This story is written by former first round NFL cornerback Kyle Wilson and current Wake Forest cornerback Isaiah Wingfield. Find their previous collaborative article here: Are Nickel Cornerbacks Worthy of First Round Picks?
In a cornerback class with so much scheme versatility, there are still dream fits that would put our projected first round corners in the best position to succeed. Considering the 33rd Team’s scouting reports and rankings, each team’s most played coverages in the 2021 season, and their projected starters entering the 2022 season our best fits for our top corners are below
Tier 1 CB Dream Fits
Ahmad Gardner | New York Jets
33rd Team CB Rank: 1
Draft Pick: 4 or 10
With two picks in the top 10, and Bryce Hall and D.J. Reed as their projected starters, the Jets will look to add a potential elite corner to their defense.While Gardner is billed as a press man corner, his rare length, elite plant drive, and ball skills make him a great fit in a zone-heavy scheme as well.
Last season the Jets spent 37.3% of their snaps in Cover 3 and 26.4% in Cover 1 via PFF. We compared Gardner to Aqib Talib for his press man skills, but a come to Richard Sherman is just as adequate if used similarly. This could be exactly how coach Saleh, Sherman’s former defensive coordinator, might see Gardner.
Derek Stingley Jr. | Atlanta Falcons
33rd Team CB Rank: 2
Draft Pick: 8
Although Stingley slips outside of the top 10 in most mock drafts, his fall is not talent-related. Selecting Stingley with the 8th pick gives the Falcons one of the best cornerback rooms in the NFL — one with elite young talent and a high upside veteran, in A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward Jr.
This pairing gives Falcons a competitive advantage on the perimeter every week and provides Stingley with veteran leadership and opportunities against second options early in his career. Right now, he shines most in off coverage with the ball in the air. With Terrell in the boundary, Stingley Jr could play in the field, where there’s more time to play the ball and use his WR-like skills when he’s challenged.
Tier 2 CB Dream Fits
Trent McDuffie | Baltimore Ravens
33rd Team CB Rank: 6
Draft Pick: 14
Without the repsf in man coverage on the outside, and the desired length, teams may be hesitant to use a majority of McDuffie’s snaps on the outside on day one. However, his short-area quickness, route recognition, and aggression at the attack point make him the ideal nickel.
With Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters already on the roster, the Ravens not only add talented depth to a room that was depleted last season but can deploy McDuffie in the slot. With just one year left on Peters’ deal, McDuffie can be groomed to start on the outside alongside Humphries in 2023.
Kyler Gordon | New England Patriots
33rd Team CB Rank: 4
Draft Pick: 21
Midway through last season we saw a stark shift in the Patriots’ defensive philosophy. After letting JC Jackson walk in free agency, the Patriots signed Malcolm Butler in free agency. This lack of major activity in free agency could mean them continuing to be more zone than man heavy next season.
With this uncertainty, Gordon’s top of class positional and coverage versatility makes him a fit regardless of the 2022 Patriots defensive scheme. Gordon projects better as an outside corner than McDuffie but has the intelligence and change of direction skills needed to play in the slot. The Patriots will optimize his multifaceted skill set, putting him in the best position to thrive.
Andrew Booth Jr. | Dallas Cowboys
33rd Team CB Rank: 3
Draft Pick: 24
Similar to our Stingley pairing, Booth gives the Cowboys two explosive playmakers on the perimeter. Outside of Stingley Jr, no one has better ball skills in this draft than Andrew Booth Jr. and his explosiveness and the energy he can bring to a defense are second to none.
Last year the Cowboys played a combination of Cover 1 and Cover 3 in their primarily 1 high scheme. If defensive coordinator Dan Quinn chooses to lean more on his base Cover 3, like he did throughout his time in Seattle, it will give Diggs and Booth more chances to play in phase with zone eyes, and make game-changing plays on the football.
Kaiir Elam | Kansas City Chiefs
33rd Team CB Rank: 5
Draft Pick: 29 or 30
Elam’s elite length and athletic ability cater to an aggressive zone scheme that mixes in man coverage. The Chiefs offer this mix — last season they spent 23.7% of snaps in Cover 2, and 23.5% of snaps in Cover 1 via PFF.
Elam will have opportunities to play with zone eyes, and use his adequate plant drive to make plays on the ball. He’ll also have opportunities to apply the press man skills he displayed at Florida. After seeing Charvarious Ward walk in free agency, pairing Elam and L’Jarius Sneed gives defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the security needed on the back-end to be aggressive with the front seven.