This year's cornerback class reflects the current emphasis in the league for taller, bigger, faster and more aggressive defensive backs. The cornerbacks at the top of the draft class all excel in press coverage. So which one could make an early impact as a rookie? Let's take a look.
1. Xavier Rhodes - Minnesota Vikings (FSU)
6' 1" and 210 lbs
Draft position: Vikings Round 1 pick # 25
140 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks, 8 INTs, 31 passes defended and 1 FF
Rhodes is a tall athletic press corner who is slated to start opposite Chris Cook in the secondary. With the loss of Antoine Winfield the Vikings were in need of a quality cornerback and they got one in Rhodes. Not only is Rhodes tall, but he posted a 40.5 inch vertical at the 2013 NFL Combine.
Where I rank him: His average ranking is around 18. I have seen him ranked as high as 14 among cornerbacks and I really don't have a problem with that ranking. I would rank him at 14.
2. Dee Milliner - New Yorks Jets (Alabama)
6' 0" and 201 lbs
Draft position: Jets Round 1 pick # 9
136 tackles, 9 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 6 INTs (1 TD), 41 passes defended, 2 FF (1 FR)
Milliner isn't going to replace Darrell Revis but he is going to make an impact for the Jets. How early will be the question but they didn't draft him high for him to languish on the bench. Milliner's speed was questioned before the combine but he certainly put that to rest posting a 4.37 40 yard dash.
Where I rank him: His average ranking is around 20. I have seen some sites rank our own BW3 over Milliner and not even I am that optimistic about him. I have also seen ATV ranked higher and of course that competition is still open at RCB. I would rank Milliner at 16.
3. Desmond Trufant - Atlanta Falcons (Washington)
6' 0" and 190 lbs
195 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 6 INTs, 38 passes defended, 3 FF (1 FR for TD)
Draft position: Falcons Round 1 pick # 22
The Falcons lost 3 defensive backs following the 2012 season so it was hardly surprising they drafted a cornerback high. I also like second round draft pick Robert Alford but he will likely get rotated in and won't see the reps that Trufant will as he is pegged to start opposite Asante Samuel. The latest word out of Atlanta is that Alford is providing stiff competition and he will also likely play though I expect Trufant to start on the outside.
Where I rank him: I have seen him ranked as high as 13. He is going to start and will get plenty of opportunities. I would rank him at 27.
4. Johnthan Banks - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Miss. St.)
6' 2" and 185 lbs
Draft position: Buccaneers Round 2 pick # 43
221 tackles, 11.5 TFL. 4 sacks, 15 INTs (3 TDs), 41 passes defended, and 5 FF
Another good press corner who can play both man and zone. The overall consensus is that Banks will enter the season starting at RCB opposite Darrelle Revis. Banks is a little bit nicked up right now with a slight hammy strain so that bears watching.
Where I rank him: I have seen wildly differing opinions on Banks and really I'm not sure his average ranking is an accurate reflection as some low rankings screw the curve. I would rank him a bit lower than Trufant and comparable to a guy like Chris Houston or Vontae Davis who rank in the low 20s to early 30s. So somewhere around 27.
4. D.J. Hayden - Oakland Raiders (Houston)
5' 11" and 191 lbs
Draft position: Raiders Round 1 pick # 12
127 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 1 sack, 6 INTs (3 TDs), 25 passes defended, and 6 FF
Hayden's miraculous story has been well documented and of course tape on him from 2012 is short but he is clearly one of the better defensive backs in this draft. Of concern however is a recent injury to his abdomen which put him in the hospital (appears precautionary) and sidelined him during most of OTAs. He is also dealing with a slight hammy issue too. He won't play Friday night in the preseason opener.
Where I rank him: Despite the talent, I have to put him as unranked simply because the injury history is starting to grow. Monitor the injury situation closely as it comes time to draft. *If* healthy, he should rank in the 30s.
5. David Amerson - Washington Redskins (NC State)
6' 1" and 205 lbs
Draft position: Redskins Round 2 pick # 51
177 tackles, 3 TFL, 0 sacks, 17 INTs, (3 TDs), and 1 FF
Amerson has nice size and good measurables and certainly has the athleticism to play in the league. He is getting plenty of first team reps as the starting corners for the Redskins are dealing with minor injuries. Amerson has said publicly he is still learning press coverage but it sounds like he is coming along. It is certainly possible he could snag a starting role for the Redskins.
Where I rank him: Unranked though like Hayden this situation bears watching as does the injuries to Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall. The rookie could grow into the role and work his way onto the field.