Because of the one back and multiple receiver sets, teams feel it's important to have three cornerbacks on the field at a high percentage of the time in order to match up against all the fast receivers. For this reason we are seeing more and more teams select cornerbacks in the first three rounds of the draft.
In 1995 and 1996, we had 25 corners selected in the first three rounds. In the last two drafts (2003 and 2004) that number increased to 33. Nine of the 33 were selected in Round 1 compared to four in the '95 and '96 drafts.
Over the past 10 NFL drafts, 38 cornerbacks have been selected in the first round and 122 have been picked in rounds two and three. Only two positions -- wide receiver with 42 and defensive ends with 41 -- have had more first-round picks over this time period.
The feeling around the league is that you can never have too many good cornerbacks, especially considering how the game is played these days. In the 2002 draft, the Eagles drafted cornerbacks in the first two rounds. Both of the Eagles corners (Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent) were selected to the Pro Bowl the previous season.
In 2004, the top two players in the NFL (salary cap numbers) were cornerbacks -- Antoine Winfield ($12,400,000) and Ty Law ($9,601,333). These cap numbers are higher than Brett Favre ($9,533,333) and Peyton Manning ($8,301,666).
Dante Robinson, the 10th player to be selected in the 2004 draft, played 95 percent of plays in 2004 and had six interceptions. Chris Gamble, another first round selection, tied for the lead in interceptions in the NFC with six. Second-day pick Nathan Vasher had five and returned them an average of 35.4 yards. Randall Gay, an undrafted free agent, started for the Patriots and played well in the Super Bowl.
Here are my rankings for cornerbacks:
1. Antrel Rolle, Miami (Fla.) (6-0 1/8, 201)
Rolle did not work out at the combine, except for doing 15 bench presses. He worked out Miami Pro Day, clocking 4.52 twice in the 40 on grass. He had a 37-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-3 long jump, ran 4.04 in the short shuttle, 11.48 long shuttle and 6.70 in the three-cone drill. Rolle was a cornerback, wide receiver and punt returner in high school. He made the Parade All-American team. He played as a true freshman in 2001 mostly as a nickel back. He has started the past three years and earned All-Big East honors in 2002, 2003 and 2004. He's a tough and aggressive player who is physical and will tackle. He has quick feet and good cover skills and will cover slot in wide formations. Rolle can return punts, shows good hands catching the ball (five INTs in four years at Miami). He was beaten in deep coverage several times this past season. He's more fit for a safety because of his physical style. Rolle had some off-field problems last year, but he's a good person coming from a good family.
2. Adam "Pac Man" Jones, West Virginia (5-91/2, 187)
Jones did not work out at the combine, but did so at West Virginia Pro Day. He ran the 40s in 4.38 and 4.41. He had a 381/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot long jump and did nine strength reps. He was a running back and defensive back in high school. He gained 1,850 yards and had six INTs in his senior year. Jones was also an all-state basketball player. He played but did not start in 2002. He started in 2003 and returned kickoffs (26.3 average) and punts. Started all games in 2004 and also returned punts and kickoffs. Jones is very quick with very good toughness for his size. He could be bigger and has some character flaws. He's somewhat like Phillip Buchanon (Raiders) as a player. He has the skills to be very good.
3. Carlos Rogers, Auburn (6-0 3/8, 196)
Rogers had a complete workout at the combine. He ran two 40s in 4.44 and 4.46. He also ran 3.82 in the short shuttle, 10.96 in the long shuttle and 6.70 in the cone drill. He had a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-6 broad jump and did 11 bench presses. He was a running back and defensive back in high school. He also lettered in basketball and track. Rogers attended Hargrave Academy before starting school at Auburn. He played in 2001 as a true freshman, starting 10 games. This past season the four-year starter won the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back. Rogers has very good athletic abilities. He's a physical player who will tackle. He may be best as a zone corner. Rogers did not play well in 2003, but came back strong in 2004. He's a good young man who takes care of business. He works good in the weight room and will be a good player. I'm not sure if he will ever get to the Pro Bowl.
