Strengths: Jenkins has outstanding size, cover skills and speed that make him one of the nation’s elite defenders. He has quick feet, fluid hips and has the ability to blanket most receivers he lines up against. He anticipates the action extremely well and uses his quick burst to disrupt a play. He possesses great ball skills and demonstrates game changing ability on defense.
Weaknesses: As great as a playmaker Jenkins is, he isn’t a physical corner and doesn’t defend the run particularly well. He tends to play off receivers and doesn’t jam the opposition at the line of scrimmage. He has to improve his aggressiveness.Steuber Says: If Jenkins decided to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season he would have been a first round pick; possibly a top-ten selection. But deciding to stay at Ohio State for his senior year presents Jenkins with the possibility of winning a National Championship and a chance to improve his stock even more and potentially be a top-five pick next April.
Strengths: Mickens is a natural cover corner with great size and speed. He’s fluid off the line of scrimmage, transitions well with receivers and positions himself to make a play on the ball. He has great awareness, locates the ball quickly and has excellent ball skills. He plays with a lot of suddenness and is always looking to make a play. He plays with aggression and shows the desire to defend the run.
Weaknesses: A tremendous cover corner with great closing speed, Mickens occasionally gambles in defense and will give up a big play. He has to improve his tackling technique and take better angles in pursuit.Steuber Says: There’s a lot to like about Mike Mickens. He’s one of the best cornerbacks that many have never heard of. A lot of that has to do with him playing in the Big East on a Cincinnati team that is very underrated. Mickens had six interceptions last season and brought two of them back for a touchdown. He could have opted to enter the draft last season and would have been a late second round pick, but with this year’s class not being as deep, Mickens is a potential top-15 selection in 2009.
Strengths: Butler is a tremendously versatile player who’s a quality defender and return specialist. He has good ball skills and is extremely instinctive in the secondary. He’s physical and fluid in coverage and positions himself well to break up the throw. He has great vision and is elusive with the ball in his hands.
Butler will expand his versatility from defense and special teams to offense this season.
AP Photo/Bob Child
Weaknesses: He doesn’t possess great size and struggles against taller, physical receivers. He has to improve his initial quickness and not allow the opposition to gain positioning on routes.Steuber Says: The versatility that Butler possesses on the field is what adds value to his game and it will ultimately have an impact on where he’s selected in next year’s draft. Not only is Butler a very good cornerback and an enticing option as a return specialist, but it’s likely that he will see action this year on the offensive side of the ball as a wide receiver. Connecticut is looking to get more out of Butler’s elusiveness, and in the end, it will benefit the Huskies and Butler as the ’09 draft approaches.
Strengths: Harris is an athletic, versatile corner with great size and ability. He’s fluid off the line of scrimmage, transitions well with receivers, defends the ball extremely well and showcases his ball skills immediately. He reads the quarterback well and anticipates the action. He has excellent closing speed and awareness. He’s always around the ball looking to make a positive play.
Weaknesses: He has good speed, but doesn’t possess a second gear in the open field. He’s not a physical corner and doesn’t take direct angles in pursuit.Steuber Says: A flamboyant performer with great ability, “Macho” Harris is one of the best playmakers in the country. He has the confidence it takes to be a star, but the only thing that may hold Harris back is his overall speed. He returned an interception for a 72-yard touchdown and a kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown last season and displayed his athleticism on both trips to paydirt. Even though I’m questioning Harris’ straight-line speed, I know that when he gets his hands on the ball, something good usually happens.
Early 2009 Draft Projection: 2nd Round
Strengths: Smith is an undersized, but productive cornerback who is an outstanding playmaker. He displays good route recognition and is a determined defender. He’s effective facing the action, locates the ball quickly and possesses excellent closing speed and ball skills that allow him to turn defense into offense. He is a very instinctive defender who has a great sense of timing and is an effective blitzer who makes plays in the backfield.
Weaknesses: He lacks ideal height and isn’t a physical corner. He has difficulty against taller receivers and doesn’t consistently show discipline in coverage.Steuber Says: Smith is a tremendous playmaker who had a breakout junior season, a season where he had eight interceptions and returned three of them for a touchdown. He may lack the size NFL scouts desire, but he has the heart and talent that will make him a dynamic player at the next level.
6. Domonique Johnson, Jackson State, 6-2, 190
Strengths: Johnson has great size and tremendous speed; he’s the prototypical cornerback that teams salivate over. He’s explosive, plays with a good degree of suddenness and quickly anticipates the action. He quickly locates the ball in the air and positions himself well to make a play. He has a solid burst to the ball and displays a great sense of timing.
Weaknesses: He plays overly aggressive at times and has a tendency to give up big plays. He seems to get in the way of receivers rather than tackling them. He has to play with more passion.Steuber Says: A former Missouri star who decided to leave for unexplained reasons, Johnson enrolled at Jackson State and is ready to have a breakout season at a lower level of competition. Johnson’s departure from Mizzou has raised some red flags, but his talent is undeniable, and with a standout season, look for Johnson to rise up draft charts.
Strengths: Barnes has great size, good speed and the ability to match up against most receivers in the country. He transitions well in coverage and possesses a solid burst and closing speed. He doesn’t shy away from contact and is a steady tackler. He displays a sense of timing and flashes his ball skills in defense. He has a tremendous vertical and adjusts well to errant throws with his body control.
A promising prospect, Barnes has the size and skill to be an elite defender, but at what position?
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Weaknesses: He doesn’t possess elite speed and has trouble with speedy receivers. He’s a bit of a tweener and could be converted into a safety.Steuber Says: A promising prospect at the cornerback position, Barnes has the size that NFL teams covet and displayed the ability to be a playmaker in the secondary last season. The only question with Barnes is his lateral movement and quickness. He has good straight-line speed, but he’s stiff in the hips, and that will hurt him at the next level.
Strengths: Johnson is a solid cover corner who understands his assignments. He has fluid hips, solid footwork and is highly instinctive. He possesses a tremendous burst and closes in on the opposition quickly. He’s physical in coverage and positions himself well throughout the route.
Weaknesses: A solid cover corner, Johnson has great speed, but he has to improve his ball skills. Instead of deflecting passes, he has to create turnovers.Steuber Says: Johnson is an intriguing prospect with a lot of ability. Although he started eight games last season, Johnson has been primarily a situational defender for the Hurricanes for the last three seasons. He will have an opportunity to display his talents this season, and with a good showing, he could be a player on the move.
Strengths: Lewis is one of the most physical corners in the country. He doesn’t shy away from contact and plays up on the opposition at the line of scrimmage. He has good footwork and can defend fast and tall receivers. He works well with his teammates and understands his assignments.
Weaknesses: He lacks closing speed and doesn’t anticipate the action immediately. He tends to lose concentration and will gamble in coverage. He’s not very explosive and lacks suddenness.Steuber Says: Lewis is a physical corner, but he’s not a consistent tackler. He showed good ball skills last season and finished with three interceptions. I’d like to see Lewis become a more complete player; it’s likely Lewis will be a safety at the next level.
Strengths: Trent has great physical ability and excellent awareness in coverage. He displays good footwork and has a knack for being opportunistic. He can get vertical and defend passes consistently with his long frame.
Weaknesses: He’s not a great cover corner and loses positioning against speedy receivers. He has to read the quarterback better and become more disciplined in coverage.Steuber Says: Trent has been an inconsistent performer over the last few seasons, but when he’s going well, he’s one of the better corners in the country. He’s a solid leader and a sound defender. He understands the defensive concept and players look up to him. For Trent to be a high draft pick, he has to improve his ball skills and awareness and become a more complete cornerback.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.