The transformation of the NFL into a passing league makes it imperative for defenses to feature long, rangy athletes on the perimeter. The 2014 class of cornerbacks has several intriguing prospects with the skills to shine as ballhawks in man- or zone-heavy schemes.
Justin Gilbert is an athletic cornerback with terrific hands, instincts and ball skills. Darqueze Dennard and Justin Verrett are sticky press-man defenders with games deeply rooted in sound fundamentals.
1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Big, athletic corner with natural ball skills and instincts. Gilbert bounced back from a disappointing junior campaign to show scouts he has the potential to be a lockdown corner at the next level.
2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Polished technician adept at smothering receivers in press coverage. Questions about his speed and athleticism will impact his final grade, but coaches who covet fundamentally sound players will favor Dennard over others on this list.
3. Jason Verrett, TCU
Technically sound cover corner with superb instincts, awareness and anticipation. Additionally, Verrett is a willing tackler with a knack for making plays against the run.
4. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Gifted defender with all of the physical tools scouts covet at the position. However, scouts would like to see Roby play with more urgency and aggressiveness on the edge.
5. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Versatile defender capable of playing any position in the secondary. Size is not ideal, but a coach looking for a nickel back will rank Joyner near the top of the charts.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.