4. Fabian Washington, Nebraska (5-101/2, 188)
Washington worked out at the combine, but didn't do the cone drill or the long shuttle. He had a 411/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-9 long jump and ran 3.91 in the short shuttle. He was a defensive back and wide receiver in high school. He also lettered in track and basketball. Washington started 11 games in 2002 as a true freshman. In 2003, he started 13 games and 11 games in 2004, finishing with 11 career interceptions. He has outstanding athletic abilities. He's an instinctive player who has been durable. He's not real big (built) and there are questions regarding his toughness. He has speed everyone looks for. The question is why didn't Washington do any cone drill. He's a little bit of a gamble, but he could be very good.
5. Justin Miller, Clemson (5-93/4, 201)
He worked out at the combine, but didn't do any shuttle drills. He ran two 40s in 4.42 and 4.45. Miller had a 411/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-8 long jump, ran 4.55 in the short shuttle and 7.15 in the cone drill. He also did 15 bench presses. He was a running back and defensive back in high school. As a senior, Miller scored 27 TDs and returned three more on kickoffs. He also lettered in track where his was the state of Kentucky's long jump champion. He started eight games as a true freshman. In 2002, he had eight interceptions and averaged 35 yards on 13 kickoff returns. He started all games in 2003 and in 2004 he led the nation in kickoff return (33.1 avg.) and scored two TDs, both against Florida State. He's strong and physical and a great natural athlete with very good speed (ran 4.35 and 4.37 on mondo surface, which is very fast). He tough and aggressive, but might be too heavy at 201. He also needs to improve his work habits. This is the type of player you either hit a home run with or you're not very happy with. He has a lot of talent, but the question is does he always use it.
6. Marlin Jackson, Michigan (6-0 5/8, 198)
Jackson had a complete workout at the combine. He ran 4.52 and 4.56 in the 40, 3.96 short shuttle, 10.91 long shuttle and 6.96 three-cone drill (he ran a little better at Michigan Pro Day on fast track). He had a 36-inch long jump, a 10-foot-5 broad jump and did 23 lifts. He was a four-year starter at running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He was also a three-year starter in basketball. Jackson started seven games in 2001 as a true freshman and then started 13 games in 2002. He switched jerseys -- from No. 20 to No. 3 -- prior to 2002. He played some safety in 2003 and moved back to corner in 2004. Jackson has the size you want to match up with big receivers. He's a physical player with good strength and seems quick. He may be better in zone than man coverage. He's a good worker who will tackle vs. the run. Jackson had some off-field problems in the summer of 2003. I think he is a good person and a solid player. He did very well in combine drills. He injured his wrist during Pro Day but it's okay now.
7. Corey Webster, LSU (6-0 1/8, 199)
Webster did not run at the combine due to injuries to his knee and toe. He only lifted. At LSU Pro Day, he ran 4.50 twice in the 40. He had a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-4 broad jump and did 13 bench presses. He also ran 4.03 in the short shuttle and 6.93 in the cone drill. Webster was a three-year starter at quarterback in high school. He was also an outstanding basketball player. At LSU, he played at wide receiver in 2001 before moving to corner in 2002 and led the Southeast Conference with seven interceptions in 2003. He did not play well in 2004 due to a shoulder injury he suffered in the spring and also a hip pointer he suffered vs. Oregon State. He was a very instinctive player before the 2004 season. I did not see a burst needed by cornerbacks. He is tough and aggressive and has good hands. Webster is real wild card pick.
8. Eric Green, Virginia Tech (5-11 3/8, 198)
Green did everything at the combine, except for the long shuttle, three-cone drill and lifts. He ran 4.52 and 4.56 in the 40 and 3.90 in the short shuttle. He had a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot broad jump. At Virginia Tech Pro Day, Green ran 11.09 in the long shuttle and 6.69 in the cone drill. He was an outstanding quarterback in high school and also played wide receiver and defensive. He lettered in track and basketball as well. Green holds the state of Florida record by returning an interception 105 yards. He played as a true freshman in a very good program in 2000 and missed the 2002 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He's a tough, physical player with good ball skills. He has good athletic ability.
