The Early Read: Cornerbacks


Kicking off our preliminary coverage is a new feature, ‘The Early Read’ where we take a pre-combine look at different players and positions.

The Buccaneers have a number of needs, chief amongst them may be at corner where an aging Ronde Barber may be on the way out and Aqib Talib is anything but a certainty. Few if any fans feel good about whats on the depth chart after Barber and Talib, and with no guarantee either is in Tampa next year the Bucs may want to move early in the draft to grab a corner or two, possibly even a safety. We’ll discuss safeties later, for now lets take an early look at the cornerback position and how it could play into the Buccaneers draft plans.

Sitting at 5, as I’ve said before, the ideal move is to trade back and accrue more picks. But as we discussed yesterday, with a now much-smaller QB class moving that fifth pick could prove challenging. If the Bucs actually take their selection at 5, a corner could be a stellar option there. In fact, depending on how big a need the position is gauged to be, don’t be surprised if Mark Dominik doubles down on corners like he has with defensive ends and tackles the past couple drafts.

Let’s take a look at the preliminary positional rankings as well as two players to keep an eye on over the next few months, and two who would be better of somewhere besides Tampa.

Preliminary Top 10

1.)   Morris Claiborne, LSU

2.)   Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

3.)   Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

4.)   Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

5.)   Chase Minnifield, Virginia

6.)   Trumaine Johnson, Montana

7.)   Mike Harris, FSU

8.)   Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina

9.)   Cliff Harris, Oregon

10.) Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

Two to Remember

Morris Claiborne, LSU- If the Buccaneers have to spend their fifth overall pick on a player, it should probably be Claiborne. In the LSU corner the Bucs would find a very complete cover-man who could mold well into almost any defensive system the new head coach installs. A lot of scouts have said that Claiborne, despite having a different athletic skill set, is a more complete corner than last year’s top CB, Patrick Peterson. If they can’t trade the pick, Claiborne would give the Bucs a piece to build around in their secondary and down the line a potential alpha corner. He would make a great fit in Tampa.

Mike Harris, Florida State- Harris is an interesting corner, he spent his first two years at El Camino CC in California before finishing up at Florida State. Harris ended up playing for two years for the Seminoles and made contributions in both season. This past year as a senior he was the team’s most consistent corner and showed a great range of athleticism and ball skills. Harris is still somewhat raw (he was a high school QB), but he has a high ceiling and will likely be available in the early to mid rounds (late two to early four). If Tampa is looking to double down on corners, pairing Harris with either Claiborne or potentially a Chase Minnifield or Alfonzo Dennard would potentially make a solid tandem for years to come.

Two to Forget

Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama- Kirkpatrick is an immensely talented corner who just finished helping Alabama win a national title. He has all the skills and athleticism to make a successful NFL jump and be good at the next level too. But he also just got arrested for marijuana possession. I’m not here to pass judgment on drug use or any of that, I’m only saying this. If you have the chance to set yourself up for life financially and you jeopardize that to make an in-the-moment decision, I don’t credit that as smart thinking. That’s not having your head on straight. The Bucs don’t need guys who aren’t able to make those kinds of distinctions and act foolishly in a way that can cost themselves or the team. Do whatever you like, but if you want to make it in the NFL you need to make certain sacrifices and you have to play by the rules. The Bucs need to start drafting guys who can do that. If Aqib Talib could we likely aren’t leading off our draft coverage with this article.

Janoris Jenkins, Northern Alabama (by way of Florida) – Jenkins is going to become a very chic prospect for many in Tampa for two reasons. One is he’ll likely be a steal because character concerns will cause his stock to slide and two, is the fact he was once a Florida Gator. Much like Preston Parker did at Florida State, repeated off-the-field issues eventually lead Jenkins to get dismissed at UF and enroll at Northern Alabama. Don’t get me wrong, Jenkins is one heck of a corner and if he’s got his life together could be an asset to almost any NFL defense. But that’s a big chance to take and as I already mentioned, when part of the reason you need to draft corners is the last talented player you brought in can’t keep out of trouble, well you might as well not make it a trend.

Final Thoughts

That’s the early list, I personally think there’s a fairly deep class of corners so the Bucs can still get value at that position if they trade back and pick later in the first, or just hold off entirely until the second or third round. Players like Minnifield, Trumaine Johnson and Jayron Hosley will all likely be available after round one and are still quality corners.

The Bucs have options, and there’s still plenty of time to assess them.

Keep checking with us for more preliminary draft coverage.