News & Analysis

2020 NFL Draft: Biggest pro and con for every top defensive back prospect

We’ve gone over the biggest pros and cons for the most valuable positions on the offensive side of the ball — quarterback and wide receiver. Now, it’s time to look at the biggest pros and cons of the most valuable positions on the defensive side of the ball with the defensive backs:

[Editor's note: Check out all of PFF's 2020 NFL Mock Drafts and NFL Draft Big Board. PFF Elite subscribers can also download the 1,100-page 2020 NFL Draft Guide.]

CB JEFFREY OKUDAH, OHIO STATE

PFF Draft Board rank: 4
Biggest Pro: Lockdown in press

At 6-foot-1 with over 32-inch arms and cracking the 96th percentile in the 10-yard split, vertical jump and broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, Okudah is the Michelangelo’s David of cornerbacks. He can play in any scheme you ask of him, but he truly excels in press. Okudah allowed under half a yard per coverage snap in press coverage in 2019 and didn’t allow a single explosive play. That yards per coverage snap mark is a quarter of a yard better than anyone in the draft class, and no one other than Okudah allowed one or fewer explosive plays in press.

Biggest Con: If anything, good not elite ball skills

If we absolutely had to pick a con on Okudah as a prospect, we’d go with the fact his ball skills are just “good” and aren’t on the same elite level as a couple of others in the class. This was an area Okudah improved upon throughout his collegiate career, though, and it was evident this past season with three impressive interceptions and nine pass breakups. Again, this is being really nitpicky — he’s up there with Jalen Ramsey and Marshon Lattimore for the best cornerback prospects we have ever seen.

CB KRISTIAN FULTON, LSU

PFF Draft Board rank: 12
Biggest Pro: One of the stickiest corners in the class

Fulton is perhaps the most annoying cornerback for wide receivers to face because he sticks to them like glue and is a nightmare to battle at the catch point. Over the past two years, Fulton has forced tight coverage on 65.5% of his targets (fifth) and a contested target on 34.5% (third), which are incredibly impressive rates for a guy playing in the SEC. On the 38 contested targets he forced, Fulton allowed only nine to be caught with 25 forced incompletions. That right there is what we call dominance.

Biggest Con: Handful of ugly explosive plays given up in career

Outside of his year-and-a-half long suspension prior to 2018, the biggest knock on Fulton is the bunch of explosive plays he gave up during his time in Baton Rouge. Of the 48 catches allowed in his career, 16 ended up going for a gain of 15 or more yards, and four of his five touchdowns allowed were an explosive play. Of those 16, seven resulted in a 30-plus yard gain. For perspective, Okudah only had one.

S GRANT DELPIT, LSU

PFF Draft Board rank: 15
Biggest Pro: NFL ready coverage ability

Delpit combined for 27 interceptions and forced incompletions in his three years with LSU, which is tied for the most in the FBS. He can clearly affect the catch point with his size. As PFF Leaf Draft Analyst Mike Renner said in the PFF Draft Guide, Delpit just does things in coverage that no other safety can match. He doesn’t have the high-end speed, but he sure as heck has the short-area quickness you need from a safety in coverage. Whether he’s in the box, slot or playing deep, Delpit has unmatched coverage ability.

Biggest Con: Tackling is about as bad as it can get

Over the past two seasons, Delpit missed 22.6% of his tackling attempts. That’s the fourth-worst rate in the FBS and over four percentage points higher than any safety in this class. Delpit just fails to wrap up, but this isn’t remotely close to something that should drop him to Day 2 given his unreal performance in coverage. They might be ugly, but it’s worth living with.

CB C.J. HENDERSON, FLORIDA

PFF Draft Board rank: 17
Biggest Pro: Right behind Okudah for the best man coverage skills in class

C.J. Henderson is one of the top athletes in the draft and is clearly the top man-to-man cornerback prospect after Okudah. In single coverage at outside corner since 2018, Henderson allowed a minimal 20 catches on 44 targets while making as many plays on the ball as first downs allowed (16). His elite play shined the most when filtering his single coverage reps to only deep 20-plus yard targets, as he allowed just four catches on 15 targets with eight total plays made on the ball. And on not a single one of those 15 targets did the receiver generate open separation.

Biggest Con: Looked like a different player in 2019 than 2018

If Henderson had replicated his 2018 season in 2019, he’d be up there as one of the top 10 prospects in the draft. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury that caused him to miss a handful of games early on in the season, and there were a handful of just head-scratching plays of his. He gave up five catches that resulted in 40-plus yard gains, which accounted for 233 of his 389 yards allowed on the year. For perspective, A.J. Terrell was the only other PFF top-10 cornerback in this draft to give up multiple 40-plus yard plays.