9. Darrent Williams, Oklahoma State (5-8 5/8, 176)
Williams had a complete workout at the combine. He ran 4.30 and 4.36 in the 40, 3.96 in the short shuttle, 10.98 in the long shuttle and 6.97 in the three-cone drill. He also had a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-4 broad jump and did 16 bench presses. Williams started four games as a true freshman and has started ever since, except in 2004 when he broke his forearm. He only lacks height and weight for the position. He has everything else you need to play corner -- speed, instincts, toughness and production. He had 11 interceptions in three years (none in 2004). Williams is also a good return man.
10. Antonio Perkins, Oklahoma (5-103/4, 190)
Perkins had a complete workout at the combine. He ran the 40s in 4.49 and 4.53, the short shuttle in 4.07, the long in 11.16 and 7.17 in the cone drill. He had a 40-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-6 long jump and did 10 bench presses. Perkins played wide receiver in high school. He's a very good athlete, hard worker and a very good punt returner. He has cornerback burst and quickness and is a top-flight person. He missed five games in the fall due to a sprained medial collateral ligament to the left knee vs. Texas. He needs to be tougher and stronger. He could be a game breaker as a punt return man.
11. Bryant McFadden, Florida State (5-113/4, 193)
He worked out at the combine, but chose only to do lifts, jumps and short shuttle (4.04). At Florida State Pro Day, he ran 4.41 and 4.50 in the 40 and 6.90 in the three-cone drill. He also had a 381/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-10 broad jump and did 23 bench presses (tied for most among CBs with Marlin Jackson). McFadden was a first-team All-USA Today selection coming out of high school. He started the past two years after red-shirting his first year at Florida State. He has the size and athletic ability with quick feet for the position. He might be better at safety (free) than a corner and will tackle.
12. Stanley Wilson, Stanford (5-113/4, 185)
Wilson did not do everything at the combine due to a right calf cramp that forced him to skip the shuttles and cone drills. He ran the 40s in 4.36 and 4.41. He had a 391/2-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 long jump. At Stanford Pro Day, Wilson ran the shuttles in 4.21 (short) and 11.08 (long), 6.75 in the cone drill and did 14 strength reps. He played running back and defensive back in high school. Wilson has started the past three years after redshirting in 2004. He has top speed, but more of a straight-line runner. He has cover skills with good athletic ability. His father played in the NFL.
13. Scott Starks, Wisconsin (5-81/2, 172)
Starks did everything at the combine. He ran 40s in 4.39 and 4.37, the short shuttle in 3.90, the long shuttle in 10.96 and the cone in 6.99. He had a 43-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot-5 broad jump and did 13 reps. Starks, who also ran track at Wisconsin, started 10 games in 2001 as a true freshman and totaled 48 starts in four years. He finished his career with seven interceptions. Starks lacks the size you want at this position, but he plays receivers tough. He's a very good athlete with very good closing speed.
14. Stanford Routt, Houston (6-1 3/8, 193)
Routt did everything at the combine except lifting. He ran 4.27 and 4.28 in the 40-yard dash, 3.20 in the short shuttle, 10.65 in the long shuttle and 6.63 in the cone drill. He had a 361/2-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-9 broad jump. He's a very good athlete with good speed and quickness, but he needs to get tougher and stronger. He has been a track person playing football, but he's getting better. This player has lots of upside.
15. Travis Daniels, LSU (6-0 5/8, 194)
He did everything but lifting at the combine. He ran 4.55 and 4.61 in the 40-yard dash, 3.97 in the short shuttle, 11.07 in the long shuttle and 6.95 in the cone drill. He had a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot long jump. Daniels ran again at LSU Pro Day and was timed at 4.45 and 4.48 indoors on AstroTurf. He has played both safety and corner. He's a smart player, not flashy, but makes the plays. Daniels is a good tackler even with his thin frame. He has been well coached.
16. Domonique Foxworth, Maryland (5-11 1/8, 184)
Foxworth had a complete workout at the combine. He ran 4.34 and 4.36 in the 40. He had a 41-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-5 long jump and did 14 reps. Foxworth also clocked 3.89 in the short shuttle, 10.70 in the long shuttle and 6.78 in the cone drill. He played running back and defensive back in high school. After playing as a true freshman in 2001, he started 40 games over the next three years. He had eight picks before the 2004 season, but did not record one last fall. He looked good at the combine, but lacks size and is not real physical. He can really move.
