To stop elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, defenses need at least two capable cornerbacks. Luckily for teams searching for someone who can shut down opposing wideouts, the 2021 NFL draft features plenty of star power at the position.
Interestingly, several of the top cornerback prospects boast NFL bloodlines. Will that give them the upper hand once they start getting paid to play pro football? That remains to be seen. For now, though, let’s take a closer look at the big names expected to come off the board early.
Patrick Surtain II seems destined to follow in his father’s footsteps
Talk about having a lot to live up to. Patrick Surtain II’s father enjoyed a stellar 11-year NFL career that included three consecutive Pro Bowl selections. Will his son enjoy the same success as a pro?
Don’t bet against that happening. The younger Surtain actually possesses better physical traits than his All-Pro dad. Tipping the scales at 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, he has the ideal length and size NFL teams look for in a perimeter corner. He also proved he has more than enough speed by running an unofficial 4.46 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day.
The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year should become the next Crimson Tide corner to go from starring on Saturdays to dominating on Sundays. Expect Surtain to be one of the first defenders off the board Thursday night.
Jaycee Horn should also hear his name called early in the 2021 NFL draft
Another corner who should get drafted in the first half of the first round, Jaycee Horn also has football in his genes. His father, Joe Horn, caught 523 passes for 7,622 yards and 50 touchdowns in seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Ironically, his son will soon get paid to stop people who play the same position he did.
Like Surtain, Horn checks all the boxes from a height-weight-speed perspective. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound corner uses his 33-inch arms to outmuscle pass catchers, which makes him the perfect fit for a man-coverage scheme.
Horn only recorded two interceptions in three years at South Carolina, so it will be interesting to see if he makes more plays on the ball at the NFL level. But based on his physical tools and strong bloodlines, he looks like a future star.
Caleb Farley’s medical concerns could cause him to fall
A former high-school quarterback who initially played receiver at Virginia Tech, Caleb Farley eventually switched to defense and never looked back. The tall, long-armed corner with top-notch ball skills has one glaring red flag on his resume: durability concerns.
The 22-year-old has already undergone two back surgeries, including one back in March. Will NFL teams get scared off by the potential long-term effects of his back issues? Or does Farley possess too much upside to pass over?
That will be one of the most fascinating storylines to watch Thursday night. If he can stay healthy, the former ACC standout has a chance to develop into a top-flight NFL defensive back.
Will Asante Samuel Jr. or another top cornerback prospect sneak into the first round of the 2021 NFL draft?
There are several other cornerback prospects who could also become first-round picks in the 2021 NFL draft. To no surprise, one of them also grew up watching his dad on TV. Asante Samuel Jr. may lack size, but he makes up for it with his physicality. He recorded 29 passes defended and four interceptions in 31 games at Florida State. His ball skills and bloodlines could convince a team to take him near the end of the first round.
Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II, Central Florida’s Aaron Robinson, and Georgia’s Eric Stokes also possess big-time upside at the next level. So even if your favorite team waits until the second or third round, this class has impressive depth at one of the most valuable positions in football.
All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference