The PFF team is going position-by-position to preview the 2017 college football season as it pertains to the 2018 NFL draft. There’s still a lot of football to be played and the evaluation stage is still very young, but a number of prospects are already on the NFL’s radar and you can read up on over 300 of them (to go with PFF signature stats on over 2,200 total prospects) in our first ever Preseason NFL Draft Guide.
We’ve taken a close look at several position groups including the offense’s quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen, and also on the defensive side of the ball: edge defenders, interior defenders, linebackers. Getting close to the open of the season, today we take a look at the cornerbacks you should know heading into the 2017 season:
Last year’s cornerback class was top-heavy and deep while this year’s class has a few more question marks. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick is a name to watch as he transitions to more of an outside role after excelling from the slot each of the last two years. He allowed a passer rating of only 37.8 into his coverage last season, second in the nation among corners with at least 60 targets and he has the size, athleticism, and versatility to be the top corner off the board. The other name that fits the NFL’s love for big corners is Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden who showed the ball skills (eight interceptions and seven pass breakups) but was also on the receiving end of a lot of big plays (seven touchdowns allowed). As far as first round options go, it will be about new names emerging with strong seasons in 2017. Below, there are a few options to keep an eye on.
PFF Edge stats to know
- McFadden showed press coverage on 55.0 percent of his snaps, highest in the draft class.
- Ohio State CB Denzel Ward allowed a passer rating of only 26.8 on deep passes, 11th-best in the nation in 2016.
- Louisville’s Jaire Alexander had the nation’s No. 8 grade when targeted on deep (20-plus yard) passes and the No. 3 grade when targeted on intermediate (10-19 yard) passes.
Can make a big jump
- Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech: At a listed 6-foot-2, Facyson has the size the NFL covets though it’s been mostly flashes so far on the field. He forced an incompletion on 20.6 percent of his targets, 21st-best among draft-eligible cornerbacks, but he still has work to do in press coverage where he looks the part but finds himself off balance far too often. The result has been 17.6 yards per reception over the last three years, but if he can cut down on the big plays, he’ll make a move on draft boards next spring.
Sleeper to know
- Alijah Holder, Stanford: Holder was off to a strong start last year before injury limited him to just 149 snaps. He’s at his best working in short zones, particularly as a cover-2 corner, as he has good feel in coverage and he packs a punch when working downhill on receivers. Holder broke up three of his 17 targets last season while surrendering only 8.3 yards per reception.
- Quenton Meeks, Stanford: Another big corner, Meeks was solid in coverage last year with an 81.3 grade. At a listed 6-foot-2 with good movement skills, Meeks has the look of a press corner despite looking more comfortable in off coverage. His breakout will be determined by his ability to be more consistent in press coverage as he can get knocked off balance and he gave up 15.3 yards per reception last year, a number that needs to come down this season.
Source: Pro Football Focus