2016 NFL Draft: Florida State's Jalen Ramsey atop DB class

There is a decent chance that at least 5 cornerbacks go in the first round, but that number could jump up to 6 if Mackensie Alexander is high enough on a team's board.

The second round could feature big cornerbacks with high-end athletic traits but below-average tape. Once the draft gets into Day 3 (Rounds 4-7), the talent falls off a little bit, but this draft has an unusually high number of CBs who are pushing 6-feet so that should make teams happy.

Let's explore the 2016 defensive back class, starting with cornerbacks (scroll down for safeties).

Teams with greatest need

Top 5 players at the position

1. Jalen Ramsey: We'll keep Ramsey at the cornerback spot and let teams figure out if they want to play him at CB or FS. Regardless, he's a long, athletic player with ball skills to go along with his physical traits.

2. Vernon Hargreaves: He's not the tallest or the fastest cornerback, but he has the kind of short-area twitch and competitiveness that allows him to attack the catch point as well as any cornerback in this draft.

3. Eli Apple: I don't see his tape as anything spectacular, but it is solid. What will likely push him from the second round to the first is his combination of size and speed for the position.

4. Mackensie Alexander: Most NFL teams I speak with see Alexander as a nickel cornerback who lacks the value of a first-round pick. With that said, Alexander competes hard in man coverage and loves to talk all game long.

5. William Jackson III: Jackson checks the height, speed and ball-skills boxes and that might push him into the first round. His only area of concern is his physicality as a tackler.

Sources Tell Us

"He's a good football player. I like him, but he's not tall and he has average speed. It's pretty rare to see cornerbacks who don't have great size and speed get taken early. If we were looking for a cornerback with a top-10 pick, I don't know if our GM would be willing to take him that early." -- AFC personnel executive on Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves

Most overrated

Xavien Howard: At times, I don't know if Howard is in coverage or attempting a Jiu Jitsu submission. While I like Howard's physicality, he must dial back the grabbing beyond five yards or he will see his pass-interference penalties spike higher than they already are.

Most underrated

Juston Burris: With size, a willingness to tackle and an ability to match up around the field in man coverage, what's not to like? Burris isn't getting much buzz in NFL circles, but he has the tools to be an eventual starter in the league.

Boom or bust

Artie Burns: His stock has skyrocketed since defensive backs coaches have been able to dig into his tape. Burns catches like a wide receiver and is a championship hurdler, so you know he's athletic. The tape and technique are raw and uneven and Burns appears to coast on his athleticism too often. Great potential, but a projection player with a lower floor.

Sleeper alert

Brandon Williams: You probably haven't heard much or seen much of the Texans A&M cornerback with one year at the position, but teams are in love with his potential. The former running back has very good size, speed and movement skills and evaluators see him as a ball of clay that can be molded into an effective starter with more experience.


While I see this draft as having some decent safety talent near the top, a couple of teams I've spoken with have railed against the position's overall high-end talent and lack of depth.

It's relatively easy to poke a glaring hole in each of the top 10 safeties from ACL injuries, to lack of speed, to lack of production and onto a lack of overall size. If a team wants a potential starter, they might have to grab one inside the first 100 picks.

Teams with greatest need

Top 5 players at the position

1. Karl Joseph: Recovering from ACL tear, but combines ferocious competitive spirit with rare urgency. Has speed and toughness to play high or low.

2. Keanu Neal: Grown man who drives through his targets as a hitter. Better tackler and enforcer than cover man, but for teams looking for a thumper in the box, he's your guy.

3. Vonn Bell: Bell definitely has some fans out there and could end up as one of the top two safeties drafted. Finesse safety known more for coverage than physicality.

4. T.J. Green: Flying up the draft boards. Some teams see him as a slot corner. Green tested like a madman and teams are willing to take the athlete and ignore average tape.

5. Miles Killebrew: All about business. Quiet but assertive as a hitter. Killebrew is a little stiff and has limitations in coverage, but he plays the game like an NFL box safety already.

Sources Tell Us

"He's not special, but he's solid. I needed to go see him in person because he looked so small on tape and he looks the same in person. You can't play him around the line of scrimmage, but he's got instincts in coverage." -- AFC scout on Ohio State's Vonn Bell

Most overrated

Jayron Kearse: Absolutely awful tape in too many games. Unusual height (6-4) for the position makes him a novelty, but doesn't play to his talent or athleticism and ends up out of position far too often.

Most underrated

DeAndre Houston-Carson: A safety who has experience at cornerback, Houston-Carson grabbed seven interceptions over the last two seasons and blocked four punts in 2014. Will step in and immediately contribute as a special-teams ace and might become a starter within the first couple of seasons.

Boom or bust

Darian Thompson: He didn't run or test as well as teams expected and his tape shows a lack of awareness at times. However, it would be foolish to ignore his ridiculous production with 19 career interceptions.

Sleeper alert

Marqui Christian: Small-school hitter who has the attention of teams as a Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) diamond. Christian has played as a single-high safety, but could be used as an interchangeable safety. Will come into the league as a backup, but could become a starter.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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