The 2021 NFL Draft class includes a diverse and talented group of corners, and this list doesn’t even incorporate the guys currently listed as safeties but could plug into the slot right away at the NFL level.
The value of the class will be found on Day 2, as there’s not a ton of top-tier options but a lot of promising film to develop.
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1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 13
Surtain was the highest-graded cornerback in college football this past season and has seen his PFF grade increase every single year since his freshman campaign. It's also not hard to project him to the NFL, as he has played 662 press coverage snaps over the past two years.
2. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 18
This is the press-man cornerback you want in this draft class. He allowed only eight catches from 24 targets in the SEC last season. The issue was that even with the relatively lax college rules, Horn was still flagged five times. He’ll need to reel that in at the next level.
3. Greg Newsome, Northwestern
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 20
Newsome’s biggest knock is that we just didn’t get to see more of him this past year. He allowed all of 12 catches on 34 targets for 93 yards. With the Big Ten’s shortened schedule, however, those came on only 223 coverage snaps. He’s got the best feet of any corner in the class and can plug into any scheme in the league.
4. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 23
Farley's recent back surgery is the only thing keeping him from being CB1 on PFF’s board. The last time we saw him, in 2019, he earned a 90.5 coverage grade and allowed a passer rating of only 26.8. He’s got elite closing speed downfield and can easily affect the catch point at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds.
5. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida St.
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 29
He’s undersized for the position, but there’s not much else in Samuel’s game you can poke holes in. He’s started for three years and has seen his coverage grade improve every year. He allowed only 179 yards into his coverage last season.
6. Aaron Robinson, UCF
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 56
Robinson manned the slot for UCF over the past couple of seasons, but he’s not your typical slot. This past season, 187 of his 339 coverage snaps still came in press coverage — a rarity for a slot corner. That makes you think that his skills can translate on the outside.
7. Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 67
Joseph is a bit of a roller coaster on tape, as evidenced by his 70.7 coverage grade this past season. It’s the games like Tennessee (92.3 coverage grade) and Alabama (85.9) that get you excited about what he’s physically capable of doing at the next level.
8. Tay Gowan, UCF
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 69
Gowan only has one season of major college football under his belt back in 2019 before opting out this past season. That year he earned an 80.1 coverage grade and only allowed 20 receptions for 274 yards from 50 targets.
9. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 70
Melifonwu has rare physical tools for the position at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds with a 41.5-inch vertical and 11-2 broad jump. In two years as a starter, however, Melifonwu has earned coverage grades of just 79.3 and 74.1, as he’s not quite as physical as his athletic testing might suggest.
10. Eric Stokes, Georgia
PFF BIG BOARD RANK: 72
Stokes has low-4.3 speed and has been one of the stingiest corners in college football over the past three seasons. This past year, Stokes allowed only 16-of-28 targets for 145 yards with four picks.