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2020 NFL Draft: 5 late-round cornerbacks who might help the Giants

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Houston at UCF Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants have invested heavy assets into their secondary over the last year and a half. They traded up in the first round last year to select DeAndre Baker out of Georgia, drafted Julian Love in the fourth round, Corey Ballentine in the sixth round, and Sam Beal in the 2018 supplemental draft.

While young and filled with promise, the secondary struggled mightily, especially in the nickel position, in 2019. Ballentine was torched after he relieved Grant Haley of his duties. The Giants were incredibly susceptible to the big play in this area of the field, and whoever was playing the position was an automatic target for offensive coordinators. Is adding young corners late in the draft the solution - possibly. I mean, it can’t hurt, especially if there’s value. My number one free agent in 2020 is easily the Cowboys Byron Jones. The addition of Jones would significantly help the defense, especially if the Giants can also land a pass rusher. Nevertheless, here’s a list of five corners that may be available on Day 3.

Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame

Pride could be selected on Day 2 of the draft. He’s talented enough to warrant that. According to my calculations, there are approximately 150 prospects worthy of selection within the first 100 picks, so something’s got to give. Like his former Notre Dame teammate Julian Love, Pride could move to a different position in the NFL. Both were boundary corners for the Fighting Irish; Love transitioned to safety and I feel Pride can become a nickel defender, and compete for the fifth defensive back role over the slot. Pride has the athletic ability, explosiveness, hip fluidity, and discipline to effectively play a position that has a two-way go. He’s smaller at 5-foot-11, 193 pounds, and has only 30 ⅝” arms, but he ran a 4.4 at the Combine, with a sub 7-second 3-cone time, which is solid. Pride’s long speed would really cover up the vertical slot that burned the Giants too much in 2019.

The clips above display Pride’s ability to get his head around and knock balls away, but that wasn’t always consistent on the tape, especially on back-shoulder throws near the sideline. With that being said, Pride does have 18 passes defensed and 4 career interceptions for Notre Dame, which is very encouraging. I would like to see a bit more eagerness in run support. Pride is no liability in run support or as a tackler, but Haley is definitely a more effective player in that regard. Some of these concerns are reasons why he may slip to Round 4, where he would present excellent value.

Michael Ojemudia, Iowa

Ojemudia is not generating a ton of buzz at the moment, but is a name to monitor for Day 3. Came into the Combine at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, with 32 1/4 -inch arms, and a solid 40 and 3-cone, which prompted me to watch more film on Ojemudia, and I came away impressed. A smart, spatially aware, player who can excel in zone coverage and uses his understanding of route concepts to bait quarterbacks into poor decisions. A physical player against the run and up the stem of routes for receivers, while providing a large tackle radius. Uses his length and mental processing to locate the ball in the air and disrupt the catch point; had 9 passes defensed and 3 interceptions in 2019, along with 6 passes defensed and 3 interceptions in 2018.

In the three clips above, you can see Ojemudia as the contain defender on the screen. He gets outside of the lead block, lowers his inside shoulder to reduce his surface area, showing some flexibility, and then aggressively attacks. The second clip showcases his ability to sit in zone and read the quarterback’s eyes. Ojemudia baits the quarterback and then jumps up for the easy interceptions. The third clip displays the physicality at the catch point, as he nails the receiver and forces an incompletion. At Iowa, Ojemudia wasn’t tasked to play man coverage consistently, but that doesn’t mean he can’t. There may be a bit of a transition period for him to learn those nuances, especially since he’s not overly fluid, but Ojemudia is a solid player with a lot of endearing qualities that can be maximized with good coaching.

Lamar Jackson, Nebraska

No, he’s not making this list because of his name. Jackson is a very large, high cut, corner, 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, with a reach longer than 32 inches and good college production. He had 19 passes defensed and 5 interceptions in his last two seasons in Nebraska. Strictly a boundary corner, he does a very good job utilizing his length to disrupt at the line of scrimmage in press, while also using very good positioning up the red-line to use the sidelines to his advantage on vertical routes. His size assists in contested catch situations and Jackson is very physical at the catch point. Presence of mind at the catch point is very evident and his ball skills are apparent too.

