College News & Analysis

10 best college football defensive backs in the transfer portal

Atlanta, GA, USA; Jackson State Tigers wide receiver Travis Hunter (12) reacts after catching a touchdown against the North Carolina Central Eagles during the second half during the Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson State cornerback Travis Hunter: The new Colorado Buffalo is the biggest prize in the transfer portal.

Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress II: The junior was one of the highest-graded cornerbacks in the country this season.

New Mexico safety A.J. Haulcy: The true freshman is the top safety in the portal.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

With more than 1,400 college football players in the transfer portal, it can be difficult to parse through all the talent. But PFF's advanced stats for 354 teams ranging from the FBS to Division III aim to do exactly that.

After going over our top 25 players in the transfer portal as well as our All-Transfer Portal team, here are the 10 best defensive backs searching for new homes.

(Note: This ranking includes all cornerbacks and safeties.)


1. CB/WR Travis Hunter (Jackson State Tigers)

Transfer Destination: Colorado Buffaloes

Hunter entered Jackson State as the first five-star recruit ever to commit to a non-FBS school. Now, the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2022 class will move to the Power Five level to show that his game can translate anywhere.

Hunter dominated in his true freshman season for the Tigers. His 84.0 defensive grade was a top-15 mark among all FCS cornerbacks as he picked off two passes and forced eight incompletions.

Those skills flashed on both sides of the ball, too. The true freshman also caught 18 passes for 180 yards and four touchdowns, one of which was to tie the game with no time left in the Celebration Bowl.

Hunter will follow head coach Deion Sanders from Jackson State to Colorado next season.


2. CB Fentrell Cypress II (Virginia Cavaliers)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Cypress put together a massive breakout season for the Cavaliers. His 87.8 grade ranked third highest among Power Five cornerbacks. 

The junior allowed only 0.53 yards per coverage snap, the fifth-lowest mark among the same group.


3. CB Jabbar Muhammad (Oklahoma State Cowboys)

Transfer Destination: Washington Huskies

Muhammad is the Big 12’s third-highest-graded and fourth-most valuable cornerback over the last two seasons, according to PFF's wins above average metric.

His 19 coverage stops in that span ranks second for Big 12 cornerbacks. Muhammad will play for Washington next season.


4. CB Darian “Duce” Chestnut (Syracuse Orange)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Duce Chestnut is the third-highest-graded cornerback in the ACC over the past two seasons. Those were also his first two seasons of college football. 

The sophomore’s 24 coverage stops in that span tie for the sixth most among cornerbacks.


5. CB Denver Harris (Texas A&M Aggies)

Transfer Destination: LSU Tigers

This ranking is all about projection for Denver Harris, who was a five-star recruit and the No. 3 cornerback coming out of high school, according to On3’s consensus ratings.

The true freshman saw significant playing time in five games this season before being suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. He looked excellent across those snaps, as well. Among FBS cornerbacks with at least 95 coverage snaps, nobody allowed fewer yards per coverage snap than Harris (0.29 yards).

Harris will stay in the SEC West and play for LSU next season.


6. S A.J. Haulcy (New Mexico Lobos)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Coming out of high school, A.J. Haulcy garnered three FBS offers: Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Just one year later, Haulcy will have no shortage of suitors as to where he’ll head next. His 84.9 grade was the second-best figure among true freshmen defenders and tied for sixth among safeties overall.


7. CB Charles Woods (West Virginia Mountaineers)

Transfer Destination: SMU Mustangs

An injury limited Woods to just four games this season, but he was one of the nation’s best cornerbacks last year. 

In 2021, Woods’ 87.2 coverage grade was the sixth-best mark among Power Five cornerbacks. The senior allowed only a 22.1 passer rating when targeted, the lowest among the same group. For comparison, spiking the ball in the dirt on every play nets a 39.6 passer rating. Woods will play for SMU in his final year of eligibility next season.


8. S Jaxen Turner (Arizona Wildcats)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

After struggling to a 51.3 grade last season, Turner rebounded with a 79.4 grade this year that tied for 17th among Power Five safeties. The junior made nine coverage stops — a top-20 figure for Power Five safeties. 


S CJ Baskerville (San Diego State Aztecs)

Transfer Destination: Texas Tech Red Raiders

As a true freshman last season, Baskerville posted an 86.4 coverage grade, ranking fourth among Group of Five safeties.

That number dipped to 66.1 this year, but the sophomore’s form in 2021 should have Texas Tech fans excited about a potential bounce-back season.


10. S Jalen Catalon (Arkansas Razorbacks)

Transfer Destination: Undecided

Back in 2020, Catalon was one of the best safeties in the country. He was one of only five Power Five safeties with top-15 grades as both a run defender and in coverage.

Since then, the redshirt junior has played in only seven games across seasons due to injuries. If he can stay healthy next year, Catalon should once again be an elite force.

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