17. Kelvin Hayden, Illinois (5-10 3/8, 197)
Hayden did everything at the combine. He ran his 40s in 4.45 and 4.53. He had a 34-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-3 long jump and did 17 reps. His shuttle times were 3.90 in the short and 10.96 in the long and also clocked 6.87 in the three-cone drill. Hayden was a phenomenal high school athlete from the Chicago area. He was a four-year starter and a two-time city track sprint champion in the 55 and 200 meters (indoors) and the 100 and 200 meters (outdoors). He was a junior college transfer who played wide receiver in 2003 and corner in 2004. He did a good job covering Braylon Edwards (three catches for 18 yards). His best football should be ahead of him.
18. Dustin Fox, Ohio State (5-10 7/8, 191)
Fox only ran and high jumped at the combine. His 40s time were 4.43 and 4.46 and had a vertical of 431/2 inches. He later ran 4.21 in the short shuttle, 11.46 in the long shuttle, a 7.07 cone drill and had a 10-foot-7 broad jump. He also did seven bench presses. Fox played free safety in high school, which may be his best position in the NFL. I wish he was taller for the position. He's a very good player, smart with good instincts. He broke his arms and missed four games in 2004. He will be a very solid player at possible nickel back. He will bring outstanding character to any team.
19. Ronald Bartell, Jr., Howard (6-11/4, 211)
Bartell worked out at the combine, but did not do the long jump or shuttles. He ran two 40s in times of 4.37 and 4.39. He also had a 351/2-inch vertical jump and did 21 strength reps. He played two years at Central Michigan before transferring to Howard in 2003. At Howard, Bartell played corner most of the time, but also played a little at safety (maybe his best position for the NFL). He has good athletic ability and has good size and speed, but he doesn't have great ball skills. He transferred to Howard because his parents wanted him at a better academic school.
20. Karl Paymah, Washington State (6-0, 2004)
Paymah had a complete workout at the combine. He ran 4.35 and 4.40 in the 40, 3.91 in the short shuttle, 10.92 in the long shuttle and 7.09 in the cone drill. He had a 411/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-6 broad jump and lifted 15 times. He played defensive back and wide receiver in high school and also ran track. Paymah redshirted in 2000 and started the last three seasons. He has good athletic ability for the position, but needs to work on tackling. He has the size and speed you need at this position. Washington State DBs did well in the NFL last year.
21. Abraham Elimimian, Hawaii (5-9 5/8, 190)
Elimimian ran 4.62 and 4.66 in 40s at the combine and also was timed at 4.05 in the short shuttle (he ran better at a workout in California). He had a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-1 long jump. Elimimian started in 40-plus games and finished with five interceptions in 2004. He plays faster than his timed speed.
22. Alphonso Hodge, Miami (Ohio) (5-103/4, 203)
Hodge ran at the combine, but a tightened hamstring forced him to skip the broad jump, shuttles and cone drill. He did run the 40s in 4.44 and 4.46 and had a 34-inch vertical jump. At Miami (Ohio) Pro Day, Hodge had a 10-foot-21/2 long jump, a 3.99 short shuttle, 11.77 in the long shuttle and 7.34 in the cone drill. He also did 20 bench presses. He reshirted in 2000 and has started the past three years. He has very good speed and athletic ability. He can change directions with his quick feet and he will tackle, but he's not instinctive (only had one interception in four years). Hodge should be a very good special teams player.
23. Nick Collins, Bethune-Cookman (5-11 1/8, 206)
Collins did everything at the combine. He ran the 40s in 4.36 and 4.40, 4.16 in the short shuttle, 11.15 in the long shuttle and 6.94 in the three-cone drill. He had a 40-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-10 broad jump and did 11 strength reps. He played safety and linebacker at Bethune-Cookman. He played cornerback in the Senior Bowl. Collins has the speed and the physical tools needed to learn how to play the position. His dad was a quarterback at this school. Collins needs to develop his talent.