This draft’s cornerback class is notable for many reasons, all of which seem to line up perfectly for Philadelphia.
The Eagles desperately need help with cornerback, and frankly have since Asante Samuel and Lito Sheppard roamed the sidelines. It’s been well-covered that the selection of first day or second day talent is extremely deep this season. That suits the Eagles’ needs in more ways than one. It ensures talent will be there when they pick 14th or 15th (more on that in a moment) and makes it likely first round talent at a position they need will slip into the second and maybe even third rounds.
Jumping back to that first round pick: Few cornerbacks save Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore are being mocked as off the board when the Eagles pick. The upcoming combine could change a lot, but for the moment, not only will a glut of talent be available, but the Eagles may have their pick of it.
Also, for a team interested in adding more than one cornerback through the draft, like the Eagles, there are an unusual number of high profile college tandems available in the pool this year. With the possible exception of Florida’s Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, there’s usually a superior prospect, but his teammate is often far fewer rounds behind in projection than previous drafts have seen.
Now that Lattimore and Tabor have been mentioned, let’s start with them as elite cover prospects the Eagles may be interested in.
Lattimore is a redshirt sophomore who recovered from early career hamstring problems to be All-Big 10 First Team this season for the playoff-bound Buckeyes. He finished 2016 with four interceptions. At 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, he has the size, speed and agility to stay with receivers.
Tabor got his chance to shine outside Vernon Hargreaves’ shadow this season at Florida and didn’t disappoint. He had four interceptions and was First-Team All-SECfor the second straight season.
At 6 feet, 201 pounds, Tabor’s aggression will remind several Eagles fans of Jalen Mills, albeit with a few more tools in his pocket that make Tabor a first round prospect. The biggest knock on both Tabor and Lattimore might be that their coverage can get a little handsy, but in a college game called differently than the pros, that will be a critique of several players.
If you start looking at prospects that might come off the board a little later, USC’s Adoree Jackson is a playmaker that could fill more than one need for the Eagles.
A 5-foot-11, 185 pound junior, Jackson won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back this season, was named First-Team All-American after scoring eight touchdowns, four as a kick and punt returner who could eventually succeed Darren Sproles. He’s a two-time All-American in track as well who has lined up at wide receiver in the past, just in case the Eagles get really desperate.
Like Jackson, Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis (5-foot-10, 188 pounds) is trending toward being undersized for an outside cornerback, but size isn’t the end-all be-all it was during the Chip Kelly era. Despite missing the first three games of the season, he was named First-Team All-American as well and will probably be available come day two.
This doesn’t even come close to capturing the breadth of talent available at the top of the draft for this position, but if you’re interested in some deeper gems as well, check out Colorado’s relatively new-to-football but talented 6-foot-3 Ahkello Witherspoon. Miami’s 5-foot-9 Corn Elder is at the other end of the size spectrum, but has been compared on NFL.com to last year’s Temple prospect Tavon Young.
The Eagles spent some time interviewing deeper prospects at the All-Star games too, notably San Diego State’s Damontae Kazee, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau and Oklahoma State’s Ashton Lampkin.