S XAVIER MCKINNEY, ALABAMA

PFF Draft Board rank: 19
Biggest Pro: Versatility

There have been only five safeties to play over 450 snaps in the box, slot and at free safety over the past two years. And only one of those five produced 70.0-plus grades at all three of those alignments: Xavier McKinney. Regardless of alignment or role, McKinney performed at a high level — he produced grades above 79.0 against the run, as a pass rusher and in coverage in each of the past two seasons. Isaiah Simmons is infamously known for his versatility, and while McKinney isn’t on that same level, he deserves more respect for this skill of his.

Biggest Con: Athleticism isn’t bad, but nothing you really get excited about

McKinney’s athleticism is nothing to get excited about or anything you’ll say “wow” to, but it’s nothing bad. As PFF's Mike Renner has said, McKinney is fluid in coverage and has great ball skills. He has consistently performed at a high level in the SEC and is more than deserving of being taken in the first round.

CB JAYLON JOHNSON, UTAH

PFF Draft Board rank: 24
Biggest Pro: Great instincts

Prior to the year, Jaylon Johnson to many — including us — was a probable Day 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft if he were to declare. Now, he’s a top-25 prospect on our big board due in large part to his rare instincts. Because of his sharp ability to read and react to the quarterback and receiver, Johnson was near impossible to beat for an open target downfield. On targets of 10 or more yards downfield the past two seasons, Johnson allowed just 14 catches on 58 targets with 16 plays made on the ball. And on those 58 targets, Johnson forced tight coverage on 48 — forming the second-highest rate in college football. Watching and listening to Johnson, it’s pretty clear he is a film junkie:

Biggest Con: Average physical profile

At 6-foot, 193 pounds, Johnson is not the biggest cornerback on the field, and his Combine testing was all-around pretty average. He’s not on the same level as Okudah or Henderson with his athleticism, but he has more than enough to succeed at the next level.

CB A.J. TERRELL, CLEMSON

PFF Draft Board rank: 29
Biggest Pro: Change of direction ability

Terrell has incredibly fluid hips and speed for his size. He has all the tools needed to become a high-level starter who can shadow the NFL’s elite. Terrell isn’t scheme-limited by any means, but he would fit like a glove in a man-heavy defense with those traits. As a matter of fact, Terrell tied with Trevon Diggs for the second-highest coverage grade by a Power-5 cornerback in man coverage last year.

Biggest Con: Play strength

Terrell completely shut down ACC wide receivers at Clemson — over the past two years against ACC wideouts, he allowed just 22 catches on 52 targets and 458 coverage snaps for 242 yards and eight first downs while making 11 plays on the ball. When he went up against more skilled and physical wide receivers, there were times when Terrell got overpowered at the catch point. One such instance was in the National Championship game when he gave up four catches on seven targets for 137 yards and two touchdowns to Ja’Marr Chase. As said in the PFF Draft Guide, he has the tools, but there are just times where he fails to finish.

CB TREVON DIGGS, ALABAMA

PFF Draft Board rank: 31
Biggest Pro: Can go toe-to-toe with any receiver in press

There are a handful of great press corners in this class, and Diggs is up there with the best. He actually posted the highest coverage grade of any Power-5 cornerback in draft class when in press. Diggs wasn’t able to post a goose-egg in the explosive play column as Okudah did, but he did allow a lower completion percentage by surrendering only nine catches on 33 targets in press with three interceptions and seven forced incompletions. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds with near-33-inch arms, Diggs has the tools NFL teams covet in a press corner.

Biggest Con: Not for every scheme in the NFL

As great of a press corner he is, Diggs has been falling down draft boards because of his scheme limitations. He’s not the most gifted athlete and has poor change-of-direction ability and little makeup speed. Diggs didn’t have nearly the same success in off-coverage — on 164 such reps, he allowed 13 catches on 20 targets for 121 yards and had a habit of catching his receiver instead of flipping his hips and running. He’s an ideal fit for a press-zone heavy team.

S ASHTYN DAVIS, CALIFORNIA

PFF Draft Board rank: 33
Biggest Pro: Great range and best single-high safety in class

As you’ll find in the PFF Draft Guide, there isn’t a better single-high safety in this class than Davis. He was great in that role at Cal, posting the fifth-best coverage grade over the past two seasons on those reps and gathering up a couple of interceptions and pass breakups in the process. We didn’t see him workout at the Combine due to injury, but you can tell Davis, who is also a track-star, is a rare athlete on the field.

