NFL Draft News & Analysis

Best cornerbacks available in the 2023 NFL Draft and free agency

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean (35) on the field in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

• Jamel Dean the lone top-10 free agent at cornerback: Dean's age and consistently solid production in his NFL career make him the No. 5 player on PFF's free-agent rankings.

• Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez headline 2023 draft class: Witherspoon brings a small sample size of elite play, while Gonzalez is going to entice teams with his size.

• Jalen Ramsey trade rumors continue to swirl: With the Rams' roster in tatters just a year after winning the Super Bowl, Ramsey is the top cornerback on the trade block.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins

We have already looked at the available quarterbacks and wide receivers this offseason, and now it’s time to get to cornerbacks. This is a passing league, and players who can stop the pass are almost as valuable as those who contribute to passing success on offense.

It’s a reasonably strong group of cornerbacks available this offseason with a lot of depth and variety to fit almost all needs.

Let’s run through the best options.

Best Free Agents (rank among PFF’s top 100 free agents)

  1. Jamel Dean (5)
  2. James Bradberry (15)
  3. Cameron Sutton (23)
  4. Jonathan Jones (32)
  5. Patrick Peterson (41)
  6. Byron Murphy Jr. (43)
  7. Marcus Peters (54)
  8. Emmanuel Moseley (N/A)
  9. Sean Murphy-Bunting (N/A)
  10. Eli Apple (N/A)

Jamel Dean has been an underrated cornerback for most of his NFL career, and while there are better and more proven players available, they are typically much older and, therefore, riskier. Dean has earned a PFF coverage grade of at least 74.6 in each of his four seasons in the league.

James Bradberry’s 2022 season ended with a nightmare in the Super Bowl — a holding penalty that effectively decided the destination of the Lombardi Trophy — but he had an outstanding year for the Eagles and will be looking for top dollar one last time in his career at the age of 30. Bradberry also clearly benefited from the Eagles having the best pass rush in the league and Darius Slay on the other side of the field, something most teams can’t come close to replicating. Determining how much of his season was just natural variance of coverage play and how much requires those other elite factors will be a tough call. Bradberry allowed just 46.9% of passes thrown into his coverage to be caught this year and had 12 pass breakups including the playoffs.

Patrick Peterson, Jonathan Jones and Marcus Peters are three other options all on the “wrong” side of 30, which might have teams looking at the likes of Byron Murphy Jr., Emmanuel Moseley and Eli Apple as younger players with starting experience who could have success in the right environment.

Peterson, in particular, has aged into a scheme-specific cornerback and needs to exist within a zone-heavy role at this point in his career.

Best CBs in the 2023 NFL Draft (PFF Big Board rank)

  1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois (6)
  2. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon (10)
  3. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State (21)
  4. Deonte Banks, Maryland (23)
  5. Tyrique Stevenson, Miami (39)
  6. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State (42)
  7. Garrett Williams, Syracuse (49)
  8. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU (60)
  9. Eli Ricks, Alabama (63)
  10. Cam Smith, South Carolina (69)

This draft class brings depth for days at the cornerback position. With a strong combine, Devon Witherspoon could cement his position as the best player available. He is working off a relatively small sample size of elite play (one year), but that year was outstanding. He allowed just a 25.3 passer rating when targeted this past season and didn’t let up a touchdown.

Christian Gonzalez is going to entice teams that have size and length thresholds for cornerbacks. He’s 6-foot-2 and more than 200 pounds, and he is likely to post excellent workout numbers. 

Joey Porter Jr. is the man-coverage specialist in this draft class. He loves to get physical with receivers and limit their success. However, Porter is hyper-aggressive to the point of straying over the line too often — he was called for 10 penalties in 2021 — and might not have the elite speed and change-of-direction skills of some other cornerback prospects.

Seven cornerbacks rank inside the top 50 on the PFF Big Board, and there are prospects from elite schools and with elite pedigrees who are going to be available in the middle rounds, such as Cam Smith from South Carolina or Kelee Ringo from Georgia. 

Best CBs Available in Trades

  1. Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
  2. Kenny Moore II, Indianapolis Colts
  3. Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers

There is one major name on the trading block at the cornerback position this offseason, but he is a transformative player: Jalen Ramsey. With the Rams' roster in tatters just a year after winning the Super Bowl, there is lots of talk that moving Ramsey would allow the team to quickly rebuild things. 

Ramsey has shown elite play both outside as a perimeter cornerback and in a slot role where he can be closer to the football more often. He is at his best in zone coverage and may be the best cornerback in the league against the run. He also has elite size and physicality to play man coverage, but it has never been his best attribute.

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