Sounds good, right? Well, why is no one talking about him? Jackson is a bit stiff, and isn’t a fluid athlete. His change of direction is just adequate for the position, which hinders the effectiveness of horizontal crosses. Although he possesses solid football IQ to recognize underneath routes and bait quarterbacks, he tries this too often and gets burnt by the better signal callers. Despite his excellent size and frame, Jackson is more of an ankle biter tackler who dives wildly, and doesn’t necessarily look eager to jump into contact. I wanted to see Jackson be more aggressive when coming off blocks, too. There were too many times that he was eliminated from plays by a blocking wide receiver.

Above, you see Jackson square up and slide inside with the receiver, keeping his hips aligned and not overcommitting at the line of scrimmage. Once the receiver releases outside, Jackson squeezes him towards the sideline, gets his head around, and knocks the ball away. A perfect throw wouldn’t have been completed here, it’s textbook. Jackson does a similar technique against Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson in the second clip, but he fails to get his head around. Still, he’s in excellent position to knock the pass away and close space on Wilson, so the catch point can be located and disrupted optimally by Jackson. The third clip shows Jackson coming off his assignment, Reshod Bateman of the Golden’ Gophers. Jackson sees through the underneath checkdown and reads quarterback Tanner Morgan’s eyes. While reading, Jackson rides Bateman to the inside zone help, comes off the route, and reacts aggressively downhill to make a tackle on the screen. Three impressive examples of Jackson’s ability, and he would be a smart flier in the later rounds of the draft, if he’s available.

Nevelle Clarke, UCF

Good height, but a little underweight at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and sub 32-inch arms. Excellent ball skills, and it translates in the stats: 24 passes defensed and 4 interceptions in the last two seasons. Solid overall athlete, with good lateral agility and change of direction skills, although he doesn’t have top end speed. Very fluid hips in space help with his transitions. These positive athletic traits allow him to do a good job staying in phase with receivers on broken plays, and on horizontal routes across the field. Has a nose for the football and gets his head turned quickly to disrupt passes, while showing good physicality at the catch point as well. He can get a bit high in space sometimes and loses his center of gravity, which results in balance issues, but this seems to be correctable with coaching. I would like to see some more strength in tackling. Possesses the short area quickness and tackle radius to attack downhill aggressively, but isn’t always secure in his tackles due to strength issues.

In the clips above, you can see his stickiness in the short to intermediate levels of the field. His ability to get his hand into a receivers mitts and violently knock the ball away is something that pops up on film several times. You can also see the fluid hips and ability to read through assignments. Clarke will be available late on Day 3, and he has some traits that coaches will want to develop.

Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa

Excellent size at 6-foot-1,205 pounds, and just under 32-inch arms. Robinson opened eyes at the NFLPA Bowl and did the same at the combine with 22 reps on the bench (95th percentile), 11 feet in the broad jump (95th percentile), while running a 4.44 (73rd percentile). The leader of the Tulsa defense, Robinson has 34 passes defensed and only 3 interceptions with the Golden Hurricane. Robinson is active at the line of scrimmage and uses a firm press technique to disrupt, and ride, wide receivers off their routes. He uses the same physicality to deliver big hits on pass catchers when he’s coming downhill. A boundary corner who does a good job positioning himself and playing with the correct leverage after utilizing his press technique. Robinson is a solid tackler in space and uses his long wingspan well. Hips aren’t that fluid, which hurts his ability to mirror and match while also being a hindrance with his ability to flip and transition. He can over-stride and get a bit high on comeback routes, which lead to some balance issues and just enough hesitation to create too much separation.

Robinson has good ball skills, physicality, and enough run support ability to be a target in the late rounds of the draft. He would be a valued addition to special teams, while providing depth on the boundary for the Giants, but doesn’t have the hips to be overly effective in the slot, which is the main area of concern for the Giants corners.