Biggest Con: Not someone you want in the box

Davis played well over 60% of his snaps in 2019 at deep safety and just 18% of his snaps in the box. He posted just a 66.7 run-defense grade in the box, which ranked 136th in the FBS — he really just doesn’t have the size for such a role in the NFL. Davis is more than capable of coming down and playing the slot, though.

CB JEFF GLADNEY, TCU

PFF Draft Board rank: 34
Biggest Pro: Impossible to beat downfield

He may have run a 4.48 40-yard dash at the Combine, but Gladney has reportedly ran in the low 4.3s. Watching him on the field, he sure looks like he’d run a time that fast. Gladney has tremendous makeup speed that made him rarely lose deep downfield. He forced tight coverage on nearly 80% of his targets 10 or more yards downfield since 2018 (sixth-best). Gladney saw 78 total targets that were 10 or more yards downfield and allowed only 19 to be caught with 26 combined interceptions and forced incompletions.

Biggest Con: Bit undersized for the outside

At 5-foot-10, 191 pounds, some teams might look to move Gladney to the slot. He does, however, have the arm length and speed that could keep him on the outside, specifically in a zone-heavy team. Over the past two years, Gladney posted a great 87.4 coverage grade in zone coverage while finishing top 15 in catch rate allowed (48.2%) and forced incompletion rate (21.7%).

S ANTOINE WINFIELD JR., MINNESOTA

PFF Draft Board rank: 38
Biggest Pro: Definition of a playmaker

After back-to-back years with medical redshirts, Winfield came back, played a fully healthy year for Minnesota and posted an 88.1 overall grade (eighth at his position) while intercepting seven passes and forcing two incompletions and two fumbles. Winfield has the best instincts of any safety in the class, and when you listen to him on the 2 for 1 Drafts podcast with Austin Gayle and Mike Renner, you can clearly hear how his instinctual play and playmaking ability is all due to his dedicated practice and film study. Rarely was he caught off guard in coverage and forced to make a mistake. He was responsible for only 11 catches allowed on the year and three explosive plays of 15-plus yards. And he allowed fewer than 20 yards in all but two games.

Biggest Con: Size may hinder his versatility at next level

At 5-foot-9 with just over 30-inch arms, Winfield may not be nearly as versatile as he was in college. At Minnesota, he routinely made plays in the slot or at single-high, but that’s not to say he 100% won’t be the same versatile player. With how smart and instinctive he is, Winfield has the ability to overcome that as his father did.

CB BRYCE HALL, VIRGINIA

PFF Draft Board rank: 49
Biggest Pro: Elite ball skills

Before getting hurt this past year, Hall displayed some of the best ball skills we have seen here at PFF. At 6-foot-1 with over 32-inch arms, Hall posted the best forced incompletion percentage in all of college football (28.2%) in 2017 and 2018. In that span, his coverage grade was the fifth-best in the country. He’s a monster to face in press with those long arms and should thrive in a press-zone scheme at the next level.

Biggest Con: Injury killed his draft stock

After an incredible 2018 junior campaign in which he posted an elite 91.5 coverage grade, Hall looked to be a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft if he were to declare. Instead, he opted to return to the Cavaliers for his senior year and the absolute worst-case scenario occurred when he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 7 while in punt coverage. Prior to the injury, Hall wasn’t having nearly the same elite year, as his coverage grade lowered to 61.5 and he had only one forced incompletion on 22 targets.

CB CAMERON DANTZLER, MISSISSIPPI STATE

PFF Draft Board rank: 50
Biggest Pro: Shutdown SEC wide receivers in press

Dantzler shut down SEC receivers all throughout his career with the Bulldogs — he allowed just a 42.7% catch rate while combining for 20 interceptions and pass breakups and surrendering just one touchdown. He played a good amount of press in that span, and his numbers on those reps are incredible for an SEC corner. Dantzler logged 278 press snaps in his career and allowed just a 23.9% catch rate (11 of 46) with more forced incompletions (13) than first downs given up (seven).

Biggest Con: Slender with poor speed

As much as I wish Dantzler actually ran a 4.38 40-yard dash like his virtual pro day suggested, we’re going to have to roll with the electronically timed 4.64 from the NFL Scouting Combine. Mix that with his slender build (a shade under 190 pounds) and poor length (30 1/2-inch arms), and we have legitimate concerns with his press skills translating to the next level. NFL wideouts will eat that size up if he doesn’t get stronger.

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