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1. Dee Milliner, Alabama
Built like a safety, Milliner is the top corner in the draft. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and excels in man-to-man coverage. He’s also outstanding in run support, highlighted by very good tackling technique. He answered any concerns about his speed at the combine with a 4.37 40-yard dash, though he doesn’t change direction quickly. Regardless, he has the size, athleticism, and physicality to be a very good NFL starting corner.
Possible Destinations: Browns, Eagles, Jaguars, Jets, & Raiders
2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Rhodes brings rare combination of size (6-1 & 210 pounds) and speed to the table. Despite his size, his run support is only mediocre and he won’t be a guy that covers the slot. Nevertheless, he’s a very good press corner consistently challenging wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. Because of Seattle’s success, bigger cornerbacks are the current NFL trend, and Rhodes fits that profile, in addition to being an outstanding athlete.
Possible Destinations: Buccaneers, Chargers, Dolphins, Giants, & Jets
3. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
A physical starting corner, Poyer does a good job of getting his arms extended in press coverage. He has excellent ball skills (7 interceptions last season), highlighted by his ability to drive on the ball. He’s a capable zone player, but he could thrive in man-to-man coverage. He has all the makings of a solid starter.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Broncos, Falcons, Jaguars, & Patriots
4. Desmond Trufant, Washington
A highly aggressive corner, Trufant is comfortable in press coverage and shows great technique with his backpedal. He’s quick-footed and breaks on the ball well. He does have a tendency to grab a lot, so expect him to be susceptible to holding penalties. However, he solidified his first-round status with a great combine workout, displaying coveted straight-line speed and quickness.
Possible Destinations: Broncos, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, & Patriots
5. Darius Slay, Mississippi State
A combination of size and speed (4.36 40-yard dash) makes Slay a high-upside prospect. He was very productive at Mississippi State, intercepting five passes, and earning All-SEC second-team honors. He has good ball skills, fluid hips, and challenges receivers for the ball.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Broncos, Falcons, Jaguars, & Lions
6. Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Fast and physical, Taylor earned first-team all-conference honors last season. He worked out well at the combine displaying excellent straight-line speed in the 40. He’s a little undersize and his run support is a red flag, but he possesses the natural ability to develop into a No. 2 NFL corner.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Browns, Jaguars, Lions, & Patriots
7. D.J. Hayden, Houston
An electric pro day has elevated Hayden. He has good size and blazing speed. His ball skills are also outstanding. There’s a medical concern to worry about, as he suffered a life-threatening injury because of a tear to a large vein. He’s fought the odds and now appears likely to get drafted, though where depends on whether a team’s doctors feel good about his medical situation.
Possible Destinations: Buccaneers, Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots, & Redskins
8. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Banks has good size and length (34-inch arms). With long arms, he has the capability to be a very good press corner. He’s solid in run support and he’s coming off a productive career. His speed is underwhelming, and he may struggle to run with wide receivers on the outside. He’s best suited to play inside where he can disrupt slot receivers.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Giants, Lions, Redskins, & Vikings
9 David Amerson, N.C. State
Amerson is a tale of two stories. His production was off the charts his sophomore year with 13 interceptions. That actually tied for second most in the history of NCAA. Inconsistencies defined his junior year, but he decided to leave school early anyways. His combination of size, speed, and 2011 production makes him among the draft’s most intriguing prospects.
Possible Destinations: Browns, Chiefs, Jaguars, Lions, & Raiders
10. Leon McFadden, San Diego State
McFadden is a physical player. His size (5-10 & 193 pounds) will concern teams, but he plays bigger. He’s comfortable in man-to-man coverage, though capable of playing zone, which his skill set may suit best. He lacks quality make up speed and will struggle against deep threats and containing elusive players in space.
Possible Destinations: Cardinals, Chiefs, Giants, Raiders, & Redskins
1. Matt Elam, Florida
Elam is a thumper. He tackles well and has the speed to cover a lot of ground. He’s capable of covering the slot and does a good job of locating the ball in the air. The only significant red flag is his height. He’s just a hair under 5-10, and will have trouble in jump ball situations. Still, his combination of ball skills, range, and tackling makes him the most polished safety available.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, & Rams
2. Eric Reid, LSU
Reid is the best height, weight, speed safety available. He flies around after the football with outstanding range. Sometimes he’s too aggressive and gets beat, as a result. He had an excellent sophomore season that raised expectations for 2012. While he was good this season, some expected more. He’s a playmaking, centerfield type safety whose best football is ahead of him.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Cowboys, Packers, Rams, & Ravens
3. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
A first-team all-conference player in 2011 (and second-team in 2012), Vaccaro will serve as the last line of defense in the NFL. He has good size and is fluid in coverage. He also matches up well in man-to-man situations. In fact, his capabilities covering the slot may well be the reason why he comes off the board in the top half of round one.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Cowboys, Rams, Saints, & Titans
4. Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
An in-the-box strong safety, Cyprien will provide a hard-hitting presence for any secondary. He’s put together well (6-0 & 217 pounds), and does a nice job of diagnosing a play and reacting too it. He didn’t play against high-level competition, but that’s a small nitpick in an otherwise strong case to be a second, maybe late first-round pick.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Packers, Rams, Redskins & Ravens
5. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
Thomas is a great athlete and a big hitter. Similar to Elam, his lack of height is a red flag, but he makes up for it with tackling, aggressiveness, and range. He was an All-Big East first-team selection in 2012, despite only intercepting two passes. The major difference between him and Elam is ball skills. Thomas won’t intercept a ton of passes, but he’ll make for a solid hard-hitting safety, if you can get over his height.
Possible Destinations: Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, Rams, & Ravens
6. Shawn Williams, Georgia
Williams is the best tackling safety available. He’s strong (25 reps of 225) and plays with an attitude. He’ll lower his shoulder and deliver the big hit, so he’s an intimidator. However, he won’t intercept many passes and his coverage skills are unpolished. As an in-the-box starting strong safety, he’s a throwback, but his combination of size and speed gives him a high ceiling.
Possible Destinations: Cowboys, Rams, Ravens, Titans, & Vikings
7. Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
After missing 2011 with a leg injury, Thomas bounced back to have a productive 2012 campaign, with a nation-leading 8 interceptions. He’s seemingly always around the ball and is seldom out of position. His effort defending the run needs work, but his combination of size and athleticism translates well to the pro game.
Possible Destinations: 49ers, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, & Steelers
8. Keelan Johnson, Arizona State
An outstanding combine put Johnson on several radars. He has good size (6-0 & 209 pounds) and fluid hips. He was a productive tackler and intercepted five passes his senior year. He remains a bit of a project because of raw coverage skills, but he’s an ascending prospect with good upside.
Possible Destinations: Cowboys, Packers, Rams, Titans, & Vikings
9. T.J. McDonald, USC
McDonald has prototype size (6-2 & 219 pounds) and does a good job in run support. He also offers quality straight-line speed. However, his coverage skills are lacking and he doesn’t change direction well. Nevertheless, he’s a productive (led USC in tackles) in-the-box safety that’ll compete for a starting role.
Possible Destinations: Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, & Redskins
10. Robert Lester, Alabama
Lester will struggle in space. His speed is underwhelming and he sometimes misses tackles. However, he has good size, hustle, and production while playing for the top program in the country. There’s potential to start, but he must first become a more consistent player.
Possible Destinations: Patriots, Redskins, Steelers, Titans, & Vikings