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Ranking the top cornerbacks before the NFL Combine

How does the cornerback depth chart shake out before the 2019 Scouting Combine shakes it up?

NCAA Football: Miami at Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants fielded one of the very best secondaries in the NFL in 2016. But in just two years since, the unit has been dismantled, with just Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins remaining — and it is possible that neither is a Giant in 2019.

The Giants need secondary players, pure and simple. Grant Haley was something of a pleasant surprise as a UDFA, and there are high hopes for Sam Beal. But the team needs more than that. For all the criticism their front seven has taken, the porous secondary was responsible for many of the Giants’ problems with the pass rush, as well as their inability to get off the field in crucial moments. They need (much) better play from their starters, as well as better depth.

While this isn’t an outstanding group of cornerbacks, there is talent at the top and intriguing players down the depth chart. As always, because cornerbacks need to be great athletes in most defensive schemes, the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine will go a long way toward determining the final depth chart.

But here is how things stand now.

The top 5

  1. Greedy Williams (LSU) - Williams came in to the season as the top cornerback prospect, but he slipped on some boards after failing to take the next step and show his talent with more consistency. However, he fits the Giants’ mold of defensive backs with the length and athleticism to play tight man coverage. How he and Murphy test at the combine and show in field drills will determine their ultimate ranking.
  2. Byron Murphy (Washington) - On boards where Williams slipped it is often Byron Murphy who rose to take his place. Murphy doesn’t quite have Williams’ size and length, but he was an excellent cover corner last year. If he measures big enough for the Giants, he could be in play at sixth overall.
  3. Amani Oruwariye (Penn State) - As stated already, the Giants, Dave Gettleman, and James Bettcher have all historically favored cornerbacks with good length and speed. At the same time, Penn State has produced some absolute athletic freaks over the past couple years. Oruwariye has the chance to be the next in that line. He has an excellent blend of size and athleticism but will need to show that he has the feet and hips to hang in tight coverage with NFL receivers. Also, he will need to answer questions why he wasn’t able to seize a starting job until his final year at Penn State.
  4. Deandre Baker (Geogia) - Baker started the year as the 1b to Greedy Williams’ 1a on the cornerback depth chart. Him slipping down to fourth here is no slight, but rather an observation of what the Giants are likely to prefer at the position. Baker had a strong season in coverage, but he is slightly undersized and for a team who’s philosophy is “big people beat up little people” that isn’t a good thing. However, if he is athletic and fluid in drills — or measures bigger than expected — Baker could rise up the Giants’ board.
  5. Rock Ya-Sin (Temple) - The cornerback from Temple didn’t get much attention during the season, but he made waves at the Senior Bowl. A good-sized and physical presss corner, Ya-Sin’s battles against South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel were one of the highlights of the week of practice. He only has one year of FBS experience and his arrow looks to be pointing up.

Honorable mentions

Derrick Baity (Kentucky) - The first of the Kentucky corners, Baity has the size and traits the Giants look for. He also has three years of experience in what has been a good secondary. Baity is probably ranked lower than his teammate on most boards, but he could move up with a strong week in Indy.

Lonnie Johnson (Kentucky) - The second (alphabetically) of the Kentucky cornerbacks, Johnson Jr. has a great blend of size (6-foot 2, 207) and athleticism, with the long arms and physicality to play press-man corner in the NFL. He knows how to use his length in tight coverage, has good ball skills, and has special teams upside (blocked a pair of kicks in 2017).

Julian Love (Notre Dame) - Love was a good cover corner for Notre Dame, playing well in both man and zone concepts. Based on his tape, a good week at the Combine could vault him up the cornerback depth chart. However, he will have to answer questions about his size and long speed to be a truly versatile corner at the NFL level.