew up around teams and locker rooms and they've learned kind of to stay even keel. They don't get carried away with the highs or the lows because they've seen their dad experience all that stuff and he's been able to kind of guide them through that. I think it's very helpful."
Surtain and Horn are widely considered two of the class' top corners along with Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech. North Carolina corner Greg Newsome also has been widely projected as a possible first-round selection. Concerns over a back injury could cause Farley to slip low or out of Round 1, according to many analysts.
The cornerback class is considered strong through the first and second round, with ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper saying he expects six or seven corners in the second and third round after four are selected in the first round and adding that "The cornerback depth is outstanding."
Jeremiah said the cornerback depth lasts about two rounds.
"After that, it really starts to drop off on my list," Jeremiah said. "For those teams looking for corners, they're going to all go, so you'd better get on that ride early in the first or second round."
HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS
The Jaguars' approach to this position this weekend could come down to making an already strong position stronger. The position already includes 2020 first-round selection CJ Henderson and 2021 free-agent signee Shaquill Griffin – two players who represent major investment and who are expected to make the position a strength for the foreseeable future. The Jaguars also last month re-signed veterans Sidney Jones IV and Tre Herndon, after which Head Coach Urban Meyer said, "I really like where we're at with the four corners." With corner considered strong in the draft, particularly in the early rounds, the Jaguars could see it as a position of value with one of their five selections in the first three rounds.
PROJECTED FIRST-ROUND CORNERBACKS
Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech; Patrick Surtain II, Alabama; Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State; Jaycee Horn, South Carolina; Tyson Campbell, Georgia; Greg Newsome II, Northwestern.
BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS
The 2021 cornerback class features a talented collection of long, rangy athletes with refined skills and NFL bloodlines. Surtain II, Horn, Samuel and Molden step into the family business as high IQ cover corners with speed, quickness and skills. Newsome, Caleb Farley, Georgia's Tyson Campbell and Georgia's Eric Stokes are first-generation talents with the potential to pop at the next level.
Kentucky's Kelvin Joseph is a late riser up the charts due to his impressive physical tools and spectacular flashes as a playmaker. The Kentucky standout remains a work in progress at the position but his upside teases and torments scouts. With only nine career starts on his resume, Joseph falls into the category of "boom-or-bust" prospect but his natural talent and athleticism make him a worthwhile gamble.
It is hard to find cornerbacks with A-plus athleticism and technical skills with a diverse game but Surtain is the total package at the position. The 6-feet-2, 202-pounder is polished with his footwork, turns and transitions and he also possesses superb instincts and awareness. Surtain is a "plug-and-play" prospect with a scheme-friendly game that will enable him to play in any system. Although he lacks some of the pizzazz of his counterparts, the Alabama star is a reliable corner with a high floor as a prospect.
POSITION RANKING: Fourth of 10.
CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE A CORNERBACK IN ROUND 1
So-so, with a deciding factor possibly being the Jaguars' position at No. 25 in Round 1. If a highly rated cornerback slides to that position, the value could make it difficult to pass even if decision-makers don't consider it a need position.
CORNERBACKS ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER
CJ Henderson, Shaquill Griffin, Tre Herndon, Sidney Jones IV, Luq Barcoo, Chris Claybrooks (returner), Nathan Meadors, Brandon Rusnak, Josiah Scott.
Brooks: "There is a lot of cornerback talent. You should be able to find a cornerback or two in this class if you want."